After Border had lost the toss for the first time in nine Tests, Broad and Athey shared an opening stand of 223 which gave England control for much of the match, even if they were unable to turn their supremacy into victory. It was England's highest opening partnership for 39 Tests - Tavaré and Fowler scored the same number in 1983 against New Zealand at The Oval - and their fifth highest against Australia. England were denied victory first by a resolute and responsible 125 in 372 minutes by Border, who saved the follow-on in the company of the No.11, Reid; secondly by an indecisive approach to their own second innings, which resulted in a delayed declaration; and finally by Australia's determined batting on the fifth day on a pitch which played truer than it had any right to on its appearance.
John Maley, who as travelling curator during the era of World Series Cricket had produced a number of true pitches under hot-house conditions, successfully transplanting them into non-cricket grounds, set out at Perth to prepare a surface which would be good for batting on the opening day; in contrast to recent Tests at the WACA ground, where not since 1977-78 had a captain chosen to bat first. This pitch started exceptionally dry by modern standards, with several cracks beginning to peep through, and finished resembling a giant jigsaw puzzle, split by a wavy crack (into which it was possible to slide a little finger) in line with the stumps at each end. Its appearance was alarming enough for Border to decline the use of a roller when Gatting's declaration left Australia to bat through the fifth day; but in the event the cracks proved an illusory advantage to England's bowlers, balls hitting them tending to deviate too much to create problems.
Australia made one change from the side beaten at Brisbane, Lawson coming in for Hughes while Sleep, South Australia's leg-spinning all-rounder, was omitted from their chosen twelve. England were unchanged. In the eighth over, Border at second slip missed Athey, two-handed to his left off C. D. Matthews, but that apart Australia's remodelled new-ball partnership never threatened to make inroads. Indeed, the new ball was wasted with more profligacy than at Brisbane, Broad played majestically throughout, never looking back after superbly struck fours to mid-wicket and extra-cover in Matthews's second over. When, by tea, England were 187 for no wicket, with Broad 2 runs away from his first Test hundred, a huge total was assured. Reid, the steadiest of Australia's bowlers, deprived Athey (286 minutes, eleven fours) of a well-deserved maiden Test hundred by yorking him for 96, and next over he had Lamb, cutting caught at the wicket.
Australia lost their faint chance of recovering lost ground on the second morning when, shortly after Gatting had cut C. D. Matthews to gully, Broad was dropped by Ritchie at third slip in Lawson's best spell of the innings. Broad added only 15 more before Reid had him caught at the wicket, his innings having spanned 435 minutes and included 25 fours; but by then Gower, given the easiest of starts by C. D. Matthews with two loose balls on his legs, was in full stride with 35, pulling and off-driving with severity and perfect timing. After Botham, pushing on the off-side, had been caught off Reid at second slip, Richards in his second Test played with the such assurance that Gower was content to let him dominate a sixth-wicket stand of 207, during which Richards became the first Surrey player since J. H. Edrich to make a hundred for England in a Test. They had been together 212 minutes when Gower (277 minutes, nineteen fours) was caught at cover after completing his sixth hundred against Australia and his second at Perth. Half an hour later, with a declaration imminent, Richards (sixteen fours) was caught at mid-off, 2 runs short of the highest score by an England wicket-keeper against Australia - A. P. E. Knott's 135 at Trent Bridge in 1977. Australia's attack, with the exception of Reid, was short of both accuracy and penetration, Richards relishing especially the off-spin of G. R. J. Matthews in a four-hour innings well attuned to England's aims.
Australia, left with half an hour's batting on the second day, needed 393 to save the follow-on and were at once in trouble when Boon played on to Dilley in the second over. Although Waugh, promoted four places, vindicated high opinions of his timing by making 71, which included the only six of the match, England, helped by a brilliant catch by Broad at backward short-leg off a well-hit hook by Marsh, worked steadily through the top half of the order. When, shortly before tea, Ritchie was caught at slip off a ball that hit a crack, turned and lifted, the prospects of a second win were good, but Border's technique, patience and relish for a fight were never better illustrated than in the next two sessions. Content to remain in occupation, yet missing next to nothing overpitched, he nursed four partners through successive stands of 81, 55, 26 and 25, so that when Reid came in at 385 for nine, only 8 runs were needed to make England bat again. Border himself made the decisive stroke three minutes before lunch on the third day, cutting Emburey for 4 and giving a little skip of joy as the ball crossed the line. When he was out ten minutes after the interval, having hit seventeen fours off 284 deliveries, England, 191 ahead, had 9 hours 40 minutes at their disposal to win the match.
Through good defensive bowling by Reid and Waugh, however, and concern that a start of 50 for three might lead to a collapse, England's second innings got going only while Gower was making 48 in 72 minutes. With Botham failing again, momentum was lost, and Gatting drew back from the declaration England had been aiming for before the close of play. Instead, he waited until the following morning.
Dilley at once made up lost time when, with the first ball of the last day, he had Boon caught by Botham at second slip, his 100th catch in Tests. But in Dilley's next over Botham missed a difficult low chance in the same position, and Marsh and Jones, both receiving the benefit on close lbw decisions, virtually made the game safe with a stand of 126. Soon after lunch, Botham tore a muscle in his left side delivering a bouncer, but when Edmonds had Border caught at silly-point off bat and pad in the over after tea, England had another opening. However, the pitch remained true and slow with little turn, and despite many close calls against the spinners, with fielders clustered round the bat, Ritchie (135 minutes) and G. R. J. Matthews (95 minutes) held out until Gatting gave them best midway through the final twenty overs.
Man of the Match: B. C. Broad. Attendance: 51,862.
Close of play: First day, England 272-2 (B. C. Broad 146*, M. W. Gatting 11*); Second day, Australia 19-1 (G. R. Marsh 6*, S. R. Waugh 8*); Third day, Australia 309-6 (A. R. Border 81*, T. J. Zoehrer 15*); Fourth day, England 199-8 (J. E. Emburey 4*).