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Australia made one change from the side which had lost to Pakistan ten days earlier on the same ground, bringing in Lawson for Thomson. The indications were that the toss would prove decisive, but the pitch, two away from that used against Pakistan, had been amply watered with the result that there was enough moisture on the first two days to help the faster bowlers.
In the fifth over of the match, after Australia had chosen to bat, Holding dismissed Laird and Chappell with successive balls, this being the Australian captain's fourth successive 0 for Australia since the last Test against Pakistan. Soon Australia were 26 for four, and it needed a superb innings by Hughes to effect some sort of recovery. Holding, in particular, was extremely fast. Yet Hughes was determined not just to concentrate on passive defence. When the ninth wicket fell at 155 Hughes had reached 71, but Alderman kept his head down and his bat straight while his partner played some marvellous strokes, reaching his hundred with a thrilling square cut for 4 off Garner. Hughes batted for 262 minutes and hit eleven 4s.
West Indies were left with 35 minutes' batting on the first evening, which produced most dramatic cricket as Alderman and Lillee took four wickets for 10 runs. Alderman had Bacchus, opening in place of Greenidge whose knee injury had not mended, caught at fourth slip; Lillee, who began the match needing five wickets to beat Lance Gibbs's record of 309 Test wickets, then had Haynes splendidly caught by Border above his head at second slip. Croft, the night-watchman, was leg before, shuffling across his stumps in the same over. And with the last ball of the day Lillee bowled Richards off the inside edge as he tried to drive.
Lillee thus began the second day needing two more wickets for his record. Dujon, having batted excitingly well, was the first, being caught at deep backward square leg off a hook that would have been a big 6 on many grounds. Lillee got his record when Gomes was caught by Chappell at first slip.
West Indies were eventually all out for 201, which gave them a first-innings lead of 3. But by then the pitch had dried after the rain storms which had punctuated the second day, and for the next four hours Australia seemed to be building a sizeable score as Wood, Laird and Border all played useful innings. Chappell failed again, this time being caught behind glancing at Garner. Four wickets fell in the last hour of the third day as the pitch began to behave awkwardly, and Holding quickly finished off the innings the next morning. His eleven for 107 in the match was a fine reward for some wonderful bowling and the best ever by a West Indian against Australia. David Murray, behind the stumps, took his tally of catches for the match to nine, a figure exceeded in Test cricket only by Bob Taylor's ten at Bombay in 1979-80.
West Indies final target was 220, but after Alderman had had Bacchus leg before and bowled Richards in the second over of the innings they never looked likely to win. The only time Australia had any anxiety was when Dujon played a second fine innings, this time concentrating for the most part on defence, though never wasting the chance to play a stroke that did not involve a risk.
During the match the Melbourne Cricket Club announced that the committee had decided to relay the square over the next three years, beginning as soon as the current Australian season was over. This was also the last match before the old MCG scoreboard was taken down, to be replaced by an electronic one.