Second Test Match

AUSTRALIA v ENGLAND

At Melbourne, December 29, 30, January 1, 2, 3. Australia won by 103 runs. Australia threw off the depression of two defeats to rekindle interest in the series with an emphatic victory founded on a first innings century by Wood and the dynamic fast bowling of Hogg. The pitch provoked criticism for its variable and unpredictable bounce which began as early as the second day. Thus, winning the toss - Yallop's tenth success in all matches - gave Australia a considerable advantage which they seized avidly.

Two opening stands of 65 and 55 by Darling and Wood- whose century took nearly six and a half hours with six 4s - were essential elements in Australia's triumph. In contrast, England suffered badly with the loss of the first two wickets for 3 in the first innings, and two for only 6 runs in the second when they needed 283 to win with no time worries. In both innings each the early breakthrough was achieved by Hogg, whose aggregate of ten wickets took his tally to 27, and the left-armer Dymock was always in steady support. England never recovered, laboured under a deficit of 115 in the first innings, and finally were comprehensively beaten by a team given little chance before the match.

There can be little argument that victory was set up on the first day when the pitch was at its best and Australia reached a total of 243 for four. Incredibly, the last six wickets went to Hendrick (three for 11 in seven overs), Miller (two for 11 in seven overs), and Botham for a pittance of 15 runs before the bounce became erratic. By the end of the second day fourteen wickets had gone for 122 runs.

Although Brearley was justified in describing the pitch as curious and one which gave the winner of the toss an inordinate advantage, the conditions did not fully explain England's poor total of 143 in the first innings. The tactical mistake was the tendency to play back against a ball occasionally keeping low. Hogg dismissed both Boycott and Brearley, restored as opener, and amid tremendous crowd enthusiasm - the aggregate attendance was 128,758 - he ended with five for 30. Dymock, who was the best of Australia's back-up bowlers, took three for 38.

Australia's growing control was extended with 48 from Hughes, despite the excellent bowling of Botham, Miller and Emburey. The target of 283 always looked beyond England after Brearley tried to drive Dymock's slanted ball which could have been left alone. When Randall was out at 6 to Hogg, a huge responsibility rested on Boycott, Gooch and Gower. Well as they responded, however, Australia remained in firm control. Again Hogg was the key bowler with five for 36, which raised his match aggregate to ten for 66. In contrast, Willis failed to take a wicket in the match. With eight wickets down and still needing 112, England lasted twenty-four minutes on the final morning when the crowd were admitted free to savour Australia's glowing moment of triumph.

Although in the end the resurgence proved all too fleeting for Australia, it reflected credit on the much-criticised Yallop and his young team. Hogg and Wood, the Player of the Match, made outstanding individual contributions to an excellent all-round effort. It might have been different if the toss had gone the other way, but England could not rise above their difficulties.

© John Wisden & Co