Second Cornhill Test


David Norrie

Toss: England.

Victory not only gave Border's side a 2-0 lead, a position from which England had never come back to win or even draw an Ashes series, but continued the home side's dismal record at the game's headquarters this century against their oldest cricket rivals. England's sole success remained 1934; 21 other contests had brought Australia nine victories, with twelve draws.

The tourists confirmed their Headingley form, while England, again badly hit by injuries, took a different route to defeat. Gower's side struggled badly for three days before staging a spirited fightback which, with a little more help from the rain on Tuesday, would have earned them a reprieve. Gower, cast as the villain for rushing out of Saturday night's press conference to go to the theatre, was hailed as a hero on Monday for scoring his fifteenth Test century. But character and courage were not enough to repair the earlier damage and, despite the threat of lunch-time rain and then Foster's bowling, Waugh saw Australia through to a conclusive victory just after five o'clock on Tuesday.

The unexpectedness of England's First Test defeat was not the only problem that lingered on from Leeds. Gower had announced he would be undergoing an exploratory shoulder operation before the Lord's Test; meanwhile, television viewers saw Dexter, the chairman of the England selectors, making a hurried departure from an interview when pressed - contrary to prior agreement - on his absence from Headingley on the final day. The blame for that Leeds setback was put firmly on England's bowlers when the thirteen players for Lord's were named. DeFreitas, Newport (not considered because of an acutely inflamed Achilles' tendon) and Pringle were absent. Middlesex's Fraser was included for the first time, while Dilley was fit again. England, with Gower in hospital and Gatting not having played since breaking his thumb, included seven batsmen. The selectors, with Botham still unfit, decided against including all-rounder Capel, who had a niggling rib injury. Problems mounted when finger injuries on the Saturday before the match made Lamb and Emburey doubtful, although Gower declared himself fit after his operation. Dexter had stated that Gatting would lead the side if Gower failed to recover in time.

Australia's problems were minimal. May was still unfit and Hohns was added to their squad. Lord's was sold out for the first four days with advance takings of £1.2 million. If the tourists needed any more inspiration, their Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, would be in attendance on Friday.

Lamb was not fit and Fraser, on his home ground, was made twelfth man; Hohns replaced Campbell, Australia's only change. When Gower won the toss and batted, England were soon reduced to 58 for three, including the loss of Gatting first ball; but Gooch and Gower added 73 in seventeen overs. Gooch went shortly after reaching his nineteenth fifty in his last eighteen first-class games, and although England recovered to 180 for four, they slumped to 191 for seven. They had tried to blast their way out of trouble. Gower's 50 came off only 54 balls, and 1 run later he went past G. S. Chappell to centre the top ten of Test run-scorers. Waugh's first four overs cost 38 runs, a statistic more in keeping with limited-overs cricket, but England's batsmen paid the price for their aggression and indiscretion. Only a disciplined innings from Russell brought back a sense of normality and saved England from total disaster. Hughes, Australia's best bowler, was warned by umpire Bird for overdoing the bouncer at England's tailenders, Foster's helmet grill having already been smashed by one.

Australia batted in a much more sedate manner on Friday, reaching 276 for six by the close. England started and finished the day well. Russell took a brilliant diving catch to dismiss Marsh first thing, then England evened up the contest by taking four wickets in the final session. In between Boon and Taylor had made it hard work for the bowlers, adding 145 for the second wicket, Boon making his highest Test score in England. Australia were within 65 runs of England's total with seven wickets left, but the home side were given a glimpse of hope when Border top-edged an attempted sweep at Emburey.

Saturday, which dawned with hope of England levelling the series, turned out to be the day the Ashes went Australia's way. By the close, England - with Gooch, Broad and Barnett gone - needed another 184 runs to avoid an innings defeat. Waugh, the tormentor at Headingley, turned torturer with an undefeated 152 from 249 balls (seventeen fours). But the real agony as the tourists' last four wickets added 263 was Lawson's highest Test score; he and Waugh put on 130 in 108 minutes, a record for Australia's ninth wicket in England. Emburey's return to Test form was some consolation as he took three for 28 in his sixteen overs on Saturday, but Dexter's pre-Test talk of using Gooch's bowling was not reflected in Gower's captaincy. Gooch came on in the 140th over with the score at 494 for eight; his inactivity was complete when he became Alderman's 100th Test victim in the opening over of England's second innings. Soon England were 28 for three and it was all over bar the shouting.

That came at the press conference when Gower, looking agitated as he entered the marquee on the Lord's lawn, gave little evidence of his laid-back style in dealing with routine questions - some from former Test cricketers turned journalists - about the day's tactics. Even less dignified was the England captain's early exit, explaining there was a taxi waiting to take him to the Prince Edward theatre for a preview performance of Cole Porter's Anything Goes, to which he had been invited by one of the show's producers, Tim Rice, an avid cricket lover. It was not a good omen; the show had originally opened on Broadway in 1934, the year the Australian last regained the Ashes in England. But the subsequent publicity wasn't wasted; advance bookings nearly doubled to £40,000 on Monday. Gower received a reprimand, although Dexter added that the skipper still had his full confidence. Gower, who spent the Sunday at the traditional eve-of-Wimbledon garden party at Hurlingham, apologised publicly for his behaviour.

Nobody complained about Gower's performance on Monday. The Leicestershire left-hander had hit the ball more sweetly, but never with such determination and purpose. His first Test century since Perth in November 1986, and his bravest knock since defying West Indies in Jamaica eight years previously, ended after 269 minutes (198 balls) when he tried to fend off a vicious, lifting delivery from Hughes. The Australian fast bowler had not received the same words of warning about his short-pitched deliveries from umpire Plews that Bird offered on Thursday. Gower's departure just before tea did at least allow time for a quick shower and brushdown before meeting The Queen, who had arrived early because of England's precarious position. Gower and Smith put on 139 for the fifth wicket after Gatting was lbw shouldering arms, not for the first time in a Test at Lord's. Smith's display over 270 minutes was every bit as encouraging as Gower's, especially as only injury had given him his chance at Leeds and here. It took the ball of the day from Alderman to deny him a maiden Test hundred. England had been 300 for six before that delivery, but Alderman ended realistic hopes of a worthwhile lead with three wickets in sixteen balls.

England's second innings lasted until just after midday on Tuesday, with Dilley and Emburey adding 45 for the final wicket to leave Australia wanting 118 for victory, just 12 fewer than they needed at Headingley in 1981, with rain threatening. Marsh failed again and a violent thunderstorm held up play until 2.25 p.m. The 7,000 crowd that stayed saw Foster take three wickets and Australia tumble to 67 for four. Nor was Foster the only hero. Eighteen-years-old Robin Sims, from the Lord's groundstaff, was made England's twelfth man in the morning. That afternoon, because of Smith's damaged hamstring, Sims ended Border's brief stay with a confident catch at long leg. But Boon and Waugh ensured there was no further upset or Headingley repeat, Waugh taking his series aggregate to 350 without loss. For Gower this was an eighth successive defeat in two spells as England captain and, despite his brave batting and just two Tests back in charge, his and Dexter's honeymoon period was well and truly over.

Man of the Match: S. R. Waugh. Attendance: 89,042; receipts: £1,273,826.

Close of play: First day, Australia 4-0 (G. R. Marsh 3*, M. A. Taylor 1*); Second day, Australia 276-6 (S. R. Waugh 35*, M. G. Hughes 2*); Third day, England 58-3 (M. W. Gatting 16*, D. I. Gower 15*); Fourth day, England 322-9 (J. E. Emburey 21*, G. R. Dilley 4*).

© John Wisden & Co