Bicentennial Test Match

Australia v England 1987-88 Bicentennial Test

Toss: England.

This would not have qualified as a memorable Test match under any circumstances; but for it to be dismissed as tedious, because it paled in contrast to other events in Australia's colourful bicentennial celebrations, was unfair. It was destined to be an attritional affair once England had amassed 425 and inflicted the follow-on. Australia's pride was then salvaged by an innings from Boon, rich in displine and defiance, spanning more than eight hours. For the connoisseur, the cricket was absorbing until midway though the final day, when the draw became inevitable. But it must be said that it was not a match of great distinction or quality play; nor, considering the two sides, was it likely to be. Australia's loudly heralded renaissance was largely based on the evidence of limited-over competitions and they remained some way short of being a powerful five-day side. England, despite controlling this match for much of its duration, were currently a team of no great flair, and the shortcomings of their bowling were exposed when the game was there to be won.

Recent traditions dictated that the toss would be crucial, but as it transpired, the pitch was not as helpful to spin as had been anticipated. Gatting was right to bat first, having omitted DeFreitas from the England twelve. Australia, who preferred Dodemaide to Hughes, were unfortunate to go unrewarded through the first session, in which three catches were missed and the bat was beaten on numerous occasions. McDermott was especially unlucky. Sleep, the leg-spinner, broke the opening stand, but Robinson then played with refreshing authority for almost two and a half hours. Broad was past 100 by the close; his fourth hundred, on separate grounds, in only six Tests in Australia. Only one other Englishman, J. H. Edrich, had made Test centuries on four Australian grounds.

Broad achieved rightful acclaim for his feat, yet sacrificed it early on the second day by reacting to his dismissal in a childish manner. Bowled, off his body, by Waugh, he flattened the leg-stump with a violently swung bat. It was a petulant gesture quite without logic, for he had been fortunate to survive several torrid periods on the opening day and, in 434 minutes at the crease, had never played with complete conviction. Mr Lush, the tour manager, instantly applied the maximum available fine, £500, and Broad was warned that any future transgression would result in sterner punishment.

This incident detracted from another good day for England, who progressed to their formidable total through useful contributions right down the order. Six wickets fell to the Australian spinners, which was more than England's pair of slow bowlers achieved in the subsequent three days. Australia lost Boon, Marsh and Border early on the third day, Capel taking two wickets with indifferent balls, and they were reduced to a defensive operation from then on. The pre-lunch session on the fourth day was the tensest of the game as Australia crept to within 12 runs of avoiding the follow-on before a marvellously acrobatic catch by Foster at mid-on denied them. With a little more than five sessions left, England should have expected to win. The pitch, however, was becoming slower and less cooperative by the hour. Australia seemed suddenly to remember they were playing Test and not one-day cricket, and, to frustrate England further, the weather again deteriorated.

Almost two hours had been lost to bad light on the third evening; another 90 minutes were sacrificed on the fourth when Gatting, unintelligently, recalled Dilley in failing light. With Boon and Marsh resuming in the same immovable mood, England's chance quickly disappeared on the final day. Boon, unrecognisable from the loose, diffident player who had failed so often against England a year earlier, hit his highest Test score, his sixth hundred for Australia, and remained unbeaten to the end, having faced 431 balls and hit fourteen fours. England ended disappointed and, with both their strike bowlers, Foster and Dilley, off the field injured, in some disarray. The match was watched by an aggregate crowd of 103, 831, well below official forecasts.

Man of the Match: D. C. Boon.

Close of play: First day, England 221-2 (B. C. Broad 116*, M. W. Gatting 3*); Second day, Australia 14-0 (D. C. Boon 12*, G. R. Marsh 1*); Third day, Australia 164-7 (P. R. Sleep 20*, P. L. Taylor 7*); Fourth day, Australia 101-0 (G. R. Marsh 41*, D. C. Boon 54*)

© John Wisden & Co