On the Front Foot: Oval anniversary puts new spin on the work ethic of modern players

 

It is the 60th anniversary tomorrow of England recapturing the Ashes at The Oval. Australia had held them for a record period of 18 years and 362 days. The country, already excited that year by the Coronation, the ascent of Everest and the only Derby win for the jockey Gordon Richards, had been at fever pitch in the week before. Four draws had already been played – this was England's big chance.

Things were different then. The ground held 30,000, the vast majority of whom had to queue for admission, with most standing or sitting on the grass, their view impeded. But the main difference was in the preparation of the players. Nobody doubts that today's stars work hard, but a look at that 1953 side tells its own tale.

Six of the players involved had been playing in County Championship matches the day before the Test started. Alec Bedser and Jim Laker had both bowled more than 20 overs for Surrey against Leicestershire at Loughborough, and Peter May also played. Tom Graveney had been playing for Gloucestershire against Worcestershire until 6pm.

But surely the captain, Len Hutton, would be fresh as a daisy? Well, no. Hutton was playing for Yorkshire against Derbyshire in Scarborough. Captaincy duties were performed by Norman Yardley, but Hutton was not able to make the journey south until victory was complete in mid-afternoon.

It was different for Fred Trueman, recalled to the England side and taking 4-86 in Australia's first innings. He was doing his National Service so had played little cricket. Fred liked to tell the story that as soon as the match finished – his pass extending only to the end of the day – he had to take a train back to camp in Lincolnshire, walking the two miles to the barracks. Upon arrival, the guard sergeant said: "Back off leave, Trueman? I'll sign you in."

Oval and out

How strange it seems that the Ashes have already been decided going to The Oval. It always seems to be the place where the spoils are determined. Actually, this is the 21st occasion since the advent of five-match series that the destination of the urn is known. Only on six occasions, including the past two, have the Ashes still been up for grabs.

Score and order

England may be 3-0 ahead in the series, but it is not consequence of their top-order batting. What a transformation there has been. In the 2010-11 Ashes, Nos 1 to 3 made 1,518 runs at an average of 84.33, with six centuries and six fifties. So far in this series they have scored 668 runs at 29.04, with one century and four fifties. This is better than in 1902, when the aggregate was 410 at 17.82 with one fifty, but then the Ashes were lost.

Going for broke

Everything seems hunky-dory for cricket, with England winning in front of full houses. Spare a thought for Zimbabwe, whose players have just abandoned a strike called because of non-payment of wages. Their board had debts of $18 million (£11.5m), which the recent home one-day series against India managed to reduce by a third because of the sale of foreign TV rights.

Players have been paid intermittently for years, and the establishment of a union and an agreement for match fees are almost certainly temporary remedies. They are about to embark on a home series of Tests, ODIs and T20s against Pakistan, who are also broke, which few will watch. The game needs support and action from the ICC as never before. It cannot always be England v Australia.

s.brenkley@independent.co.uk

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
football
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
Life and Style
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsenal signing Calum Chambers
sportGunners complete £16m transfer of Southampton youngster
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on