Freddie Brown captained the English cricket team in Australia in 1950–51, playing as England in the 1950-51 Ashes series against the Australians and as the MCC in their other matches on the tour. They were regarded as a weak team - some critics wanted to cancel the tour - and failed to regain the Ashes. However, these facts do not tell the whole story as the inspirational Brown exposed flaws in the powerful Australian team. By winning the Fifth and final Test he ended Australia's record of 26 Tests without defeat and paved the way for England's victories in 1953, 1954-55 and 1956.


In selecting their team for Australia the MCC selectors (Sir Pelham Warner, Harry Altham, Gubby Allen, Les Ames, William Findlay, Tom Pearce, Walter Robins, Brian Sellers and Bob Wyatt) made the mistake on relying on experience on one hand and youth on the other, but with little between. In this they were not helped by the hole left in English cricket by the Second World War, but only three players (Godfrey Evans, Trevor Bailey and Reg Simpson) were aged between 26 and 31 and could be said to be at their prime; nine of the players were 32 or more and six 26 or less. The captain Freddie Brown had last toured Australia in 1932-33 with Douglas Jardine and Len Hutton, Cyril Washbrook, Denis Compton, Doug Wright, Alec Bedser and Godfrey Evans in 1946-47 under Wally Hammond; the rest of the team had never travelled down under. Bill Edrich who had made a gutsy 462 runs (46.20) in 1946-47 and would tour Australia again in 1954-55, but was out of favour at Lords (he was being divorced, and such things counted in the 1950s) and had had an injury-struck season. The two biggest wicket-takers of 1950 were the top spinners Jim Laker and Johnny Wardle. Laker had taken an astounding 8/2 in the 1950 Bradford Test Trial, but his brand of off-spin was deemed too slow for the hard Australian pitches and he was not chosen for the 1954-55 tour either. In the 1956 Ashes series he took 46 wickets (9.60) including 19/90 at Old Trafford and when he finally toured Australia in 1958-59 he took 15 wickets (21.20). The Yorkshireman Johnny Wardle was also left behind, but would finish with 102 Test wickets (20.39) with his combination of Slow Left Arm bowling and Chinamen. To be fair to the selectors Laker had only taken 32 Test wickets (37.34) at the time and Wardle just 2 (56.50). The MCC were committed to a youth policy that consistently failed them. In 1950 they relied overly on young undergraduates from Cambridge University and had lost 3-1 to the West Indies as a result. A continuation of this policy was unlikely to succeed in Australia, but John Dewes, David Sheppard and John Warr were chosen for the tour along with the young professionals Brian Close, Gilbert Parkhouse and Bob Berry. They all failed when faced with real class and only served to increase the burden on the senior players. Remembering his torrid time in 1946-47 Cyril Washbrook declined to tour when selected, but was later flown out with Roy Tattersall and Brian Statham. Washbrook's fears were full realised, Tattersall failed and Statham would not make his Test debut until the party reached New Zealand. Freddie Brown was the selector's third choice to lead the tour, after Norman Yardley of Yorkshire and George Mann of Middlesex both declined the job and he was only chosen as Lords was determined to have an amateur captain. It was a thankless job as even with the retirement of the great Don Bradman it was clear that Australia were the stronger team and would be hard to beat on their own ground. They had defeated Wally Hammond 3-0 in 1946-47 and Yardley 4-0 in 1948 and England had not won a Test against them in twelve years.

The Managers

There were two managers of equal rank; Brigadier Michael Green, a career Army officer who had played for Gloucester and Essex and was the Secretary of Worcestershire County Cricket Club, was in charge of the social calendar and public relations, and John Nash, Secretary of Yorkshire County Cricket Club since 1931, controlled the finances. This was the last tour of the 70-year old scorer Bill Ferguson, who had toured with the MCC since 1907-08 and devised the famous Ferguson Charts which gave greater details than other scorecards, noting who bowled each ball, who batted and where it was fielded. He also invented the radial scoring chart which show the directions in which a batsman scored his runs.

