Second Cornhill Test

ENGLAND v AUSTRALIA 1985

Brian Scovell

This was Border's match. The Australian captain scored 43 per cent of his side's runs, 237 out of 552, and led them superbly to maintain Australia's unbeaten run at cricket's headquarters since Verity bowled them to defeat in 1934. Border's 196 in Australia's first innings was his highest Test score, beating his 162 at Madras on his country's last tour of India, and he displayed a command and range of shot which few contemporary players could equal. The only time he seemed at all disconcerted in the match was when, with Australia needing 10 to win but batting anxiously, a statement was read out asking spectators not to run on to the pitch at the finish. However, the announcement had the desired effect and MCC were to be congratulated on their public relations over the question of crowd control.

A fine match was played in a good atmosphere with none of the noises-off that had marred the enjoyment of many people at the Test matches against West Indies the previous year. It was remarkable that play was able to start to time on the first day, for on the afternoon before, an MCC assistant secretary had worn wellington boots to inspect the sodden outfield. However, Mick Hunt, the groundsman, and some of his staff worked through the night to remove surface water and, although the pitch was soft and the square still wet, the umpires allowed the game to begin at the appointed time. Border won the toss and asked England to bat. The pitch being too slow at that stage for his leg spinner, the 38-year-old Holland, Border was gambling on his three pace bowlers to bowl England out, and he was not disappointed. England brought in Edmonds and Foster for Cowans and Willey, and omitted Sidebottom from their original twelve players.

McDermott bowled magnificently for his six wickets. He had both England's openers, Gooch and Robinson, leg before, though Gooch's decision appeared a harsh one, the point of impact looking to be outside the line of the off stump as he played his shot. Gower dominated the England first innings with batting which persuaded the selectors to confirm him in the captaincy for the remaining four Tests. Lawson, still not bowling as fast or aggressively as he is able to, took the crucial wicket of Botham, having him caught on the cover boundary, driving at a slower delivery.

Play on the second day was interrupted five times and finally curtailed by bad light, to the annoyance of a capacity crowd. Loud disapproval was expressed when play was halted for the last time with England's spinners, Edmonds and Emburey, in action. Border, then 92 out of Australia's 183 for four, might have gone at 87 when his pull off Edmonds struck Gatting's wrist at short leg. As the fielder strove to control the ball, he seemed, prematurely, to try to throw it up in celebration of what would have been a remarkable catch. The ball escaped Gatting's despairing lunge, and in response to a somewhat half-hearted appeal umpire Bird ruled that it had not been retained in such a way as to satisfy Law 32.

Border's fifth-wicket stand of 216 with Ritchie ended soon after lunch on the third day when Botham, kept out of the attack in the morning to protect a slightly strained ankle, upset Ritchie's equanimity with a couple of bouncers and followed them with a straight delivery which had him leg before. Botham bowled as fast as for some time and his five wickets prevented the Australians from running away with the match. It was the 25th time he had claimed five wickets in an innings in a Test, a record for any country.

Trailing by 135, England needed a sound start to their second innings; but Gooch was caught behind, trying to leg glance McDermott, and Robinson's bat caught in his pad as he defended against Holland. Gower then took the controversial decision to send in not one, but two night-watchmen, Emburey and Allott. The promotion of two tailenders meant that a major batsman was likely to be left stranded later in the innings, and so it proved. On the Monday morning Lawson reduced England to 98 for six when he removed Emburey, Allott and Lamb, Gower having gone for a one-day-style 22. But Botham, suffering from a bruised toe sustained when he was hit by a golf ball at Wentworth the day before, added 131 with Gatting. They were on the way to turning likely defeat into possible victory when Holland went round the wicket at the Nursery End, aiming for the rough created by McDermott outside the right-hander's leg stump. McDermott had been officially warned by umpire Bird for running down the pitch. Botham's reply was to keep padding the ball away until, going for a big hit, he was caught just backward of point. Downton went next ball, caught at slip. Holland's five wickets on his first appearance in a Test in England were a splendid reward for accurate, intelligent bowling.

Australia faced 21 overs before the close, by when they were 46 for three, needing 127. Hilditch was caught hooking, Wood in the gully off a lifter, both off Botham, and Ritchie was bowled by the accurate Allott. Wood's wicket was Botham's 326th in Tests, making him England's most prolific wicket-taker. On the last morning Border's nerve held after Australia had declined to 65 to five, Wessels, the striker, being run out by a quick return from Gower at short leg and Boon bowled. Border was made Man of the Match and the game of cricket enhanced by a pleasurable Test. The overall attendance was 93,329 and receipts £668,312.

© John Wisden & Co