"They're having drinks now, a dignified gentleman in a tailcoat has come out and brought them drinks which, my word, are richly deserved. Most of us are feeling pretty well bereft of speech by the excitement and tension of this morning and we do all so very, very warmly congratulate young Hutton."
Those words were spoken by the not so speechless Howard Marshall and they described the moment that the 22-year-old England opening batsman Len Hutton, playing in the final Test against Australia at The Oval, surpassed the Australian Don Bradman. A few balls later, after the man in the tailcoat had retreated and the strains of For He's A Jolly Good Fellow being played on a cornet near the gas holder had faded, Hutton turned Chuck Fleetwood- Smith for another boundary. It took him past Wally Hammond. "And there we are," said Marshall, "Hutton's on top of the world."
So he was. The broadcast was heard not only throughout England but around the Empire. Hutton, overnight, was famous beyond imagination. He made 364 before he was out, caught at cover. He had batted for 13 hours and 17 minutes, then the longest innings of all. It began on the first morning, a Saturday, when they started queueing outside the ground at 3am; was briefly suspended on the rest day, Sunday, which Hutton spent on the sands at Bognor; continued throughout Monday by the end of which he was 300 not out and in sight of the record (he was advised to drink port and Guinness to sleep); and ended at 2.30pm on Tuesday.
It is generally recognised that he gave only one chance when, on 40, he danced down the pitch and misread Fleetwood-Smith's googly only for the wicketkeeper Ben Barnett to fumble the stumping. But Hutton himself recounted: "I heard a story later on that suggested I escaped on another occasion as well."
Hutton was a Pudsey boy, brought up at nearby Fulneck. In Pudsey, the church bells were rung for half an hour by eight ringers, a peal of 364 chimes, one for each run. The Mayor of Pudsey sent the record-breaker a telegram but it was one of hundreds. They had already started piling up early in the England innings after Hutton and Maurice Leyland shared a second-wicket partnership of 382. Now they were arriving from all corners, 500 of them in the tea interval alone.
England eventually declared at 903 for 7, itself a record total which stood until last year. They had gone on for so long because the match was to be played to a finish. Finished it duly was the following day, the Australians (minus Bradman and Jack Fingleton who were both injured while fielding) being dismissed for 201 and 123. England had won by an innings and 579 runs to level the series at 1-1.
Hutton left the ground with Denis Compton, whereupon, it is said, a female admirer rushed up with congratulations but wondered why he had not scored another run - one for every day of the year. "Tell me, Denis," said Hutton. "Can you ever please a woman?"Reuse content