Wally Hammond reputedly abandoned leg side scoring shots and plundered the overwhelming majority of his runs through the off-side as portrayed in this much used photograph of the Great Man above.
On the morning of the Lord’s Test against Sri Lanka it seems fitting to take the Type III time machine back to St John’s Wood on 24th June 1938. Persistent followers of Third Man’s voyages through time will know that to help in enter Dark’s at will he keeps a set of step ladders in the bushes in Cavendish Avenue near the North Gate.
Against a background of concern over the prospect of a new European war just twenty years after the end of the Great War and with the German Chancellor spitting out his claim to Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland, the crowd making their way to Lord’s this day want to escape their worst fears by immersing themselves in the Second Test of the Ashes series.
And the prospects look good. England batting had dominated the first Test with Paynter not out 216, and centuries for Barnett, Hutton and the promising Compton walking jauntily in at number six. Even 232 by McCabe in reply had not prevented Australia from following on and batting out a draw.
Here at Lord’s, despite a green wicket, England do not hesitate before electing to continue their subjugation of the Australians, but they have lost three wickets in half an hour for 31 when the hero of Trent Bridge, Paynter, walks through the famous gate and plunges down onto the outfield to join, Hammond, he or the searing cover drive.
With ‘careful’ application they take the score to 134 at lunch. Careful? At a rate of one a minute? True, Paynter is unable initially to rediscover his touch and scratches about, but Hammond counter attacks and is dominant from the first ball. His 50 comes in 68 minutes, his hundred in 2 hours 25 minutes.
In the afternoon to the delight of the crowd now oblivious to Herr Hitler’s aggression across that moat, ‘defensive as to a house’, it is Paynter’s turn to outscore Hammond.
But on 99, with the total at 253, Paynter faces O’Reilly, is beaten and hears, as does all North London, the triumphant roar of Bill’s appeal for LBW. The top spinner?
The local boy, Compton, also falls LBW to the irrepressive O’Reilly who is finally challenging the English supremacy of a thousand and fifty runs for the loss of 13 wickets in the series to this point.
But Ames now provides the reinforcements that enable Hammond to continue his tyranny of the Australian bowling. Other than a lashing drive that might have been caught by O’Reilly in the covers, a chanceless Hammond on 210 reaches the sanctuary of the Pavilion, a standing ovation and a cooling shandygaff. England are 409 for 5, Ames not out 50.
But have generations been seduced by that iconic photograph of Hammond, front knee bent, head aggressively thrust towards the bowler, back knee almost touching the ground? Watch the first minute and the two drives contained in this .
Note the way that, when he strikes the ball, Hammond, has a straight and stiff front leg and how he pivots over the knee joint more like a bowler than the batsman of the coaching manual.
[UPDATE: Seventy-three years later, as revealed by super-slo-mo shots by Sky, Morgan uses the same front leg technique in his jewel of an innings against Sri Lanka on the same ground.]
‘Talking head’ after ‘talking head’ speak of Hammond’s ‘classical technique’ and how he puts ‘all his weight into the shot’. The film and the photograph below do not appear to support this.
Hammond uses that front leg as a fulcrum and as Archimedes said, “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world!”