Len Hutton's 364 vs Australia, 1938 Ashes

With no live cricket to talk about, we're taking another dive back into the archives, with a look at the highest individual score for an English batsman in test cricket. A record that was achieved back in 1938 and remains to this day the 6th highest test score of all time.

Len Hutton's knock of 364 lasted for over 13 hours, having faced 847 balls, with people praising him for both his concentration and his stamina, while others suggesting it was pure monotony, plain and simple. The truth is that is was the perfect innings for the situation.

Going into the 5th and final test of the 1938 Ashes, Australia were 1-0 up. The first two tests at Trent Bridge and Lords had been drawn, while the 3rd test in Manchester had been a wash-out. Australia had won the 4th test at Headingly on the back of a century by Don Bradman to go one up, with just a single test to go. Australia were enjoying a period of domination at this time, having won the series in 1934 and again in 1936/7, so England were looking to draw the game at the oval to at least level the series.

The 5th and final test was to be what was known as a timeless test. Which basically meant that there was no limitation in terms of time, and that play would continue until a positive result was achieved. Which is a key aspect to Len's innings, considering he faced nearly 850 balls and some commented on the lack of speed at which he made his runs.

With England captain Wally Hammond having won the toss and seeing a good wicket for batting, he sent in his openers to try and put some scoreboard pressure on the Australians. Fast-forward to the 3rd day and England had recorded an unbelievable total of 903/7 declared. What's often lost within this game is that Len Hutton was supported by Maurice Leyland who scored 187 and Joe Hardstaff who scored 169. Both Len Hutton and Maurice Leyland were not selected for the 4th test in Leeds.

The accompanying scores weren't the only sub-plots to this game and to Len Hutton's score. Going into the 5th test in 1958, Don Bradman held the record for the highest individual score in an Ashes test, scoring 334 in the 1930 series (a series that Australia also won). Contemporary accounts at the time mention that there was a real concerted effort by the Australians to get Hutton out as he approached the score, with the intensity rising. And, although Hutton did look nervous as he crept closer and closer, he managed to go on and push past the score.

Here is an account from Wisden at the time:

Hutton claimed exactly 300 of the runs scored at this point and the 30,000 people who assembled at The Oval on Tuesday saw fresh cricket history made. The bowling and fielding of Australia looked more formidable than at any other time in the game and as Hutton carried his score nearer to the record Test innings, Bradman, the holder of it, brought several fieldsmen close in to the wicket for O'Reilly bowling. Every runs had to be fought for. As might be supposed, Hutton showed an occasional sign of strain and he completely missed the ball when with his total 331 he had an opportunity of beating the record by hitting a no-ball from O'Reilly. However, with a perfect cut off Fleetwood-Smith, Hutton duly reached his objective and the scene at the ground, with the whole assembly rising to its feet, and every Australian player, as well as Hardstaff, congratulating Hutton will be remembered for a long time by those who saw it. Hutton took nearly twice as long as Bradman did over as many runs eight years previously, but the Australian's big innings came during a Test limited in duration whereas Hutton played his innings on an occasion when time did not matter.

A remarkable piece of batting by Hutton who was just 22 years of age at the time. However, like most big scores in cricket, there was an element of fortune with all accounts suggesting that Hutton should have been gone when he was on 40. Coming down the pitch to Fleetwood-Smith, Hutton missed the ball completely and had the wicket-keeper gathered the ball cleanly he would have been stumped easily, as it were the keeper fluffed the ball and Hutton made his ground, the rest as they say... is history.

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