The Captain

Frederick Richard Brown was a veteran of Douglas Jardine's Bodyline side of 1932-33 and was Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1933. Born in Peru and educated in Chile and Cambridge University he was a big-hearted, self-confident red-headed all-rounder usually seen wearing a white silk handkerchief round his neck, with a big grin and an avuncular pipe. Over six feet tall and weighing 15 stone (over 200lbs or 100 kilos) he loved to attack the bowling. Captured with Bill Bowes at Tobruk in 1942 Brown spent most of the Second World War in prisoner-of-war camps in Italy and Germany, where they organised games of cricket, baseball and rugby and lost over 60lbs (30 kilos) before being liberated by the Americans. A leg-spinner for Surrey before the war he became a medium-paced seamer in the late 1940s and organised cricket while working as a welfare officer in a Doncaster colliery. When the coal mines were nationalised Brown lost his job and became the captain and assistant-secretary of Northamptonshire County Cricket Club in 1949. From being in seventeenth and last place in the County Championship in 1948 (and failing to win a county match between 1934 and 1939) Brown led Northants to sixth place in 1949. He was rotated in the England captaincy in 1949-50 with George Mann and Norman Yardley without success. He drew twice against a weak New Zealand in 1949 and lost to the West Indies in 1950. After Mann and Yardley had turned down the Ashes tour Brown impressed the selectors by hitting a six into the Lords Pavillon while smashing 122 out of 131 runs inside two hours as captain in the Gentlemen v Players match, followed with three quick wickets, and he was offered the post the same afternoon. This was still the age when the England captain had to be a gentleman, even if he was a 'passenger' in the team, Brown having made only 233 runs (23.30) and taken 14 wickets (40.79) in his 9 Tests. Despite his age (he turned 40 on tour) Brown had the most successful series of any England captain in Australia; Taking 18 wickets (21.61) and making 210 runs (26.25), third in the batting averages (behind Len Hutton and Reg Simpson) and in the bowling averages (behind Trevor Bailey and Alec Bedser). Brown's jovial bonhomie and refusal to admit defeat won him many fans in Australia and he was a magnificent ambassador for the game, a role which the MCC regarded quite as important as sporting success, and the scorer Bill Ferguson said it was the easiest, happiest tour he had been on for over 40 years. After losing 4-1 to Australia he won 1-0 in New Zealand and beat South Africa 3-1 at home in 1951. At 42 he was recalled to the England team for the 1953 Lords Test, where took 4/82 and hit 50 runs to ensure a vital draw in the year England regained the Ashes. Like many amateur captains he was happy to take advice from the senior professional and 'Brown conferred with Len Hutton before he made a bowling change...there was little room for doubt...that Brown had tremendous respect for Hutton's advice on the cricket field', as well he should as the Yorkshireman was recognised as 'a tactical genius, whose advice was often sought', Actually making a northern professional vice-captain was a step too far and this office was granted to the debonair Middlesex batsman Denis Compton, the first professional cricketer to hold that office in living memory. Though Brown also conferred with Compton on the field, it was only after he had spoken to Hutton. The young Trevor Bailey surprised everybody by drawing up plans for dismissing and containing every Australian batsmen, which were used to great effect in the series.

