Len Hutton 364 at The Oval in June 1938. No more remarkable exhibition of concentration and endurance has been seen on the cricket field than that of Leonard Hutton in a match which ended in the defeat of Australia by an innings and 579 runs. Record after record went by the board as Len Hutton mastered the bowling in a composed, disciplined fashion for the best part of two and a half days.
After spending a mammoth time at the wicket, at the end of 13 hours, and 20 minutes the batsman of only twenty-two passed the highest individual score in Test history and had taken part in two record stands of 382 runs with Maurice Leyland for the second wicket, the best for any wicket by England, and 215 runs with Joe Hardstaff for the 6th wicket.
This Test match, which enabled England to share the series, will always be remembered as Len Hutton Match’. Fifty years on, as I write, from my Yorkshire debut, and armed with the hindsight of a lifetime as a player, Test captain, and selector — not to mention my years in the press box.
Therefore, sometimes wonder if it was not the second worst, happening of my career to become a record-breaking national celebrity at an age when I had just qualified to vote. It was not that I lost my head in the clouds; quite the reverse. I’m as proud as I was to have scored 364 runs against arch-rivals Australia and to have overtaken Don Bradman’s record, which I had watched fascinated as a schoolboy at Headingley eight years before.
I was still capable of being overwhelmed by the suddenness of fame and worried by its penalties. I survived the burden of premature publicity, thanks to my mentors, Herbert Sutcliffe, George Hirst, Bill Bowes, Hedley Verity, and others, including my parents, plus Yorkshire’s careful nursing. But I think if my Test record had come later than it did I might have accepted it more philosophically.
As it was, it was not until I saw my face staring back at me from newspapers and advertising hoardings, and became the center of attention wherever I played, that it dawned on me that my life. My career had taken a new course. To my immense consternation, I was bracketed with Don Bradman and Jack Hobbs. I could not bring myself to think I was in their class.
The thought of the public actually going to the grounds to watch me, and of fathers taking sons to see the record-breaker, bothered me no end, perhaps needlessly. Even the best batsman in the world, which I acknowledged as Don Bradman, could miss a straight ball or a full toss from the worst bowler in the world.
Thus, I came to appreciate the overwhelming burden Don Bradman had carried from his earliest days, and, from my own point of view. I realized with some apprehension that only a century, or good innings against good bowlers in testing conditions, ultimately satisfied my professional ego. I needed the spur of a great challenge, and I never enjoyed taking easy runs off second-rate bowlers.