Remembering the "Laker Test" - England vs Australia, Old Trafford, 1956

The 4th test of the 1956 Ashes will always be remembered at the Laker test, after English off-spinner Jim Laker took 19 Australian wickets for just 90 runs, putting England 2-1 up in a series they would go on to win.

Laker would take 46 wickets in the 1956 Ashes series, still a record for a 5 match test series between England and Australia.

Although born and bred in Yorkshire, Jim Laker represented Surrey for 13 years. In first-class cricket his record was truly astonishing.

450 Matches

101,370 balls bowled

1,944 wickets

18.41 bowling average

127 five-wicket hauls

32 ten-wicket hauls

On the back of a drawn opening game and a win-a-piece, the 4th test of the 1956 series was the defining game of the tour.

England won the toss and elected to bat. Peter Richardson and David Sheppard put England in a commanding position with both scoring centuries, England all out for 459.

In reply, Australia managed to navigate their way to tea for a loss of only 2 wickets. However, that's where Jim Laker took over.

If you think England are partial to a collapse, Australia were 64-2 at tea, and ended on 84 all out. Laker taking 7 wickets for 8 runs in just 22 balls.

With Australia being forced to follow on, there was a very real chance the game would be drawn thanks to terrible weather washing out nearly two whole days. However, Jim Laker would bite Australia for a 2nd time, taking all 10 Australian wickets for just 53 runs and winning the match for England with an hour to spare.

During the match, it was reported that Australia accused Lancashire of preparing a turning pitch to suit spinners. Something that wouldn't cause much fuss now. Lancashire heavily denied this and Australia never publically criticised the groundstaff.

Following his performance, according to Jonathan Agnew, Laker got in his car and drove from Old Trafford to Derbyshire so he could have a sandwich and a pint in a quiet pub, with everyone none the wiser what Laker had achieved that very afternoon.

The feat of taking all 10 wickets is quite a remarkable one in the test arena. Jim Laker was the first bowler to take all 10 wickets in a test match, and he remained the only one until the great Anil Kumble did so against Pakistan in 1999.

The 19 wickets taken by Laker in the 1956 test remain a record for first-class cricket to this day, and I find it hard to imagine it being broken anytime soon with players having their workloads managed a lot closer in the 21st century. I certainly can't see someone taking 19 wickets for less than the 90 runs that Laker conceded.

Laker would finish his test career with a superb record of:

46 test matches

12,027 balls bowled

193 wickets

21.24 bowling average

9 five-wicket hauls

3 ten-wicket hauls


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