The Tiger's Indian Summer of 48The Tiger's Indian Summer of 1948.
The late summer period of the 1947-48 cricket season gave the Richmond Cricket Club a reason for great rejoicing. The Club was, for the third time in its history, about to have two of its champions stand alongside Jim Hodges / Tom Kendall (1877) and Leo O'Brien / Ernie McCormick (1935), as Richmond's Test doubles. The accomplished Tiger bowlers Doug Ring and Bill Johnston were selected to represent Australia in the Fifth Test Match against India at the M.C.G, in February 1948.
This final Test of the series was also the last chance for players hopeful of securing a berth in the Australian 17 for the most anticipated 1948 Ashes tour of England. Ring's form for Victoria that season was reasonable, and it was felt that a successful performance on debut was necessary if he was to secure a long term place in the national team as the leading spin bowler, and make the touring party to England. His main rivals in the battle for selection were the Test bowlers Colin McCool of Queensland and the South Australian Bruce Dooland, who along with Ring bowled right arm leg spin.
Bill Johnston would be playing his fourth Test match and his 30 first class wickets at an average of 19.27 in 7 games that season, gave the cricket scribes reason to suggest he was a near certain selection for England.
India who were on their first ever tour of Australia were no match for an Australian side stacked with some of the greats of Australian Cricket. The national side included, Don Bradman who was playing his final Test series on home soil and five other players, Ray Lindwall, Neil Harvey, Arthur Morris, Lindsay Hassett and Keith Miller, who are at the present time members of the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame.
Bradman won the toss and Australia did what they had achieved all series by running up a massive 8 for 575 declared. The exciting 18 year old left hander Harvey playing in only his second Test Match, scored 153, "in sparkling style" (The Herald). He was backed up by Bill Brown 99 run out, Sam Loxton on debut 80, and Bradman who retired hurt, 57.
Ring scored only 11 while batting at number 10, but was to show before his career concluded that he was a fine hard hitting batsman generally batting at 9, who finished with 4 Test half centuries and a Test average of 22.42 from his 13 Tests. Johnston surprised and entertained the spectators by hitting a quick fire 23 not out, batting at 11. As was the custom in those times, the tail enders were expected to hit out or get out and that was Bill's style anyway.
India put up a fine batting display scoring 331 in their first innings with their two best players, "Vinoo" Mankad 111, and Vijay Hazare 74, leading the way. These excellent players, earned great respect from the Australian players and spectators by keeping the rampaging Australians at bay during most of the series, Mankad scored another century in the third Test and Hazare a century in each innings of the fourth.
Ring worked hard, he bowled 41 eight ball overs in his debut game and took 6 for 120, Johnston was used sparingly and took 2 for 29 of only 15. When Mankad was caught by wicket-keeper Don Tallon from Lindwall's second delivery when India followed on, the Indian players seemed to lose heart, they collapsed for a dismal 67 and were comprehensively defeated by an innings and 177 runs.
Australia selected three spinners to tour England, the leg spinners McCool and Ring were selected, Dooland missed out, also chosen was Ian Johnson as the off spinning option. The media's suggestion that Johnston's left arm medium fast, swing and seam bowling would be an asset in English conditions turned out to be correct. Bill Johnston was Australia's leading bowler, he returned with 27 Test Match and 102 first class wickets. Ring played in only one Test of this series but in the 19 first class games he played on tour, he collected 60 wickets.
In all Ring and Johnston played in the same Australian Test Team on 13 occasions and were two of the finest cricketers to ever play for Richmond and Victoria. These great mates would have walked onto the cricket grounds of the world hundreds of times together, but that Fifth Test on the M.C.G. in February 1948 and the selection for the England Tour, must have been an experience to remember.
Bradman's 1948 team played 34 games in the UK, they returned home undefeated, and are widely accepted to be Australia's greatest touring team of all time. They were later dubbed "The Invincibles".
In our next " Recap" we will travel all the way over to Trinidad in the Caribbean to see how our 1978 and as at 2013 last Tiger Test "Double", handled a cricket baptism of fire.Ron Reiffel
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