The Batting

Rarely has the batting of a team been so dominated by one man as Len Hutton did the England side of 1950-51. He made 533 runs at an average of 88.83, 50 runs more than the next man Reg Simpson (38.77) and all the others except Freddie Brown (26.25) averaged under 20. He had broken his left arm in an accident on a commando course while a sergeant in the Army Physical Training Corps in the war and after an operation using 46 stitches, grafting bone from his leg onto his arm, which was left 2 inches (5 cm) shorter and weaker than his right. He was forced to review his technique and use a lightened bat, but his defence was flawless and he was an expert on 'sticky dogs' like Brisbane and averaged higher in post-war Tests than in his youth, when he had made the record score of 364 at the Oval in 1938. The Yorkshireman was saddled with the heavy burden of knowing that England depended on his skill and was the prime target of the Australian fast bowlers Keith Miller and Ray Lindwall. Of Jack Iverson Hutton told Miller "Ah'll show thee how to play 'im", but never quite fathomed his mystery spin. England had one other great batsmen, the 'golden boy' Denis Compton whose heroic strokeplay had enthralled the crowds in 1946-47 and 1948. Unlike Hutton he had no inhibition about playing his shots, but had spent much of 1950 suffering from the knee injury that would plague his career. He went on the tour against the advice of his doctor, who warned that his leg may be immobilised and took pain-killing drugs throughout the visit. It is unlikely that any batsman has had such a checked tour as Compton in 1950-51, he averaged 7.57 in the Tests and 92.11 in the other First Class matches, a difference of nearly 85 runs. His loss of form at the highest level was a severe blow to England's chances. Reg Simpson came a poor second to Hutton in the Test averages, his 349 runs (38.77) being almost entirely dependent on his 156 not out on his 31st birthday in the Fifth and final Test. This innings was the finest of his career, first adding 131 with Hutton and 64 out of a stand of 74 for the last wicket to put England 103 runs ahead and gave them their first victory against Australia since 1938. It was the highest score of his Test career and he also made 269, his highest First Class hundred against the Sheffield Shield Champions New South Wales. He was a fearless and effective player of fast bowling, but had a habit of getting out to spin bowlers, who he regarded with contempt. Hutton's regular opening partner was the Lancashire stalwart Cyril Washbrook, with whom he added 359 against South Africa in 1948-49, still a record opening stand for England. He averaged over 50 against Don Bradman's 1948 Australians, but couldn't handle the mystery spin of Jack Iverson. Apart from the captain's own efforts - Freddie Brown came third in the England Test averages with 210 runs at 26.25 - the rest of the England batting was woefully poor. John Dewes had amassed 1,262 runs (78.88) for Cambridge and 739 (61.58) for Middlesex in 1950 with defensive prods and pushes. For Cambridge he added 343 vs the West Indies and 349 vs Sussex with David Sheppard, but they fared worse when not playing on the friendly wicket at Fenners. Sheppard is best remembered for taking holy orders, becoming the first Reverend to play Test cricket, becoming captain of Sussex and England and later Bishop of Liverpool. Gilbert Parkhouse was a Welsh middle order batsman who was sent in to open for Glamorgan in 1950 and made such as success of it that he broke the county record by making seven centuries in a season. The teenage Brian Close was chosen after he took 100 wickets and made 1,000 runs in 1949 and became England's youngest ever player aged 18 years and 149 days. Despite respectable all-round figures Close never reached the heights expected of him in Test cricket, though his tough, uncompromising, captaincy of Yorkshire, Somerset and England would become the stuff of legend. Trevor Bailey's barnacle-like qualities were already apparent and this notorious stonewaller tended to substitute stubbornness for strokeplay, though he made few runs in this series.

The Bowling

Alec Bedser dominated the England bowling (and the Australian batsmen) as much as Len Hutton did the batting and by the end of the tour the Australians rated him the best new-ball bowler in the world. He sent down almost twice as many overs as anybody else in the Tests and took 30 wickets (16.06), including 10/105 in England's final victory at Melbourne. Bedser carried the England bowling on his broad back against in the 1940s and 1950s with a long list of short-term new-ball partners. His huge hands and powerful shoulders allowed him to bowl a lethal combination of in-swingers and leg-cutters off a short run-up and only Keith Miller - briefly - was able to cut loose from his control. In 1950-51 series he did have the support of his captain Freddie Brown, another big medium paced bowler, who surprised everybody by taking 18 wickets (21.61) despite celebrating his 40th birthday on the tour. There was also Trevor Bailey who took 14 wickets (14.14) with his naggingly accurate out-swingers that mirrored his monotonous batting as he settled on containing batsmen, but could be dangerous in the right conditions. After these three the quality of the England bowling dropped dramatically, for which the selectors must bear the brunt of the blame. Doug Wright was a mercurial leg-spinner who the MCC liked sent on tour instead of Jim Laker because he was more suited to the harder wickets abroad. He was potential match-winner, but he liked to buy his wickets and asking him to bowl was always a gamble as he could equally snap up a few quick wickets, concede a slew of runs, or both. Eric Hollies bowled one of the most famous balls in cricket when his googly dismissed Don Bradman for a duck in his last Test innings, but the Warwickshire leg-spinner was not a great turner of the ball, instead relying on line and length. Unfortunately the 1950-51 tour was the first to use extensive air travel. Hollies was scared stiff of flying and had to be drunk before he could get on a plane. He failed to turn the ball on Australian wickets and was kept out of the team by Wright. Roy Tattersall and Bob Berry were off-spinners who were supposed to tie down the Australian batsmen, but like many of their kind failed to adjust to the faster, harder Australian pitches. John Warr quickly proved himself to be the worst player in the team, he took only one test wicket - for 281 runs - when Ian Johnson walked after the umpire declined to give him out, an almost unheard of practice in Australia at the time. He improved his game during the tour, but was never more than a decent county bowler. Let loose from the hard life at Yorkshire and the Army Brian Close was undisciplined and failed on a tour for which he should not have been chosen.

