First Cornhill Test

ENGLAND v AUSTRALIA 1981

Steve Whiting

At Nottingham, June 18, 19, 20, 21. Australia won by four wickets. Australia, buoyed up by their victory in the Prudential Trophy but underdogs none the less for the Tests, spent the fourth day, the longest of the year and the first Sunday of Test cricket in England, marking off the 132 runs they needed to win on a home-made scoreboard in their dressing-room at Trent Bridge. When Trevor Chappell, the youngest of the three grandsons of Victor Richardson, made the winning hit in his first Test match, Australian joy was unbounded.

The match ended in brilliant sunshine, a fact which no doubt eased the touring side's path to victory, taking just a little of the life out of a pitch which had been green and too moist from the outset. The Trent Bridge feather-beds, bound hard by the marl from the river nearby, are a thing of the past - a fact soon recognised by both captains.

Hughes won the toss and put England in under a cloudy sky. England, who would have done the same given the opportunity, left off-spinner Emburey out of their side. Australia having omitted Bright, we were left with a Test match in which not a single over of spin was bowled. As Australia had refused the restriction of a minimum 100 overs a day, the prospect of a long-range battle between the fast-bowling big guns was daunting.

The cricket which ensued, however, was so enthralling and unpredictable that few had time to notice that the over-rates were as low as fourteen an hour. So it was on the first day. The ball rarely stopped moving around, both in width and height, as England were put out for 185 in 56.4 overs. Woolmer, brought in to try to solve the problematical number three position, which had brought England 34 runs in their previous eleven innings, received a typically nasty ball from Lillee to start him on his way to a pair in his comeback Test. Gatting, playing crisply and sensibly, reached his 50 in 147 minutes but was out soon afterwards pulling at a ball from Hogg which was not quite short enough. Gatting's 52 was England's highest score, approached only by Dilley's 34 in just over an hour, further proof of the Kent fast bowler's aspirations to be a genuine all-rounder.

The feature of the innings was the emergence of Alderman, a 24-year-old teacher from Western Australia, who was destined to make a major impact on the series. He was never afraid to keep the ball up to the bat, counting the occasional driven 4 as a fair price to pay for the harvest of wickets he took in the summer. In this innings he took four for 68 off 24 overs, being helped, as a fast-medium bowler has every right to expect, by some brilliant close-to-the-wicket catching. That was the difference between the teams - Australia held their catches, England did not. At a conservative estimate, England missed six in Australia's first innings, the most vital being Border, dropped behind the wicket when only 10. He went on to make 63 in a total of 179. Once again, the weather did not help on the second day, dark skies and rain causing 183 minutes to be lost, though 50 of those were made up under the rule which allowed play to continue after the advertised close in the event of an hour or more being lost earlier.

The difference was highlighted when England batted again, on the third day. Once again, as so often seems to happen on a Test match Saturday, the weather made matters thoroughly miserable. Only 12 runs had been scored when Yallop took off at full length in the gully to hold Gooch, who had presented the full meat of the blade to a backfoot square drive off Lillee. By Saturday night England were 94 for six, only 100 ahead. Early next morning they were all out for 125 and Alderman had followed up his first innings total of four wickets with another five to give him nine for 130 in his first Test match. Lillee's eight wickets in the match took him past Brian Statham's Test match total of 252 and left him fifth in the table of all-time wicket-takers. His five for 46 in England's second innings was his eighteenth 'nap hand' in 49 Tests.

Australia's progress towards the 132 runs they needed was neither sure nor certain. They owed much to opener Dyson, who made 38 out of their first 80 runs before being caught behind off Dilley. The same bowler also accounted for Hughes, Border and Marsh, but by then Australia needed only 10 to win - a task duly accomplished by Chappell and Lawson. Lillee was named Man of the Match by Tom Graveney. Receipts were £175,000 and the attendance was 38,172.

© John Wisden & Co