In the 1948 Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack, R.J. Hayter reported on a rampant 10-wicket win for England over South Africa at Lord’s the previous year.
From first to last this was a delightful match. South Africa put up a brave fight and were by no means as inferior as the result would suggest. Their bowlers again provided an object lesson in length, direction and bowling to a field, and in spite of a trying ordeal, their fielding remained at a superlatively high standard of efficiency and keenness. Moreover, Melville, Mitchell and Nourse once more proved their worth as batsmen of contrasting characters. Yet these factors were outweighed by the advantage England gained in winning the toss, the greatness of Edrich and Compton, who established a new world record in Test Matches with a third wicket stand of 370, the shock bowling and slip catching of Edrich, and the consistently fine work of Wright on his first appearance of the season against the touring side.
Through their excellent performance in the First Test, the South Africans attracted big crowds to Lord’s, and the gates were closed half an hour before the start on the first day, when the attendance was officially given as 30,600, the thousands of people turned away missed extremely interesting cricket. Except for an occasional ball which lifted in the early stages, conditions favoured batsmen, and England received a sound start from Hutton and Washbrook, who achieved their first objective of staying together for the ninety minutes before lunch. Yet Hutton never found his true form. He batted an hour and fifty minutes for 18 out of 75 before playing outside an off-break. Hutton made only fourteen scoring strokes–twelve singles, a 4 and a 2–from the 121 balls delivered to him. By comparison, Washbrook found gaps in the field with grand off and cover-drives, but he profited little from his favorite square-cut, for Melville cleverly blocked the stroke with two fieldsmen at third man, one deep and square, the other short and slightly backward. Washbrook looked set for a big score until, with the new ball just in use and the total 96, he flashed at a rising ball outside the off stump. A conjuring catch at second slip, where Tuckett held the ball at the third attempt, ended this attractive display.
In view of the obviously long tail, no little responsibility rested on Edrich and Compton, and an enthralling struggle developed between them and a determined attack, splendidly supported in the field, before the two Middlesex batsmen assumed mastery. Then followed a sparkling exhibition of fluent stroke-play, and South Africa conceded 370 runs before the partnership ended. Compton used everything in his complete repertoire, including the brilliant leg-sweep off a slow bowler, and Edrich specially excelled in on-side play. He hooked Rowan for one glorious 6 and frequently brought off a powerful lofted pulled-drive. In three hours ten minutes to the close the stand produced 216 runs, Edrich reaching his first Test century in England and Compton his second in successive Test innings against South Africa. Taking into account the slow start and the twenty-five minutes lost through rain, England’s average scoring rate was satisfactory. The day was marred by an unfortunate accident to Melville. Shortly before the close a throw-in from the deep struck him over the right eye. Melville sank to the ground, but, after attention, was able to resume, though during the week-end his eye turned black and became almost completely closed.
Compton and Edrich thrilled another 30,000 crowd on the second day. Both were supremely confident, and by swift and sure running took full value for every stroke. No relief, in fact, came to South Africa until twenty minutes after lunch, when Edrich at last relaxed his concentration and was bowled. He gave a difficult stumping chance when 47, but that was his only blemish. He hit a 6 and twenty-six 4’s in 189 out of 391 in five minutes under six hours. The partnership beat by 51 the 319 made by Melville and Nourse in the Nottingham Test and fell only 12 short of the highest for England by any wicket–382 by Hutton and Leyland against Australia at The Oval in 1938. Compton, dismissed at 515, obtained twenty boundaries in his 208 out of 419 in five hours fifty minutes. His first Test double century brought his total to 436 in three Test innings against South Africa. Barnett led the way in care-free hitting by the following batsmen, so that England after lunch obtained 111 in sixty-five minutes for six wickets before Yardley declared. Tuckett maintained pace and hostility to the end. In his last spell he dismissed five men for 20 in seven overs, and at all times looked a better fast bowler than anyone England possessed.
At first everything went well for South Africa in their reply. Mitchell and Melville made runs surprisingly fast and easily against a constantly changed attack, and not until Compton joined in was the stand broken at 95, when Mitchell fell to a swift stumping by Evans. With only nine added, Viljoen played on to Wright’s faster ball, but Nourse stayed with Melville to the end of the day. Third ball on Tuesday morning provided Melville with the opportunity of obtaining the four runs which completed his fourth successive Test century against England, the only comparable feat to which in Test cricket is that of J. H. Fingleton (Australia), who in 1936 made three aganist South Africa and one against England. Melville and Nourse saw their side safely through the first vital hour, and their third-wicket stand added 118 before Melville played a tired-looking stroke at a long hop and gave backward short-leg an easy catch. Melville offered a return chance to Wright when 40 and an awkward one at the wicket when 93, but he played another great innings for his side. His easy, elegant strokes charmed the purist–and brought him thirteen 4’s. Eight runs later Nourse hit too soon when trying to hook. A fifth-wicket stand of 60 by Dawson and Harris gave South Africa fresh hope, but their separation at 290 was the beginning of the end. In one particularly successful spell of 22 balls Wright bowled Rowan, Tuckett and Mann with fizzing leg-breaks. His figures did him less than justice, for Melville alone played him with complete confidence. South Africa followed-on 227 behind, and, with 15 scored, play was held up for twenty minutes while the cricketers were presented to the King and Queen and the Princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret. Upon the resumption Edrich bowled at a tremendous pace. His second ball flattened Melville’s middle stump, and two overs later he sent Viljoen’s middle stump flying. These dramatic events caused Mitchell to concentrate almost solely on defence, and he and the more aggressive Nourse remained together during the last one hundred minutes, adding 92 runs.
So South Africa, with eight wickets to fall, began the last day needing 107 to make England bat again, a position similar to England’s at Nottingham. Obviously such a recovery could not again be expected, but South Africa received a nasty shock when, with the first ball of the day, Edrich shattered Nourse’s wicket. From that point the main question became the margin of England’s victory, though Mitchell and Dawson added 72 for the fourth partnership and Rowan made some good hits. Mitchell defended dourly for four hours fifteen minutes before an acrobatic slip catch brought his dismissal. Edrich flung himself full length sideways and grasped with one hand a ball going away from him. His catch off Dawson was nearly as good, and Yardley also distinguished himself with two fine efforts. Again Wright was England’s best bowler. True, seven of his ten wickets in the match were those of batsmen in the lower part of the order, but his improved length, direction, sharp spin and lift made him always dangerous. Edrich and Compton gave good bowling support; Bedser would have taken several wickets with normal fortune, for at least four chances off him went to ground, but Pope’s inclusion was not a success. In England’s brief second innings Hutton appeared more like his former self.