Fourth Test Match

England v Australia

Geoffrey Wheeler

Toss: England

The completeness of their triumph, following wins by nine wickets at Manchester and seven wickets at Nottingham, left no room for doubt as to which was the superior side. It was the first year since 1886 that England had won three Tests in a home series against Australia.

A historic game was made more memorable by Boycott who, on the opening day, became the first player to score his hundredth century in a Test Match. The Yorkshire crowd seemed to regard the achievements of this landmark as inevitable and Boycott batted with such ease and assurance that he gave his loyal supporters few qualms and the Australian bowlers scant hope.

His was a remarkable feat, for he was only the eighteenth cricketer to reach this goal. Two of the others, Herbert Sutcliffe and Sir Leonard Hutton, were present for at least part of the match. By the time Boycott was finally out for 191, Australia had lost any hope of saving the series.

A strong local conviction that cricket history was about to be made helped to fill the ground close to overflowing on the first two days when the gates were shut well before the start.

England, who won the toss, included Roope for Miller, while Australia also limited themselves to a single change, Bright being entrusted with the spin bowling in place of O'Keeffe.

Although Brearley was caught at the wicket off Thomson's third ball, Boycott soon took the measure of the attack and apart from one edged stroke off Walker, which nearly carried to Marsh, looked well nigh invincible.

Partners came and went, Woolmer, Randall and Greig contributing briskly, while Boycott proceeded as his own measured pace. Thirty-four runs before lunch, another 35 by tea. He had been in for five hours twenty minutes when a full throated roar from the crowd told those for miles around that the local hero had done it.

An on-driven boundary off Chappell, his fourteenth four from the 232nd ball he had received, took the Yorkshire captain to three figures and brought the inevitable invasion of the middle. Happily this did not cause a lengthy hold-up in play or cost Boycott his cap, which was sheepishly returned by a would-be souvenir hunter.

England finished the first day already strongly placed at 252 for four with Boycott 110 and Roope 19. The match was virtually settled on the Friday, truly a Glorious Twelfth for England, who carried their score to 436 and then captured five wickets for 67 in the last eighty-five minutes.

Boycott succeeded in his objective of batting England into an invincible position and when he was last out he had hit twenty-three fours in his second best score for his country. As at Trent Bridge, Knott was again his best partner and they put on 123 in three hours before Knott got out as England sought to accelerate.

The three Australian pace bowlers performed tirelessly but Walker would assuredly not have finished wicketless had he bowled to a fuller length with better direction.

After their long stint in the field, the Australians batted like men in a state of shock after bowling at Boycott for twenty-two and a half hours since his return to the England side. With the ball swinging under evening cloud the batting was taxed beyond its resources. Hendrick claimed victims with his second and thirteenth balls and McCosker, who was making a staunch fight, was brilliantly run out by Randall when backing up a shade too eagerly.

Hendrick and Botham combined to complete the destruction of the first innings on Saturday morning. The last five wickets went for 36 in forty-five minutes. The Australian score of 103 was their lowest against England since Lord's in 1968 when they were put out for 78, but were saved by rain after following on. Botham, who took five for 21 to follow his successful début at Trent Bridge, soon removed Marsh and the rest went quietly.

When two wickets in the second innings had been captured by lunch England had high hopes of repeating a three-day win on the same ground as in 1961 and 1972. Greig made the breakthrough, Knott catching Davis down the leg-side for his 250th Test success before diving in front of first slip to send back McCosker with a marvellously athletic effort.

An object lesson on how to play the swinging ball was provided by Chappell throughout Saturday afternoon when the light was often dim. Brearley, with five bowlers of medium pace or above, allowed the batsmen little respite and more wickets would have fallen had some of the seamers bowled a more attacking line.

Nevertheless despite the loss of almost all the final session through rain and bad light Australia at 120 for four were in a dreadful plight.

Monday dawned wet but play was possible at two o'clock. Chappell, having added but seven runs, prodded forward at Willis to be caught at second slip. Marsh hit fiercely and with Walker put on 65 for the eighth wicket. With Botham injured and Hendrick resting, England struggled for a wicket for the only time in the match. The new ball, taken at 243 for seven, brought a speedy end.

Willis wrecked the stumps first of Walker and then Thomson, the latter being his 100th Test wicket. The honour of taking the final wicket went deservedly to Hendrick, who had done so much to undermine the opposition. Marsh skied him to wide mid-off where Randall wheeled to get under an awkward catch.

Most of the England players set off for the dressing rooms and Randall did not let them down. The catch safely completed he threw the ball high in the air and did a joyous victory cartwheel before joining his colleagues on the players' balcony to acknowledge the cheers of thousands. Attendance: 78,000. Receipts £140,000.

© John Wisden & Co