England off-spinner Jim Laker was interviewed by John Reason for The Cricketer, England in 1966. We reproduce below Jim Laker’s views on the match and unsurpassable record as it makes interesting reading.
On the day before the match, we went to Old Trafford for some practice and to have a look at the wicket. Don Bradman reported that Australian tour for the Daily Mail, and when I walked over to the middle he was standing there. I took one look at the track and thought that the ball would turn six inches for me on the first day. Not quickly, but it would turn.
I asked Don what he thought of it. “Just the one we’re looking for,’ he said ‘A nice, flat, hard wicket.’ The Australians had just been beaten by an innings at Headingley on a soft pitch in the Third Test. And I had got a few of them out, and they had not liked the pitch at all.
I did not say anything until Peter May asked me what I thought. ‘Whatever you do, win the toss,’ I said. He did, and we made 459. We should never have got so many, but the Australians did not know how to bowl on a wicket like that. Ian Johnson never bowled well in this country. He hadn’t the variety. He had to have a hard wicket steadily.
He had the flight and he needed some bounce, but in this country, you’ve got to be able to bowl on green ‘uns, puddings, wet ones, crumbles, slow turners, lifters, and even, occasionally, a good one!
Colin McDonald and Jim Burke went in and started steadily. Brian Statham and Trevor Bailey bowled nine or ten over’s between them and then Tony Lock and I went on. We did not get anywhere at first, so we changed ends. I moved to the Stretford end. At that stage, the wicket was a slow turner. A good county side would have made 250 or 270 on it or something like that.
Then I got Colin McDonald caught at short leg. Well, I’d got a right to get one of them out! Neil Harvey was in next, and this was the turning point of the whole match. Because I bowled him the first ball with the best ball I bowled all season. It pitched on the leg and middle to the left-hander, on a pushing forward length.
Then it turned enough to beat the edge of the bat and hit the top of the off-stump. If he had been in for 15 minutes he might have stopped it, but it was the first ball and it did him. That caused panic stations in the Australian dressing room. I remember looking up at their balcony and I saw people rushing in and putting on pads all over the place.
Well, we all went in and had some tea, and that gave them a bit more time to think about it. And what followed was just about the worst exhibition of batting I have ever seen. It would have been disgraceful for the school side. They were in such a mess psychologically that they were all out in another half an hour. They made 84.
Lockie got the first. Then the lan Craig played back, which is the wrong way to go about it, and was LBW. Keith Miller fell all over the place, Ron Archie gave me the charge and got stumped, ‘Slasher’ Mackay hadn’t a clue, Richie Benaud had a belt, of course, and got caught at long-on. Ian Johnson did not know how to start and Lennie Maddocks had a big ‘gate’ as anybody in the business.
I got 9-37, and this, as I say, on a wicket where a good county side should have made at least 250. The Australians followed on, and McDonald had to go off with a knee injury. So in came Neil Harvey again. He was on a pair, of course, and he had given me some stick down the years.
So I thought I would intimidate him! I called Colin Cowdrey up to silly mid-on. I then bowled him about the worst ball I bowled the entire year. It was a slow full toss, and Neil could have hit it anywhere in or out of the ground, and he hit on the straight at Colin. He was out for a first-ball pair.
At the close of play that day the Australians were 50-odd for one in the second inning. Then the weather changed and it rained for most of Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. I got Burke out in the one short session we had on Saturday. But although we went out twice on Monday, we did not get any more wickets.
On the last morning, there was nothing in the wicket at all. The rain had deadened it completely It was a pudding, and McDonald and Craig batted until lunch. Then in the afternoon, and in Manchester of all places, the sun came out and it was quite fierce. Within an hour the wicket started to wake up and we started to bowl them out.
I never thought of breaking any records, or of taking all 10, or anything like that. You never thought of taking all 10 while Tony was trying as hard as he was at the other end. The only thing we had in our minds was to win the match, and with it make sure of keeping the Ashes. Time was our biggest problem.
We had so little left, but as the afternoon wore on, that lovely sun bit deeper and deeper. Ian Craig had been playing well, but when I got him out (again playing back, and again LBW). Keith Miller, Mackay, and Archer went in no time. Keith had a lunge and was bowled and the other two were caught close in.
Colin McDonald and Richie Benaud lasted until tea. We still had four wickets to get to win the match. By then the pitch was really spiteful and I got McDonald out with the second ball after tea. It turned and jumped and he hit it to Alan Oakman at short leg. That was the fifth catch that Alan took off me – more, even than Lockie – and it was virtually the end.
I still had no idea of taking all 10, although when I got Ray Lindwall out, Frank Lee, who was umpiring at my end, turned to me and said, ‘I think that’s a record, isn’t it?” I was not sure, we still had two more to get out. Then I bowled Richie Benaud and finally took Frank Lee Said Out’ when I asked for an LBW against Lennie Maddocks. I had taken a magical figure of 10-53 and a world record of 19-90 in the match.
It is all written down on a silver salver which was presented to me by M.C.C. As we walked off the field, Trevor Bailey said, ‘It’s incredible, incredible. Nineteen wickets in a Test match! We shall never see anything like it again. I was naturally very happy, but I think I walked off just as I would have done if I had taken 0 for 100.
I tried to, anyway. The impact did not really hit me for a couple of days. But, looking back, I still think that the remarkable thing was not that I got 19 wickets but that Tony Lock only got one wicket.
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