Ron Hamence with the Australian cricket team in England in 1948
|Full name||Ronald Arthur Hamence|
|Born||25 November 1915|
Hindmarsh, South Australia, Australia
|Died||24 March 2010 (aged 94)|
Source: ESPNCricinfo, 12 December 2007
Ron Hamence was a member of Donald Bradman's famous Australian cricket team of 1948, which toured England and was undefeated in its 34 matches. As a result of this unprecedented feat by a Test side touring England, the team earned the nickname The Invincibles.
A right-handed middle-order batsman, Hamence was not instrumental in the team's success. Regarded as the last batsman to be chosen for the team, his selection was the subject of controversy because many batsmen who had scored more runs in the preceding Australian season had been overlooked. Hamence and Colin McCool were the only squad members who did not play a Test on tour. Hamence was used in non-Test tour matches so that the leading batsmen could conserve energy for the Tests, as play was scheduled for six days a week. Along with Doug Ring, Hamence and McCool called themselves "ground staff" because of their scant playing duties in the major matches, and they often created and sang ironic songs about their lack of opportunities. Bradman was reluctant to risk the team's unbeaten record and as a result, Hamence did not receive many opportunities to bat high in the order, something that was the subject of criticism.
Hamence scored 582 runs at a batting average of 32.33, with a top-score of 99. He was the only frontline Australian batsman not to score a century. The remaining eight frontline batsmen each scored at least 973 runs and all averaged no less than 47.30. Hamence also occasionally opened the bowling in the tour matches with his gentle medium pace, allowing the team's leading bowlers to recuperate between Tests.
During the preceding 1947–48 season in Australia, Hamence was dropped from the national team. He had played sporadically in the Test team, being selected in three of the ten matches in the previous two seasons. In those three Tests he scored a total of 81 runs at an average of 27.00. Returning to domestic cricket following his omission, Hamence scored 85 and 66 against Queensland, a performance which kept him in the running for a place in the national team. His selection for the 1948 tour of England under Bradman was the subject of considerable controversy, as many other batsmen were overlooked despite being more productive during the Australian summer. For his part, Bradman described his middle-order—Hamence among them—as "an array of batsmen who could scarcely fail". From the start, Hamence was on the outer with regards to selection in the Tests. He was not selected for any of the Tests during the English campaign, but in a 2008 interview, emphasised that he felt no resentment over his omission. Hamence was a popular member of the touring party and his cheerful nature and splendid tenor voice added to the good spirits of the team. His roommate during the tour was the seamer Ernie Toshack.
Australia traditionally fielded its first-choice team in the tour opener, which was customarily against Worcestershire. Being a fringe member of the squad and having made only sporadic Test appearances in previous seasons, Hamence was not selected. Australia promptly crushed the hosts by an innings.
Hamence made his debut on English soil in the second tour match against Leicestershire. Batting at No. 6, he came in at 4/344 and made only seven. His dismissal triggered a collapse of 5/38 as Australia were bowled out for 448 before winning by an innings. The next match against Yorkshire, on a damp pitch that suited slower bowling, was the closest Australia came to defeat on the tour. Batting at No. 4, Hamence made 12 in the first innings as Australia replied to Yorkshire's 71 with 101. He batted slowly, coming in at 2/24 before departing at 7/74. After Australia dismissed the hosts for 89 in their second innings, Australia collapsed to 3/13 in pursuit of 60 for victory. Hamence came in and scored one before he was run out after being slow to set off for a quick single; Australia collapsed to 6/31. To make matters worse, Sam Loxton was injured and could not bat, so Australia effectively had only three wickets in hand and faced their first loss to an English county since 1912. However, Australia scraped home by four wickets after a counterattack by Neil Harvey and Don Tallon, aided by a dropped catch and missed stumping.
