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Great Richie Benaud spins Aussies to victory

The venue, Old Trafford became famous in the history of cricket since Right Arm Off-Spinner, Jim Laker of England skittled Australia to defeat with a 19 wicket haul in 1956 in the fourth Test. He marooned the Australians bundling them out for 84 and 205. Laker returning the magical figures of 16.4-4-37-9 and 51.2-23-53-10 respectively on 30 and 31st July 1956 in the Fourth Test.


Richie Benaud in action

The irony was that fourth Test against England, exactly five years and a day, later one of the greatest captains and a Right Arm Leg-Spinner Richie Benaud of Australia put England in a spin.

Out of the Australian team, there were three survivors from the 1956 side, humiliated by Laker. They were Neil Harvey, Ken "slasher" Mackey and Richie Benaud.

It was a dramatic match. Benaud won the toss and elected to bat and Aussies scored 190. The top scorer was W M (Bill) Lawry 74. In the middle order Brian Booth collected 46. They were up against some brilliant bowling by pace-men Brian Stathem 21-3-53-5 and Ted Dexter 6.4-2-16.3.

In reply England scored 367. There were three half-centuries with skipper Peter May scoring 95, opener Geoff Pullar 63 and Ken Barrington 78. Australian left arm paceman Alan Davidson captured 3 for 70 in 39 overs and Bobby Simpson returned the figures - 11.4-4-23-4.

Australia in their second innings gave a bold reply - 432. The chief scorers were Lawry 102, Simpson 51, Norman O' Neill 67, Alan Davidson unbeaten with 77. In the second innings D A Allen took 4 for 58 in 38 overs.

Everything happened in the second innings. England who scored 367 in the first essay scored only 201.

Thus Australia won by 54 runs. This was a game of fluctuating fortunes for both sides. Australia lost 3 wickets for 89. They lost the 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th wickets for 185, 185, 189 and 190. England started disastrously. They lost two wickets for 43. Third wicket at 154. Then 7th at 358 and last wicket at 367.

In the 2nd essay Australia off to a rollicking start - 113 and ultimately ended their innings at 432.

England's victory target was 256. A gettable one. At one stage England were 150/2. They were sitting pretty. Geoff Pullar and Subba Row scored 40 runs and then with Subba Row joining Ted Dexter (76). They brought the score upto 150, when Subba Row was bowled by Ritchie Benaud for 49. This opened gates for Australia. With 20 minutes to go to Tea Interval, everyone thought it was a question of time before England reach their victory target.

What a glorious game. Cricket is a game full of uncertainties. Australian skipper Banaud, despite a shoulder problem, started bowling around the wicket captured the wicket of Dexter when he was in full form at 76. Keeper Grout collected a catch.

The England Skipper May who scored a brilliant 95 in the first innings, mis-read. The top-spin of Benaud, which disturbed the timbre and was out for a "Duck". This was the turning point of the match. England needed 93 in 85 minutes, with only Ken Barrington of their recognized batsmen left. Benaud had Murray caught at first slip by Simpson to take Benauds haul to five (5) wickets within a space of 25 balls. Mackey then trapped Barrington leg before wicket and England were now 171 for 7. there was a big question, whether Australia will snatch or get the three remaining wickets.

Benaud was a shrewd captain. He kept the pressure on. He was able to lead by example and won the match for Australia with 20 minutes to space and retained the Ashes when he captured Allen's wicket. The Australian Skipper returned the fantastic match winning figures of 32-11-70-6.

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