Fifth Test Match

Australia's consolation

Toss: Australia. Test debut: Australia - P.L.Taylor.

When, with one over left, Sleep bowled Emburey to complete Australia's first Test win in more than a year, it was an unexpected as well as welcome victory. Indeed, at the start of the final twenty overs England appeared to have the better chance. Recovering from the loss of four wickets in eight overs, among them Botham first ball to Taylor in his maiden Test, they had been carried to within 90 runs of their target (320) by the pugnacity of Gatting with determined help from Richards in a stand of 131, a record for England's sixth wicket on the ground. Only once before, in 633 Tests, had England scored more than 300 runs to win - at Melbourne in 1928-29 when Hobbs and Sutcliffe shared one of their most celebrated partnerships, 105 on a rain-affected pitch. However, at 230 for five, with Australia faltering, the odds had swung their way. Even when Gatting was caught and bowled by Waugh, 4 short of his hundred and with only another 3 on England's total, it was not until Sleep dismissed Richards and Edmonds with successive balls in the eleventh over of the final twenty that Australia scented victory.

Small defended resolutely through seven overs until, with only fourteen balls remaining, Border at first slip, one of eight men round the bat, claimed a sharp, low catch off Reid. Then, with 12,684 spectators in a state of high excitement, Sleep penetrated Emburey's defence with a grubber to give Australia their first win in fifteen Tests. Of Sleep's five for 72, his best figures in a Test, three were taken in his last five overs as England, through neither carelessness nor lack of fight, lost five for 31 in 70 tense minutes.

If their leg-spinner delivered Australia's coup de grĂ¢ce, however, there was no question that their hero was the 30-year-old Taylor, a sandy-haired off-spinner from Sydney's Northern District club who had played only six first-class matches in his life, and only one that season, restricted to few appearances for New South Wales by their three Test spinners. So little was known about him that when Australia announced a twelve containing only one opening batsman, Marsh, there was speculation in some quarters that he owed selection to an error in transmission, confusing him with M. A. Taylor, a dour left-handed opener who had been making runs for New South Wales.

There was no substance to the allegations, and in a saga that developed along the lines of a story in Boy's Own, the unassuming Taylor gloriously vindicated the selectors' judgement, not to say courage, with a performance of such merit that he was named player of the match. Figures of six for 78 in England's first innings and two for 76 in the second revealed him as a thoughtful bowler with more than average powers of spin. But well as he did in his specialist department, it was his batting - angular, left-handed and blessed with common sense - that made possible Australia's win. Going in at No. 9, he batted for 244 minutes in both innings while 142 runs were scored, enabling Jones to add 111 with his last three partners in the first innings and sharing a stand of 98 with Waugh in the second when Australia's needs were even greater. Taylor, Ritchie and Wellham replaced Matthews (twelfth man), Boon and McDermott, while Dilley, fit again, returned for England at DeFreitas's expense.

Jones, whose 184 not out (540 minutes, 420 balls, on six, twelve fours) was his first Test hundred on home soil, was Australia's other match-winner in a game that produced more runs on every day than the bowlers should have allowed on a pitch which helped spin as well as seam. Faulty umpiring contributed to that, Jones, when 5, being the fortunate recipient of a benefit-of-doubt decision when Richards dived to take a leg-glance and Gower, when 62, surviving an lbw appeal when Taylor, over the wicket, got through a back-foot defensive stroke with a straight ball which kept low. Lack of confidence appeared to be at the root of the umpires' difficulties. It was to Jones's credit that he made the most of his luck while Gower failed to, driving a half-volley to extra-cover early on the following morning.

That England trailed by no more than 68 on first innings, bowled Australia out for 251 in their second, and came within a whisker of saving the match after Sleep's removal of Richards and Edmonds was due in large measure to Emburey, who with the ball and bat was in the thick of things for more than fourteen hours of the 30. Handicapped by a strained groin for most of his 210-minute 69, he went on to take seven for 78, his best figures in Test cricket, in Australia's second innings and finally logged another 68 minutes' batting in the last session. Like Gatting, Small and Richards, he deserved better than to finish on the losing side.

Man of the Match: P. L. Taylor. Attendance: 96,429.

Man of the Series: B. C. Broad.

Close of play: First day, Australia 236-7 (D. M. Jones 119*, P. L. Taylor 0*); Second day, England 132-5 (D. I. Gower 62*, C. J. Richards 8*); Third day, Australia 74-2 (D. M. Jones 6*, A. R. Border 38*); Fourth day, England 39-1 (C. W. J. Athey 11*, D. I. Gower 7*).

© John Wisden & Co