Fourth Test Match

England v Australia

Australia, bent on retaining the Ashes, concentrated solely on avoiding defeat and succeeded in their objective. Of all the five Tests played during the season this suffered least from the weather, only one hour being lost on the fourth day.

Again England were let down by their middle batsmen. After so much rain the pitch was slow, with little bounce from the ball, and until late on the last day each side possessed a chance of victory, but neither had the courage to take it.

By this time the pitch was responsive to spin, but Australia pinned their faith on their pacemen, McKenzie and Connolly, which surprised the England players who feared trouble from Gleeson, Cowper and Chappell.

Injuries prevented the two official captains taking part and, in place of Cowdrey and Lawry, the respective sides were led by Graveney and Jarman. A deep hand wound made Graveney doubtful until the last minute and on the eve of the match England called up Sparpe when he was at the wicket ready to open for Yorkshire against Essex at Westcliff.

So England had fourteen men present and eventually left out Cowdrey, Knight and Shape, while Australia included Inverarity for Lawry. England recalled Dexter and introduced two new caps, Prideaux and Fletcher and the former proved a great success.

Fletcher had the misfortune to begin at first slip where he made noble attempts to hold two or three fast, low and wide chances before a Yorkshire crowd who reckoned that all would have been gathered by Sharpie. Small wonder that Fletcher failed with the bat at the crucial moment, although he stayed seventy minutes at the bitter end of the match in company with Barrington.

Jarman won the toss and Cowper took over Lawry's defensive role, contenting himself with 15 runs in two hours before lunch when the total reached 75 for one. Inverarity, in his First Test Match, soon fell to Snow, but Redpath batted extremely well, producing plenty of strokes; he held the innings together against some good bowling, but England missed difficult chances. When in sight of his century, Redpath attempted to sweep and was bowled round his legs by Illingworth.

Walters, Chappell and Sheahan played soundly for the most part, but Australia were perhaps fortunate to finish the first day at 258 for five, Knott having also missed one catch and a chance of stumping.

Next morning only Chappell and Freeman gave England much trouble and the remaining five wickets fell for 57 more runs. Underwood finished the innings by taking three for 10 in seven overs; his final analysis was four wickets for 41 in 28 overs, a masterly performance.

England had one over to bat before lunch and for the next three hours, despite some fine Australian fielding, the absence of Boycott and Cowdrey was not felt. Prideaux was the hero with Edrich shaping as well as he has ever done. Until Cowper bowled into the marks made by Snow, all went well for England.

Prideaux drove and hooked in almost carefree fashion and Edrich excelled with the cover drive. Then with seventy minutes left before the close and 123 runs on the board -- easily the highest opening stand of the series -- Prideaux aimed for a mighty hit over square leg from Gleeson but the ball lifted from the rough, he checked his stroke and Freeman running towards the players' pavilion held an amazing catch as the ball dropped over his shoulder with his arms outstretched.

Jarman promptly brought back McKenzie, who put in a very good spell with Connolly. A large section of the Yorkshire crowd turned sour against Edrich and Dexter, who were pinned down, and in next to no time England lost both, the score being 163 for three at the close.

The manner in which Graveney, Barrington, Fletcher, Knott, Illingworth and Snow failed with the bat on the third day might have caused the disillusioned crowd of 25,000 to imagine that the Australian bowlers were supermen. Fortunately for cricket, let alone England, the last man, Underwood, demonstrated the proper way to hit the ball by treating it on its merit.

He began by taking 10 from an over by Connolly and with Brown also confident and steady the last wicket put on 61 and cut down Australia's lead to 13. One must emphasise that Underwood did not indulge in wild slogging but hit intelligently.

Redpath again batted splendidly for Australia, who before the end of the third day lost Cowper and Inverarity to Illingworth for 92 runs. The cricket on Monday was very dull, the Australian batsmen being interested solely in occupation of the crease. In five hours only 191 runs were scored while the England bowlers took four more wickets.

Chappell stayed more than four hours for 81, a most valuable effort for Australia, and finally England faced the task of getting 326 to win in five minutes under five hours. Illingworth, six for 87 in 51 overs, and Underwood were never mastered and took the last five Australian wickets for 39 runs.

England needed to average 66 runs an hour and soon lost Prideaux who cutting off the back foot chopped the ball into his wicket. Edrich again played well and Dexter cut and drove in his best style until a break-back left him helpless. Connolly, the successful bowler, strove with unflagging energy, as did McKenzie. Graveney and Barrington displayed enterprise, but the runs never flowed freely enough for England and when Graveney went to a return catch in Cowper's first over Australia were already assured of the Ashes.

© John Wisden & Co