The English off-spinner took the game to the Aussies.
At Old Trafford in 1956 England spinner Jim Laker secured the best bowling figures of all time when he took 19 Australia wickets for just 90 runs.
In post-war Britain men were men and no Monty Panesar-esque celebrations were seen from Laker after trapping Len Maddocks lbw to secure victory – rather strong handshakes and pats on the back from his teammates.
Yet this was one of the finest spin bowling displays that has ever been seen and in the pressure pot that is an Ashes series it was even more remarkable.
In fact Laker’s figures of 19-90 were a record in cricket until Indian master Anil Kumble surpassed the achievement set by the Englishman in 1999.
Despite England having beaten Australia in the previous two ashes series of 1952 and 1954/55 this series was by no means a given, with the scores leveled at 1-1 after three Test matches.
Heading into the game at Manchester Australian legend and arguably the greatest batsman to ever grace the game, Don Bradman, said the Old Trafford pitch would favour batsmen.
A genius Bradman may have been but Laker showed that his predictions were not always accurate as the spinner tore through the Aussie order.
The tourists spin bowlers had struggled on the wicket during the Three Lions’ innings and the hosts posted 459.
It looked like a similar story when the sides swapped over as Australian openers Colin McDonald and Jimmy Burke solidly batting to 48 without loss.
England captain Peter May decided to take action and swapped Laker to bowl from the Stretford End; 48-0 became 84 all-out very quickly.
The home side enforced the follow-on, although this time around Australia dug in and made it to 148-2 at lunch on the final day with England looking like they’d thrown away a victory.
May turned to Laker once more and the spinner followed the script perfectly, bettering his nine-wicket haul from the first innings with all 10 scalps this time around – the Baggy Greens were all-out for 205 and victory was England’s.
To put it into perspective for a modern audience Aussie Batsman Neil Harvey, who was clean bowled by Laker, probably puts it best.
“That Shane Warne delivery that bowled Mike Gatting, well, that wasn’t in the same class,” Harvey was quoted in the Guardian. Praise indeed.
Relive Laker’s phenomenal feat below: