Fourth Cornhill Test


Terry Cooper

After the first session and until the final hour England made all the running, but a prolonged defensive effort by Australia's middle order, organised by Border, enabled them to draw the game. They were helped in this by breaks for rain and an impossibly sluggish pitch, although the groundstaff worked diligently to keep the match going between frequent showers. It seemed a pity, none the less, that they were protecting a pitch that had been inexplicably wet at the start. It offered no pace and a low bounce. Batsmen who attacked with profit on it and wicket-taking bowlers, especially McDermott, could feel more satisfaction than usual.

England did not consider Sidebottom because of injury, Agnew being brought in. Australia replaced Wood, who was injured, by Matthews. Gower put Australia in, but his bowlers did not immediately vindicate the move. Wessels was the only Australian dismissed before lunch. Edmonds turned the game permanently England's way in the afternoon with three wickets. The most important of these was that of Border, who reacted to being tied down by going headlong down the pitch for a speculative drive and being stumped. Ritchie gave Edmonds a return catch in the same over and, at 122 for four, Australia's innings needed extensive repairs. Boon mustered all his skill and Phillips settled in with him, but England struck again at the start of the evening session through Botham. Like England's other faster bowlers, Botham had not been at his best in the morning. But now he had both Boon and Phillips caught cutting. Matthews and Lawson followed, but the new ball was propelled fruitlessly before Edmonds ended the day by finishing off the innings.

Robinson was slipped out early in England's reply by McDermott, but Australia enjoyed only isolated encouragement after this, largely because McDermott was the only bowler taking wickets. Lawson was accurate enough, but unrecognisable in terms of penetration. O'Donnell had Gooch dropped, but seldom menaced the batsmen's survival. Boon spilled that chance and also missed Gower off McDermott. The task of the Australian spinners looked forlorn.

Although 40 minutes were lost at the start of the second day, England had reached 233 for three by the close. Gooch and Gower, who went to a fine, tumbling catch on the square-leg boundary, made their exits within a few minutes of each other, but Gatting and Lamb became established in the final two hours. Play could not resume until two o'clock on Saturday, whereupon the cricket settled into a pattern, with Gatting driving and hooking while Lamb thrust fiercely through mid wicket. They had added 156 when Lamb was run out by a beautiful piece of fielding from Matthews in the covers. Gatting, whose responsibilities increased when Botham was caught on the long leg boundary, completed his first home Test century shortly afterwards. He had batted for nigh on six hours (266 balls) and nailed down his place as England's number four when he was caught behind. On Monday morning, as England went for further quick runs, McDermott hit the stumps three times and so marched off with eight for 141, the third youngest to take eight wickets in a Test. He had bowled 36 overs, defying the sponge-like pitch by obtaining occasional bounce, and was a deserving winner of the Man of the Match award.

Australia, 225 behind, were thus in by noon. Matthews had been asked to open, to allow Wessels to drop back to number three, and he helped Australia past the first hurdle by remaining until lunch. Immediately afterwards he became the first of four batsmen to be prised out by the spinners before the close. Border conceded that evening that a last day of rain would not go amiss, and he was accommodated to the extent that only three overs could be bowled before lunch. England's dejection at not being able to get on to the pitch increased when play did start, Border soon surviving an awkward chance off the inside edge. Australia were 33 behind at the time, and they cleared the arrears after ten of the 50 overs to which the day was reduced had been bowled. Emburey had cheered England by bowling Ritchie, but Phillips was quite clear as to what his job was. He remained on nought for 50 balls. Border also gave England no more hope, seeing his side to safety in an innings of 334 balls and 346 minutes. A total of 62,127 spectators paid £368,968.

© John Wisden & Co