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England's first match under the new management team headed by E. R. Dexter, and with Gower restored as captain, fell sadly into the sorry pattern of so much that had gone before in that they contributed significantly to their own downfall. It was their fourth successive defeat at Headingley, where the Australians had not won since 1964, and the outcome extended to nine the sequence of positive Test results on the ground.
Australia, very much the outsiders at the start, outplayed England to an embarrassing extent. England's plans were thrown into confusion by injuries to Botham and Gatting, for whom Smith and Barnett were the replacements, but it could not be argued realistically that this misfortune had a serious influence on the outcome. More important were two major errors of judgement by Gower and his advisers. In the first place they left out the spinner, Emburey, so that the attack was desperately short of variety; and, ignoring the groundsman's advice, they then elected to give Australia first use of an excellent pitch. The match was staged on the traditional Test strip, which had been relaid by Keith Boyce, the Headingley groundsman, and although lacking in bounce, so that the occasional delivery kept low, the pitch hardly encouraged the quicker bowlers. The decision to field first was apparently based on the theory that a build-up of cloud might allow movement through the air. In fact it was much too cold and the ball behaved predictably in every way. Both captains were happy to use the Duke ball in preference to the Reader with its more pronounced seam.
All the England seamers persistently bowled short and wide, offering easy runs, and no matter how he juggled his resources, Gower could not change the bowling. This remained undemanding medium pace so long as any of his specialists were in action. Equally neither Gooch nor Barnett, with his rather rusty leg-spin, challenged the batsmen's authority, and Gower quickly discovered that his reappointment as captain brought with it many familiar problems. Taylor laid the foundations for a massive Australian total with a solid, patient innings. Missed by Gower at slip off DeFreitas when 89, he went on to occupy the crease for 393 minutes while receiving 315 balls and hitting sixteen boundaries. Border provided the necessary acceleration before Jones and Waugh shared in the decisive partnership, adding 138 in 31 overs and breaking the back of the English resistance.
Wearing a cap instead of the familiar helmet, Waugh reminded many spectators of a bygone age, despatching the ball stylishly through the gaps and timing his forcing strokes so well that he brought an effortless quality to the proceedings. His unbeaten 177 came in 309 minutes from 242 deliveries and included 24 fours, many of them driven gloriously off the back foot through the off side in the textbook manner. Against this onslaught, only Foster came close to achieving the essential accuracy in terms of length and line. The rest of the bowlers were horribly exposed in their inability to master the basics. To complete England's misery, Hughes hit out cheerfully to score 71 from 105 balls, and when Border declared the follow-on amounted to 402. For much of the England reply this did not represent all that much of a problem, although Alderman, bowling very much wicket to wicket, commanded respect with his nagging accuracy and subtle variations of pace.
Barnett, always looking to get on the front foot, played positively for his 80 in 163 minutes after overcoming some initial uncertainty, and Lamb held the innings together with a typical effort in the course of which he savaged anything the least bit short. His 125 involved 205 deliveries in 279 minutes and included 24 fours. However, there was a distinct warning-note in the collapse which followed his departure. England's last six wickets fell for 107 in 31 overs and Australia, left with a lead of 171, now looked to put the match out of England's reach while at the same time giving their bowlers scope to bowl England out a second time. For their part, England needed to bowl tightly and field keenly to put them under pressure. Instead they again fell into error, allowing Australia to maintain a run-rate of 4 an over without recourse to the unorthodox. Border and Jones were particularly effective in an unfinished partnership of 101 in 56 minutes. The captain scored 60 from 76 balls, batting for a spell in the gloom on the fourth evening after declining the chance to go off because of the light. Indeed, Border was not too pleased when, with rain falling, the umpires decided to call it a day, although there was little doubt that they were correct. Not enough time was lost to make this an issue, however, and Border was able to declare next morning and set England a remote target of 402 for victory.
The more interesting part of the equation, though, related to the minimum 83 overs which were available for the Australian bowlers to dismiss England. In theory, their prospects of success should have been no brighter than the England batsmen's of surviving, but so feeble was England's response to this challenge that Australia had 27 overs to spare in completing their task. Only Gooch, battling through 176 minutes to make 68 from 118 balls, caused Border to worry. Barnett shared in a partnership worth 50 and Gower in one which added 57, both in twelve overs, but England for the most part found the straight ball unplayable.
Broad fell lbw to one that kept very low, although he made matters worse by aiming across the line with an angled bat, and too many of his colleagues pushed and prodded with a worrying lack of conviction. Gower was guilty of a particularly careless act, being caught down the leg side, glancing, as the Australians set a very obvious trap. In many ways that one incident summed up the difference between the two teams. Australia had done their homework and knew exactly what they were trying to do, whereas England lived more in hope than expectation. Alderman finished with match figures of ten for 151 - his best in Test cricket. And as Taylor and Waugh also completed their first centuries at the highest level, Australia collectively and individually claimed all the honours.
Man of the Match: T. M. Alderman. Attendance: 50,600; receipts: £500,750.
Close of play: First day, Australia 207-3 (M. A. Taylor 96*, D. M. Jones 10*); Second day, Australia 580-6 (S. R. Waugh 174*, M. G. Hughes 63*); Third day, England 284-4 (A. J. Lamb 103*, R. A. Smith 16*); Fourth day, Australia 158-3 (A. R. Border 31*, D. M. Jones 12*).