Peter May captained the English cricket team in Australia in 1958–59, playing as England in the 1958-59 Ashes series against the Australians and as the MCC in their other matches on the tour. It was widely regarded as one of the strongest teams to depart English shores, comparable with the great teams of Johnny Douglas in 1911-12 and Percy Chapman in 1928-29. It had no obvious weaknesses, and yet it was beaten - and beaten badly. By the First Test the top batsmen had made runs, the Surrey trio of Loader, Laker and Lock had taken wickets, as had Lancashire's Brian Statham. South Australia, Victoria and an Australian XI had all been beaten - the last by the crushing margin of 345 runs - and all seemed rosy for Peter May's touring team. But in the Brisbane Test they lost by 8 wickets and the rest of the series failed to offer any hope of reversing their fortunes. The reasons for their failure were manifold; the captain was too defensive; injuries affected their best players; others were too young and inexperienced such as Arthur Milton, Raman Subba Row, Ted Dexter, Roy Swetman and John Mortimore, or at the end of their career; Godfrey Evans, Trevor Bailey, Jim Laker, Willie Watson and Frank Tyson. Their morale was further bruised when faced with bowlers of dubious legality and unsympathetic umpires. Peter May was criticised for bringing his fiancée Virginia Gilligan, the niece of Arthur Gilligan who was in Australia as a radio commentator, to Australia (an unprecedented move in 1950s cricket). The press blamed the poor performance on the team's heavy drinking, bad behaviour and lack of pride - a foretaste the treatment losing teams would receive in the 1980s. It was not a happy tour by any means and it would take 12 years to recover The Ashes.

The England Touring squad

Below are the Test statistics of the England squad. As was 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.

First Test - Brisbane

5th–10 December 1958
Flag of England England
v Flag of Australia Australia
Flag of Australia Australia won by 8 wickets
Brisbane Cricket Ground, Woolloongabba, Australia
Umpires: C. Hoy (AUS) and M.J. McInnes (AUS)
T.E. Bailey 27
I. Meckiff 3/33
Alan Davidson 3/36
R. Benaud (c) 3/46
A.T.W. Grout (wk) 3 Ct & 1 St
C.C. McDonald 42
Loader, P.J. 4/56
T.E. Bailey 3/35
198 147/2
T.E. Bailey 68
R. Benaud (c) 4/66
N.C.L. O'Neill 71*

See Main Article - 1958-59 Ashes series

Second Test - Melbourne

31 December 1958 – 5 January 1959
Flag of England England
v Flag of Australia Australia
Flag of Australia Australia won by 8 wickets
Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne
Umpires: M.J. McInnes (AUS) and R.J.J. Wright (AUS)
P.B.H. May (c) 113
Alan Davidson 6/64
I. Meckiff 3/69
A.T.W. Grout (wk) 2 Ct & 1 St
R.N. Harvey 167
Statham, J.B. 7/57
Loader, P.J. 3/97
87 42/2
P.B.H. May (c) 17
I. Meckiff 6/38
Alan Davidson 3/41
J.W. Burke 18*
Laker, J.C. 1/7

See Main Article - 1958-59 Ashes series

Third Test - Sydney

9th–15 January 1959
Flag of England England
v Flag of Australia Australia
Match Drawn
Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney
Umpires: C. Hoy (AUS) and M.J. McInnes(AUS)
P.B.H. May (c) 42
Swetman, R. (wk) 41
R. Benaud (c) 5/83
N.C.L. O'Neill 77
Alan Davidson 71
K.D. Mackay 57
L.E. Favell 54
Laker, J.C. 5/107
Lock, G.A.R. 4/130
287/7 (dec) 54/2
M.C. Cowdrey (vc) 100*
P.B.H. May (c) 92
R. Benaud (c) 4/94
R.N. Harvey 18*
Laker, J.C. 2/10

See Main Article - 1958-59 Ashes series

Fourth Test - Adelaide

30 January–5 February 1959
Flag of Australia Australia
v Flag of England England
Flag of Australia Australia won by 10 wickets
Adelaide Oval, Adelaide, Australia
Umpires: M.J. McInnes (AUS) and R.J.J. Wright (AUS)
C.C. McDonald 170
J.W. Burke 66
N.C.L. O'Neill 56
Trueman, F.S. 4/90
Statham, J.B. 3/83
M.C. Cowdrey (vc) 84
R. Benaud (c) 5/91
G.F. Rorke 3/23
36/0 270 (follow-on)
J.W. Burke 16*
L.E. Favell 15*
P.B.H. May (c) 59
Graveney, T.W. 53*
R. Benaud (c) 4/82
A.T.W. Grout (wk) 3 Ct

See Main Article - 1958-59 Ashes series

Fifth Test - Melbourne

13th–18 February 1959
Flag of England England
v Flag of Australia Australia
Flag of Australia Australia won by 9 wickets
Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne
Umpires: L.H. Townsend (AUS) and R.J.J. Wright (AUS)
P.E. Richardson 68
Mortimore, J.B. 44*
R. Benaud (c) 4/43
Alan Davidson 3/38
C.C. McDonald 133
A.T.W. Grout (wk) 74
R. Benaud (c) 64
Trueman, F.S. 4/92
Laker, J.C. 4/93
M.C. Cowdrey (vc) 3 Ct
214 69/1
Graveney, T.W. 54
R.R. Lindwall 3/37
G.F. Rorke 3/41
C.C. McDonald 51*

See Main Article - 1958-59 Ashes series


The English team had a stopover in Colombo en route to Australia and played a one-day single-innings match there against the Ceylon national team, which at that time did not have Test status.

Annual reviews

  • Playfair Cricket Annual 1959
  • Wisden Cricketers' Almanack 1960
List of Ashes series
Non-Ashes Australia v England Test series

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