The Fielding

England failed to match the Australians' high standards of fielding and were nicknamed Brown's Cows by the Australian barrackers. They dropped six catches in a match against Victoria and made frequent mistakes in the state matches. However, they made a considerable improvement in the Tests with "...first class work in the field, in direct contrast to the slovenly and often lackadaisical displays in the previous games of the tour". Even so they never reached the heights of catching and fielding displayed by the Australian team. Both Brown and Alec Bedser weighted 15 stone (over 200 lb or 100 kilos) and were particularly ungainly in the field, but their bucket-like hands picked up 9 catches and Brown twice caught and bowled Keith Miller. Godfrey Evans was the outstanding wicket-keeper of his generation whose enthusiasm could energise a fielding team and always entertained the crowd with his antics. His deputy was Arthur McIntyre, who kept wicket for Alec Bedser, Jim Laker and Tony Lock in the Surrey side that would win the County Championship seven times in a row in 1952-58. Len Hutton was a good slip and would pick up 9 catches in the series and Trevor Bailey took some great catches in the gully. Unfortunately the MCC had no other slip fielders and they were joined by Gilbert Parkhouse, who hated the role and frequently dropped catches. John Dewes was a good outfielder, but the rest of the team failed to impress and a picture of John Warr was used to illustrate how not to take catches.

MCC Touring Team

By the convention of the time gentleman amateurs have their initials in front of their surname and professional players have their initials after their name, if their initials were used at all.

Test Statistics of the England Cricket Team in Australia 1950-51
Name County Age Role Tests Runs Highest Average 100s 50s Ct St Wickets Best Average 5 Wt 10 Wt
Brigadier M.A. Green Worcs 59 Joint Manager
J.H. Nash Yorkshire 44 Joint Manager
Ferguson, W. 70 Scorer and Baggage Man
Hutton, L. Sussex 34 Right-Handed Opening Batsman 79 6971 364 56.67 19 33 57 3 1/2 77.33
W.G.A. Parkhouse Glamorgan 25 Right-Handed Opening Batsman 7 373 78 28.69 2 3
D.S. Sheppard Yorkshire
and Cambridge
21 Right-Handed Opening Batsman 22 1172 119 37.80 3 6 12
R.T. Simpson Notts 30 Right-Handed Opening Batsman 23 1401 156* 33.45 4 6 5 3 2/4 11.00
Washbrooke, C. Lancashire 35 Right-Handed Opening Batsman 37 2569 195 42.81 6 12 12 1 1/25 33.00
Compton, D.C.S. (vc) Middlesex 32 Right-Handed Top Order Batsman 78 5807 278 50.06 17 28 49 25 5/70 56.40 1
J.G. Dewes Middlesex
and Cambridge
24 Left-Handed Top Order Batsman 5 121 67 12.10 1
Evans, T.G. Kent 29 Wicket-Keeper 91 2439 104 20.49 2 8 173 46
McIntyre, A.J.W. Surrey 32 Wicket-Keeper 3 19 7 3.16 8
T.E. Bailey Essex 26 Right-Arm fast–medium Bowler 61 2290 134* 29.74 1 10 32 132 7/34 29.21 5 1
Statham, J.B. Lancashire 20 Right-Arm fast–medium Bowler 51 675 38 11.44 28 252 7/39 24.84 9 1
J.J. Warr Middlesex
and Cambridge
23 Right-Arm fast–medium Bowler 2 4 4 1.00 1 1/76 281.00
Bedser, A.V. Surrey 32 Right-Arm medium-fast Bowler 51 714 79 12.75 1 26 236 7/44 24.89 15 5
F.R. Brown (c) Northants 39 Right-Arm medium Bowler
Leg-Spin Bowler
22 734 79 25.31 5 22 45 5/49 31.06 1
Close, D.B. Yorkshire 19 Right-Arm medium Bowler
Off-Spin Bowler
22 887 70 25.34 4 24 18 4/35 29.55
Hollies, W.E. Warwicks 38 Leg-Spin Bowler 13 37 18* 5.28 44 7/50 30.27 5
Wright, D.V.P. Kent 36 Leg-Spin Bowler 34 289 45* 11.11 10 108 7/105 39.11 6 1
Bedser, E.A. Surrey 32 Off-Spin Bowler
Tattersall, R. Lancashire 28 Off-Spin Bowler 16 50 10* 5.00 8 58 7/52 26.08 4 1
Berry, R. Lancashire 24 Slow Left Arm Bowler 2 6 4* 3.00 2 9 5/63 25.33 1

First Test – Brisbane

1–4 December 1950
Flag of Australia.png Australia
v Flag of England.png England
68/7 (dec)
Flag of Australia.png Australia won by 70 runs
Brisbane Cricket Ground, Woolloongabba, Australia
Umpires: A.N. Barlow (AUS) & H.A.R. Elphinstone (AUS)
R.N. Harvey 74
Bedser, A.V. 4/45
T.E. Bailey 3/28
Washbrooke, C 19
W.A. Johnston 5/35
32/7 (dec) 122
R.N. Harvey 12
T.E. Bailey 4/22
Bedser, A.V. 3/9
Hutton, L. 62*
J.B. Iverson 4/43
S.J.E. Loxton 3 Ct
  • 2 December

See Main Article - 1950-51 Ashes series

Second Test – Melbourne

22–27 December 1950
Flag of Australia.png Australia
v Flag of England.png England
Flag of Australia.png Australia won by 28 runs
Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne
Umpires: G.S. Cooper (AUS) & R.J.J. Wright (AUS)
A.L. Hassett (c) 52
Bedser, A.V. 4/37
T.E. Bailey 4/40
F.R. Brown (c) 62
J.B. Iverson 4/37
181 150
K.A. Archer 46
F.R. Brown (c) 4/26
Hutton, L. 40
W.A. Johnston 4/26
R.R. Lindwall 3/29

See Main Article - 1950-51 Ashes series

Third Test – Sydney

5–9 January 1951
Flag of England.png England
v Flag of Australia.png Australia
Flag of Australia.png Australia won by an innings and 13 runs
Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney
Umpires: A.N. Barlow (AUS) & H.A.R. Elphinstone (AUS)
F.R. Brown (c) 79
Hutton, L. 62
K.R. Miller 4/37
I.W.G. Johnson 3/94
K.R. Miller 145*
I.W.G. Johnson 77
A.L. Hassett (c) 70
Bedser, A.V. 4/107
F.R. Brown (c) 4/153
Washbrook, C. 34
J.B. Iverson 6/27

See Main Article - 1950-51 Ashes series

Fourth Test – Adelaide

2–8 February
Flag of Australia.png Australia
v Flag of England.png England
Flag of Australia.png Australia won by 274 runs
Adelaide Oval, Adelaide, Australia
Umpires: A.N. Barlow (AUS) & A.R. Cocks (AUS)
A.R. Morris (vc) 206
Wright, D.V.P. 4/99
Bedser, A.V. 3/74
Tattersall, R. 3/95
Hutton, L. 156*
R.R. Lindwall 3/51
W.A. Johnston 3/58
J.B. Iverson 3/68
403/8 (dec) 228
J.W. Burke 101*
K.R. Miller 99
N.R. Harvey 68
Wright, D.V.P. 2/109
R.T. Simpson 61
W.A. Johnston 4/73
K.R. Miller 3/27

See Main Article - 1950-51 Ashes series

Fifth Test – Melbourne

23–28 February 1951
Flag of Australia.png Australia
v Flag of England.png England
Flag of England.png England won by 8 wickets
Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne
Umpires: A.N. Barlow (AUS) & H.A.R. Elphinstone (AUS)
A.L. Hassett (c) 92
A.R. Morris (vc) 50
Bedser, A.V. 5/46
F.R. Brown (c) 5/49
R.T. Simpson 156*
Hutton, L. 79
K.R. Miller 4/76
R.R. Lindwall 3/77
197 150/2
G.B. Hole 63
N.R. Harvey 52
Bedser, A.V. 5/59
Wright, D.V.P. 3/56
Hutton, L. 60*
W.A. Johnston 1/36

See Main Article - 1950-51 Ashes series

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List of Ashes series
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