Australia toured England in 1948 for a 5-match Ashes series which was the first Ashes in England since World War II. Australia had dominated the previous Ashes series hosted by them in 1946-47 season which they won by 3-0 margin. England was fresh of a 0-2 series defeat during the 4-match Test series in West Indies. On the other hand, the Aussies were unbeaten since the resumption of International Cricket from War break.
In a period of two years ahead of the 1948 Ashes, the Australians won eight out of the 11 Test matches they played while another three ended in a draw. Australia was determined of continuing their unbeaten streak as the series was set to be their skipper Sir Donald Bradman’s final series. The first Test of the series was hosted by Nottingham’s Trent Bridge which began on 10th June.
England elected to bat first but barely lasted a day as Bill Johnston’s 5-wicket haul bundled out the hosts to 165. Australia had an opening partnership of 73 that broke on the second day morning. Bradman walked at No.3 and put his team on the top by end of the day’s play as he smashed an unbeaten 130. Australia were 293/4 at stumps on the second day and led the hosts by 128 runs thanks to an unbeaten 108-run stand between Bradman and Lindsay Hassett.
As the Australian team was cruising over the English team, their former teammate Bill O’Reilly was covering the game from the press box. The leg-spinner turned journalist after announcing his retirement from International Cricket at the end of 1946 Wellington Test against New Zealand. O’Reilly was known to have differences with Bradman and both the individuals were of contrasting characters off the field.
After the second day at the Trent Bridge, Bill O’Reilly walked up to England’s Alec Bedser for talking about his bowling strategy to Bradman. Bedser tried to get the wicket of the Australian Captain with the leg-side field. O’Reilly, who was found of attacking the leg stump and setting leg-side fields, praised the English pacer’s intention but told him there was a need for change in the field placements.
Bedser picked up a paper and noted down the suggestions from the Australian cricketer. Bill O’Reilly pointed out about removing the regular leg-slip position. O’Reilly marked few positions on the paper and suggested an unorthodox fine-leg close to the batsman. This meant a fielder was needed to be placed between short fine-leg and short square-leg which was 12 yards away from the batsman.
Alec Bedser began the proceedings on third day morning with inswingers to Don Bradman. He positioned Sir Len Hutton at the backward short-leg as suggested by O’Reilly. Bradman struck a boundary through covers on the 2nd ball of Bedser’s second over of the morning. On the very next ball, Bradman glanced one straight to Hutton that brought an end to his 138-run knock. That was the only thing England could cheer in the remainder of the game.
Australia ended up with 509 as Lindsey Hassett scored 137 while batting with the lower-order. Denis Compton stood up for the hosts with a 184-run knock in the second essay but England was bowled out for only 441. “Bradman c Hutton b Bedser” repeated in the second innings with the same leg-side field as the Australian skipper bagged a 10-ball duck. However, Australia won the game by 8 wickets chasing down the target of 98 in only 28.3 overs shortly before the tea break on the final day.
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