Tallon's non-selection for the 1938 Ashes touring party surprised commentators. In selection deliberations, Bradman had lobbied for Tallon and Walker, asserting that Oldfield was past his best. The other two selectors, Chappie Dwyer from New South Wales and Bill Johnson from Victoria, outvoted Bradman. They selected Barnett, because of his previous tour to England, and Walker. Tallon's omission was overshadowed by that of Grimmett, regarded alongside Bill O'Reilly as the world's leading legspinner. No official reason was given for Tallon's non-selection. A leak revealed that the reason for his omission was that he was not familiar with the bowling of Australia's three spinners: O'Reilly, Chuck Fleetwood-Smith and Frank Ward. Another was Tallon's preference in standing back to medium pacers. In reality, Tallon stood back and stood up to the stumps depending on the situation. While the medium pacers were swinging the ball, he would stand back to avoid the risk of missing an edge. When the ball was old, he would stand up to the stumps when a medium pacer was operating and effect many stumpings with his fast reflexes.
During the series, Barnett made two notable errors. With Australia leading the series 1–0 going into the Fifth Test at The Oval, Barnett dropped Len Hutton and Maurice Leyland when both were on 40. Leyland went on to post 187 while Hutton set a Test world record of 364. In effect, England were gifted an extra 461 runs as they set a world record score of 7/903. Bradman injured himself during the marathon innings in a rare stint at the bowling crease after the specialist bowlers had failed to break the Englishmen. With opener Jack Fingleton also injured, Australia were down to nine men and fell to the heaviest defeat in Test history (an innings and 579 runs) and the series was drawn.
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