Fifth Cornhill Test


Martin Johnson

Toss: Australia. Test debuts: England M.A.Atherton, D.E.Malcolm

The bad luck which seems to accompany a side guilty of bad play (or should it be the other way round?) struck again for England when Small withdrew on the eve of the match, thus preserving their 100 per cent record of being unable to choose from the originally selected squad in every Test in 1989. Although Thomas was called up in Small's place, in the event he was named as twelfth man, which left England with the inexperienced new-ball pairing of Fraser, playing in his third Test, and Malcolm, winning his first cap. Atherton was the only other débutant, the selectors having responded to calls for a major transfusion of new blood with little more than a smear. No player contracted to go to South Africa had been considered for selection, and Gooch had been omitted to rediscover his form with his county.

On a flat, grassless pitch expected to assist the spinners as the match wore on, England named both Cook and Hemmings in their final eleven, and Cook it was who took the first Australian wicket. As it arrived at twelve minutes past twelve on the second day, this was not a matter for great rejoicing. Border, having won an important toss, had then spent the best part of four sessions joining in the applause as Marsh and Taylor went past numerous records in their opening partnership of 329.

The milestones began just after lunch on the first day with the comparatively modest figure of 89 - Australia's previous highest opening partnership at Trent Bridge - and ended at 323, the highest by two openers in Ashes history, a record that had stood to Hobbs and Rhodes since 1911-12. In between the following were passed: 135 - Australia's best opening partnership of the series; 170 - the highest Australian partnership at Trent Bridge; 201 - the highest Australian opening partnership in England; 244 - the highest Australian opening partnership against England; and 319 - the highest partnership in a Test at Trent Bridge. Moreover, by stumps on Thursday, Marsh and Taylor had become the first pair to bat through a full day's play in a Test match in England, and only the ninth in Test cricket anywhere. They were the third opening pair to bat through the first day of a Test match, the others being V. Mankad and P. Roy, for India v New Zealand in 1955-56, and W. M. Lawry and R. B. Simpson, for Australia v West Indies in 1964-65.

As for individual landmarks, Marsh made his first century in 22 Tests since the 1986-87 Ashes encounter in Brisbane, while Taylor continued his remarkable summer with a career-best 219 in nine hours ten minutes (461 balls, 23 fours) to take his aggregate for the series to 720 runs at an average of 90. Only three Australian totals in Ashes history remained above that, all of them compiled by D. G. Bradman.

Despite the fact that Australia eventually put together a total of 602 for six declared, their highest at Trent Bridge, England for once had not totally let themselves down. Malcolm bowled with genuine hostility when fresh, the batsmen's apprehension augmented by the fact that Malcolm's uncertainty as to where the ball was going led to several accidental beamers. Fraser's contrasting accuracy allowed him to bowl for a quarter of the innings at a cost of no more than 2 runs per over, and Cook rediscovered the flight and control that had deserted him in the previous Test. Nor did the fielding, as it had on previous occasions, disintegrate.

With the notable exception of Smith, however, there was not much consolation from the batting. The first wicket went down after four deliveries (740 fewer than England had required to remove the first Australian), and when Atherton made a second-ball 0 on his début, Smith arrived for the start of the second over with the scoreboard reading 1 for two. His strokeplay, particularly around the off stump, was little short of ferocious. Hughes took a beating, and a pull off Hohns resulted in Boon, at short leg, literally having the helmet torn from his head. It was a miracle that he was helped off in need of nothing more than a couple of aspirin and a lie-down.

Smith's magnificent 150-ball century, bracketed alongside Waugh's unbeaten 177 at Headingley as among the great innings in England v Australia Tests, none the less stood alone amidst another familiarly depressing tale. Such was England's gruesome technique that Australia had little more to do than bowl at the stumps, certain in the knowledge that sooner or later either a crooked bat would miss the ball or a front pad - planted not far enough down the pitch to confuse the umpire - would get it its way. England had suffered more bad luck when Botham dislocated a finger on his right hand, failing to take a sharp chance in the slips. Coming in at No. 9 he could bat more or less only one-handed, and having already been informed that the injury would prevent his from playing at The Oval, he did not bat in the second innings.

Following on 347 in arrears on Monday morning, England were bowled out for 167 soon after tea. Atherton, batting almost three hours (127 balls) for his 47, was the one batsman to make a half-decent fist of it. Only once before, to Bradman's 1948 side, had England lost four home Tests in an Ashes series, and the final ignominy for them in the statistical avalanche was the fact that an innings and 180 runs represented their heaviest defeat in England by Australia.

Man of the Match: M. A. Taylor. Attendance: 33,139; receipts: £482,118.

Close of play: First day, Australia 301-0 (G. R. Marsh 125*, M. A. Taylor 141*); Second day, Australia 560-5 (A. R. Border 46*, I. A. Healy 5*); Third day, England 246-9 (N. G. B. Cook 1*, D. E. Malcolm 1*).

© John Wisden & Co