Hamence was rested as the Australians travelled to London to defeat Surrey at The Oval by an innings. He returned for the next match against Cambridge University. Elevated to No. 3 by stand-in captain Lindsay Hassett, Hamence came in at 1/64 and put on a partnership of 176 with Bill Brown, ending with 92 as Australia piled on 4/414 and won by an innings. Hamence scored mainly from the back foot, and Jack Fingleton opined "a nice innings it was, too, in its neat strokemaking". Hamence also bowled for the first time on tour, sending down three overs for seven runs in the second innings without taking a wicket.
In the following match, Australia crushed Essex by an innings and 451 runs, their largest winning margin for the summer. On the first day, Australia set a world record by scoring 721, the most first-class runs added in one day. Halfway through the day, at 2/364, all rounder Keith Miller came to the crease. A cavalier and carefree character, Miller resented Bradman's ruthless attitude towards annihilating the opposition and often refused to try when Australia were in an unassailable position. He deliberately let the ball hit the stumps and was out for a golden duck. Hamence came in and struck 46, adding 146 runs for the fifth wicket with Sam Loxton. The partnership took only an hour, and Australia went on to win by an innings. Miller later said that one of his reasons for gifting his wicket was to protest the lack of opportunities given to Hamence and other fringe batsmen. Batting at No. 5 in the next match against Oxford University, Hamence made only three as Australia made 431 and proceeded to another innings victory.
The next match was against the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) at Lord's. The MCC fielded seven players who would represent England in the Tests,N- and were basically a full strength Test team, while Australia fielded their first-choice team. It was a chance to gain a psychological advantage. Given Hamence's early struggles in the English conditions, which saw him make only 161 runs at 26.83 in his first six innings, while all of Australia's first-choice top six had made centuries,N- he was not selected; Australia amassed 552 and won by an innings.
Recalled for the next match, against Lancashire at Old Trafford in Manchester, Hamence scored two while batting at No. 7 in the first innings and an unbeaten 49 at No. 6 in the second, putting on an unbeaten century partnership with Harvey as the match ended in a draw after the entire first day's play was lost to rain. His second innings was praised for the aesthetic quality. It was the first match on tour that Australia had failed to win. Hamence was rested for the following match against Nottinghamshire, which was again drawn, before returning against Hampshire. He made five as Australia were dismissed for 117 in reply to the home side's 195, the first time the tourists had conceded a first innings lead during the season. He did not get another chance with the bat as Australia recovered to win by eight wickets.
Hamence had one last chance to make his case for Test selection in the match against Sussex at Hove, the last county fixture before the First Test at Trent Bridge. He came to the crease at 4/453 and made 34 in a stand of 96 with Harvey. His dismissal and Harvey reaching his 100 prompted Australia to declare at 5/549. Bradman said that Hamence was "the unlucky player of the match" and that he was standing on the balcony ready to declare when Hamence fell on the last ball of the over. Australia went on to complete an innings victory. In the second innings, Hamence opened the bowling with Ray Lindwall. He took an early wicket before ending the innings by claiming the last man to fall, a stumping by Ron Saggers standing up to the stumps.
Since World War II, the first five positions in Australia's Test batting order had regularly consisted of Arthur Morris, Sid Barnes, Bradman, Hassett and Miller, while the sixth position saw many occupants. All of the first five were selected for the matches against Worcestershire and the MCC, and retained their positions for the First Test.
This left one position for the remaining batsmen in the squad. Up to this point, Brown had scored 800 runs on tour at an average of 72.72, with four centuries, and was on his third tour of England. Brown had played in the first-choice team in the matches against Worcestershire and the MCC. Harvey had accumulated 296 runs at 42.29, all rounder Loxton had 310 runs at 51.66, but was injured, while Hamence had made only 251 runs at 27.88 and was the only one of the four to not have scored a century. Hamence was overlooked while Brown gained selection in the First Test at Trent Bridge, batting out of position in the middle-order while Barnes and Morris were preferred as the first-choice opening pair, whereas Harvey was dropped despite making a century in Australia's most recent Test against India. This was the exact situation that had unfolded in the Worcestershire and MCC matches where Australia fielded their first-choice team; Brown batted in the middle order. Bradman explained the decision in his memoirs: "Hamence was not in good enough form and Harvey scarcely ready". During the opening stages of the tour, Bradman spent little time talking to Hamence at practice sessions, leading analysts to conclude that the Australian skipper viewed Hamence as being highly unlikely to play in the Tests. Australia went on to defeat England by eight wickets, although Brown struggled and made only 17.
