READ: Ashes over the years, Jim Laker's 19 wickets
#TheRetURN: Jim Laker’s record breaking 19 wickets
In this ‘Ashes over the years’ feature, journey back to one of the most incredible moments in Ashes cricket...Jim Laker’s record breaking 19 wickets in the 1956 Ashes Test at Emirates Old Trafford.
In late July 1956, England and Australia headed to Emirates Old Trafford for the fourth Ashes Test, with the series locked at 1-1.
England, as holders of the urn, knew that a win would ensure that they retained the Ashes.
Fresh from taking all ten wickets in an innings for Surrey against the Australians, England had turned to Jim Laker, and his right-arm off-breaks, to bowl in tandem with fellow spinner Tony Lock throughout the series.
In the previous Test the pair had claimed 18 wickets between them and rumours were rife that a pitch to suit spin had been prepared in Manchester.
But for this Test match, it would not be England’s spin duo that would steal the headlines, it would be Laker who would put in a bowling performance that is yet to be matched - and is unlikely to ever be bettered.
After winning the toss and electing to bat, centuries from Peter Richardson and David Sheppard helped England to a total of 459 by mid-afternoon on Day Two, before Laker set to work bamboozling the Australians.
Quicks Trevor Bailey and Brian Statham opened up with just 10 overs between them, before both Laker and Lock were introduced. Laker began from the Warwick Road End but did not take a wicket until he switched to the Stretford End.
The first two days had been played in relatively overcast conditions, but as the sun began to shine and the pitch began to dry, Laker stepped up to the plate.
By the time Australia had been blown away for just 84 in their first innings, the spinner had claimed incredible figures of 9-37 – the final seven wickets falling for only eight runs and taking just 22 deliveries. No surprises that the solitary wicket that didn’t fall to Laker, was picked up by Lock. That wouldn’t be repeated second time around.
Australia were asked to follow on, 375 runs in arrears. Laker made the first inroad before weather intervened. After two days of rain, during which only just over 100 minutes of play was possible, the prospects of a positive result were looking bleak.
At lunch on the fifth and final day, Australia had reached 112-2, the match appeared to be headed for a draw, but Laker continued to plug away from the Stretford End.
Once he had broken a stubborn resistance between Richie Benaud and Colin McDonald, Laker tore through the remaining batsman and propelled England towards victory.
At 5:27pm, with just over an hour to go, Laker bowled to Len Maddocks and appealed for leg before wicket. Maddocks was given out and Laker had taken all ten wickets for 53 runs, recording the best match figures in Tests and First Class cricket, to give England the Ashes as Australia succumbed for 205.
He became the first player to take all 10 wickets in a Test match innings. In the 62 years of Test cricket to follow, only Anil Kumble of India has matched that feat. However Laker’s overall match figures of 19-90 at Old Trafford, remain unbeaten.
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