Graham Dowling bats on amidst the gloom on Day Three. The previous day was worse © Getty Images
Graham Dowling bats on amidst the gloom on Day Three. The previous day was worse © Getty Images

Temperature plummeted to an abysmal low on May 28, 1965 during the Test between England and New Zealand at Edgbaston. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at the day when they served coffee twice during play in a Test.

An end-May day temperature of 10°C is not unheard of in Birmingham, but in 1965 things had turned out to be really brutal. It was unfortunate that New Zealand’s tour of England in the same season had started with the Edgbaston Test: the second day turned out to be a torture for the cricketers.

Wisden later wrote: “Seldom in England has a Test been contested in such cold cheerless weather. It never differed throughout the five days.” It must be, however, admitted that the second day was undoubtedly the worse with an extremely low day temperature, chilly winds, and a persistent gloom in the atmosphere.

 

In fact, the narrowest ray of sunlight (on the third day of Test) led to heavy traffic as people all over United Kingdom went out in desperate search of some pleasant weather. This included a nine-mile queue in Ayrshire, Scotland.

Day One: England consolidate

Geoff Boycott and Bob Barber got off to a 54-run stand after Mike Smith had decided to bat. Once both fell, Ted Dexter took centre-stage with his lordly assortment of strokes, carving his way to a gorgeous 57 that lit up the gloom. Ken Barrington, on the other hand, batted on at a dreary pace.

Dexter’s departure had brought Colin Cowdrey to the centre, and the pair returned at stumps, having added 68 for the fourth wicket (of which Cowdrey had scored 44). Barrington’s 61 had taken him well over 3 hours. England finished on 232 for 3, all wickets having fallen to the hostile pace of Dick Motz.

Day Two: Coffee on the ground

The second day’s play started amidst an almost opaque, all-encompassing dimness, and whatever opportunity of bright cricket the spectators had of witnessing was obliterated by Barrington’s excruciatingly slow batting. Arguably the greatest ever English middle-order batsman, Barrington went into a shell as Cowdrey opened up at the other end.

Cowdrey eventually played on to one from Richard Collinge for 85 (he tried to shoo the ball away, but his attempts failed); Smith himself fell for a duck (his 4th in 6 innings). At the other end Barrington had ceased scoring runs. He adopted what Wisden referred to as “the most exaggerated two-eyed stance ever seen” (Shivnarine Chanderpaul, anyone?), and added that everything on the second day seemed pale in comparison to Barrington’s “tedious exhibition”.

Barrington remained on 85 for 62 minutes for a period that lasted 20 overs. Barring the wickets of Cowdrey and Smith, Jim Parks scored a 28-ball 35 (in a 36-run partnership) amidst great applause from the crowd and even got out, but Barrington seemed unperturbed.

It was during this period that the weather reached its worst: most fielders, equipped with multiple sweaters, had their fingers buried deep into their pockets (one must remember that they were from New Zealand); curling palms into fists and blowing hard into them did not work; and Barrington’s batting ensured they did not have to move around a lot.

Warwickshire CCC decided to ease up things with a dash of caffeine or two; the hapless men were served coffee twice on the ground; and things eased out a bit after that (though Barrington remained scoreless).

Barrington, beaten five times in an over by John Reid, eventually reached his hundred in six-and-a-quarter hours. The next hour saw him score at a faster pace (he even took 14 off an over from Vic Pollard) as he was last out for a 437-minute 137; England were bowled out for 435, Motz finishing with 5 and Collinge 3.

New Zealand added 54 as well, but Smith had introduced Fred Titmus before stumps. He removed Bevan Congdon, but Graham Dowling (30) and Barry Sinclair (4) went to stumps at 59 for 1. They were still 376 behind.

Day Three: Titmus runs through

In an excellent display of off-spin, Titmus ran through the New Zealand top order. Fred Trueman hit Bert Sutcliffe on the left ear, and the great batsman had to retire hurt. Trueman also clean bowled Reid, Tom Cartwright took out a couple of wickets, and inspired by Titmus’ success, Smith used Barber’s leg-breaks.

Sutcliffe had left at 75 for 3; he emerged again New Zealand were down at 115 for 9, but could not continue after he added a single to the score and retired again. New Zealand bowled out for 116; Titmus finished with 26-17-18-4. Smith asked them to bat again.

The second innings was a more spirited one, though Congdon was injured with the score on 63. He returned after Dowling’s dismissal, and though Reid and Congdon fell in quick succession, Ross Morgan (33) and Artie Dick (41) took the score to 215 for 4 at stumps. They still needed 104 to make England bat again.

Day Four: England close in

Both overnight batsmen fell early, but Sutcliffe was ready to bat, as was Pollard. Smith claimed the new ball, but Trueman and Fred Rumsey were handled with ease. The 41-year old Sutcliffe opened up, batting sensibly, cutting loose only when anything easy was on the offer.

Bad light halted play, but when it finally resumed, Sutcliffe, on 53, was caught by Titmus at gully off Dexter. Pollard remained unbeaten on 81 as New Zealand managed to reach 413: this time Barber claimed four, while Trueman had three to his tally. Titmus played the workhorse, adding 59-30-85-2 to his first innings figures. England started their chase of 95 and finished on 8 with Boycott on 5 and Barber on 3.

Day Five: England go one-up

The attendance of the Test had been an abysmal 21,000 throughout the Test; New Zealand got a measly £1,000 as gate shared. However, things reached a new low when a mere 107 arrived to watch Boycott and Barber give them a series lead.

Runs came easily with the opening stand adding 92 in 100 minutes before Barber tried to hit Morgan for six and holed out to Graham Vivian, substituting for Sutcliffe. The batsmen had crossed, and Boycott finished things off quickly.

What followed?

- Barrington was dropped for the second Test at Lord’s for his slow batting. England won by 7 wickets thanks to some delightful batting from Dexter and Cowdrey, and some quality bowling from Rumsey.

- Brought back at Headingley, Barrington scored 163, adding 369 in 339 minutes with John Edrich as the latter raced to a 450-ball 310 with 52 fours and 3 sixes. New Zealand collapsed against David Larter, Ray Illingworth, and Titmus, and lost by an innings and 187 runs.

- Sutcliffe never played another Test after Edgbaston.

- In 1981, an Essex vs Cambridge University match at Fenner’s was called off due to extreme cold.

Brief scores:

England 435 (Ken Barrington 137, Colin Cowdrey 85, Ted Dexter 57; Dick Motz 5 for 108, Richard Collinge 3 for 63) and 96 for 1 (Bob Barber 51, Geoff Boycott 44 not out) beat New Zealand 116 (Fred Titmus 4 for 18) and 413 (Vic Pollard 81 not out, Bert Sutcliffe 53, Bevan Congdon 47, John Reid 44, Ross Morgan 43, Artie Dick 42, Graham Dowling 41; Bob Barber 4 for 132, Fred Trueman 3 for 79) by 9 wickets.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in and can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)