Between Tests, Hamence earned selection for the match against Northamptonshire, batting at No. 4 and scoring 34; he partnered acting captain Hassett in a stand of 104 for the third wicket. He took 1/11 in the second innings as Australia won by an innings. In the second match before the Second Test, which was against Yorkshire, Hamence made 48 and six not out, and took a total of 1/17 as the game ended in a draw. He batted slowly and cautiously; Bradman gave him few opportunities, so he had to make the most of them. The first innings 48 was a determined performance on a sticky wicket that helped Australia to 249; Bradman felt that Hamence's grit was a notable factor in Australia managing to pass 200. Harvey made 49 and 56 while Brown made 19 and 113 as an opener. This was enough for Brown to retain his middle-order position for the Second Test at Lord's, where Australia fielded an unchanged team. Australia went on to a crushing win by 409 runs but Brown made only 24 and 32.
The next match was against Surrey and started the day after the Second Test. As the Test players were tired, Bradman gave them a lighter workload and assigned Hamence and Loxton to open the bowling. Both took two wickets and Hamence snared opposing captain Laurie Fishlock and Eric Bedser to end with 2/24. Brown injured a finger while fielding, so he was not able to bat in Australia's first innings. Hamence was thus elevated to open the batting. Hamence made a duck, but Australia nevertheless took a 168-run lead. Hamence opened the bowling for the second time, although he was unable to take a wicket and ended with 0/30. In the second innings, Harvey volunteered to play as a makeshift opener alongside Loxton and they chased down the 122 runs for victory in less than an hour to complete a 10-wicket win.
For the following match against Gloucestershire before the Third Test, Brown and Hamence did not play. Harvey made 95 and Loxton ended on 159 not out as Australia reached 7/774 declared, its highest of the tour, underpinning an innings victory. As a result of the performance, Loxton seized Brown's middle-order position for the Third Test at Old Trafford.
During the drawn Third Test, opening batsman Sid Barnes was injured. This opened up a vacancy for the Fourth Test. Hamence made 30 as Australia defeated Middlesex by ten wickets in their only county match before the Fourth Test at Headingley. Hamence was overlooked for the vacancy as Harvey was called in. Australia scored 3/404 to set a world record for the highest successful Test run chase; Harvey scored a century.
Immediately after the Test, Hamence made 21 at No. 6 as Australia amassed 456 and defeated Derbyshire by an innings. In the next match against Glamorgan, Hamence was yet to bat when rain ended the match at 3/215 in Australia's first innings. He was rested as Australia defeated Warwickshire by nine wickets. Hamence was recalled as Australia faced and drew with Lancashire for the second time on the tour. He made 14 in the first innings and was unbeaten on 10 in the second when Australia declared, having batted at No. 5 both times. In the last match before the Fifth Test, a non-first-class fixture against Durham, Hamence scored 24 batting at No. 6 in Australia's 282. The match was a rain-affected draw that did not reach the second innings. Hamence was overlooked for the Fifth Test, as Australia won by an innings to seal the series 4–0; the drawn Third Test was Australia's only non-victory.
