On this day in 1938: England beat Australia by an innings and 579 runs

The Ashes has been the oldest cricket rivalry between arch-rivals England and Australia since the 1882/83 season. While the rivalry consisting of five matches has been a treat to watch for the die-hard cricket fans, it is Australia who have showcased total domination in this Test series so far having registered 34 series victories.

Even England have outplayed the Aussies on a few occasions and it was on this very day in 1938 that the Britishers handed the Australians the heaviest-ever defeat in Test cricket history.

When England outclassed an in-form Australia

The 1938 Ashes series was a high-scoring one that included two high-scoring stalemates. It was a must-win encounter for England having lost the previous game at Headingley and the fifth and final Test match was contested at The Oval.

The hosts won the toss and elected to bat first. The Australians got the early wicket of Bill Edrich, but opener Leonard Hutton and Maurice Leyland counter-attacked with a mammoth 382 runs for the second wicket. Leyland scored 187 and Hutton scored 364 which was the then highest individual Test score. Skipper Wally Hammond (59) and Arthur Wood (53) also made vital contributions and a fantastic unbeaten 169 from Joe Hardstaff helped England post 903/7 after which they declared their innings.

The total was already beyond Australia’s reach and they failed to make any impact to get anywhere near it as they were bowled out for just 201 with opener Bill Brown (69) being the lone half-centurions. With the legendary batter and captain Sir Donald Bradman and Jack Fingleton retired hurt, the visitors were reduced to just nine men.

With a massive lead of 703 runs, English skipper Wally Hammond enforced the follow on and the Australian batters somehow had to survive the remaining days as a victory was already a foregone conclusion by then.

Unfortunately for them, not only did they fail to apply themselves at the crease, but the absence of their two players especially Don Bradman hurt them really badly as they could only manage to score 123 in their second innings with Bem Barnett top-scoring with 46.

Thus, England registered a comprehensive win by an innings and 579 runs to finish the series at 1-1. Nonetheless, the Aussies retained the ‘urn’ having won the previous edition of the Ashes series in 1936/37.