Later tour matches
Seven matches remained on Bradman's quest to go through a tour of England without defeat. Australia batted first against Kent and Hamence made 38. Hamence was the ninth man to fall as partners ran out and Australia lost their last seven wickets for 89 to end at 361. Despite this, they completed an innings victory. In the next match against the Gentlemen of England, Hamence batted at No. 7 and only had a limited opportunity to contribute, coming in at 5/532 and scoring 24 before Bradman declared at 5/610 when Hassett reached 200. Hamence bowled in both innings for a total of 1/41 as Australia won by an innings. In the next match against Somerset, Hamence put on 195 for the fifth wicket with Ian Johnson to take Australia to 4/501 with his score on 99. The other batsmen had all made centuries, and the Australian players were keen to see Hamence do the same. With his score on 99, the rest of the team left their card games in readiness to applaud his impending milestone. However, Hamence hit two balls from the middle of the bat, only to see them travel directly to the fielder, yielding no runs. Anxious to reach his century, Hamence then charged down the pitch and was then stumped for 99, his highest score for the season. According to Bradman, Hamence "fell to what everyone said was the best ball all day". Nevertheless, Australia won by an innings and 374 runs. In the following match against the South of England, Hamence made seven as Australia declared at 7/522. The match was washed out; Hamence bowled three overs without success in the hosts' only innings.
Australia's biggest challenge in the post-Test tour matches was the fixture against Leveson-Gower's XI. During the last tour in 1938, this team was effectively a full-strength England outfit, but this time Bradman insisted that only six players currently in England's Test team be allowed to play for the hosts. Bradman then fielded a full-strength team, so Hamence was left out. Australia led by 312 on the first innings and were well in control, but the match ended in a draw after multiple rain delays. The tour ended with two non-first-class matches against Scotland. Hamence batted once in each match, scoring six and 15 as Australia ended the tour with two innings victories.
During the tour, Hamence played 19 first-class matches and scored 582 runs at an average of 32.33. An occasional bowler who delivered 56.3 overs of medium pace during the tour, he took seven wickets at 21.42 and completed nine catches. He was the most successful of the specialist batsmen with the ball, occasionally opening the bowling in the tour matches, such as in both innings of the second match against Surrey and the second innings of the second match against Yorkshire. This allowed Bradman to rest his first-choice bowlers to keep them fresh for the Tests. Hamence's primary role was to allow the leading batsmen an opportunity to conserve energy for the Tests; the Australians generally had six days of play scheduled every week. In most of the matches, Hamence batted in the middle order at Nos. 5, 6 and 7.N- Along with Loxton, he was given 22 first-class opportunities with the bat, whereas the other eight frontline batsmen had at least 26 innings. Loxton scored 973 runs, while the others all scored more than 1,000. All of the batsmen other than Loxton averaged at least 47.30. and as Australia won many of their matches by an innings or by eight or more wickets, he seldom batted in the second innings. On four occasions, he was unbeaten when Australia either declared, reached their target or time ran out.
Teammate Sid Barnes criticised the omission of Hamence from much meaningful cricket on the tour. Referring to the match against the Gentlemen of England, Barnes criticised the fact that Bradman, Hassett and himself all made centuries, while Hamence was only given a short innings in the lower order and was not out on 24 when Australia declared. As the tourists were already in a strong position, Barnes reasoned that Hamence "could have been sent in [at] first wicket down, where he batted with his interstate team ... Despite this, Hassett still went in before Hamence in the next game, against Somerset ... Hamence batted No. 6... but he should have been sent in No. 3."
Barnes reported that Hamence, along with the other frequent omissions Colin McCool and Doug Ring, termed themselves the "ground staff". He added: "In the dressing room during county games they would break out into ironic song about the few chances they got." Loxton reported that these songs included the "odd risque limerick". Bradman did later state that "because of the strong array of batsman ahead of him, [Hamence] seldom had an opportunity to make big scores" but "was an extremely useful reserve who could have been played in the Tests with confidence". Following the 1948 tour, Bradman described Hamence as "a fine batsman of the strictly orthodox type. Very sound and reliable with his game based on driving" and a "very safe fieldsman". Bradman added that Hamence had few opportunities because of Australia's batting strength but "always batted well and often at a critical moment made valuable runs". Bradman said that Hamence "could have been played in the Tests with confidence" and praised his contributions to team morale. Fingleton said "there was criticism of his selection in this side, but had the war not intervened he undoubtedly would have made a[n] [Ashes] trip before".
n- a This statement can be verified by consulting all of the scorecards for the matches, as listed here.
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