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For the second time in a fortnight England could find no adequate answer to the Australian fast bowling. With Rackemann not recovered from the groin strain which he suffered in the second Test, and Lillee and Alderman still unfit, Lawson and Thomson were partnered now by Hogg, playing in his first Test match for nearly eighteen months. Hogg's speed and hostility, no less than Lawson's and Thomson's, came as a nasty shock to England's batsmen. Between them these three took seventeen wickets in the match, Lawson bringing his tally from the first three Tests to 26.
Hogg for Rackemann was Australia's only change. England preferred Pringle to Cowans and, upon winning the toss, took the major gamble of putting Australia in. The pitch, though damp the day before the match, looked a beauty by the time Willis chose to field. He was, he said, well aware of the disasters which had attended previous England captains who had done the same thing in Australia (eight defeats and only one victory) but felt the first morning provided his bowlers with the best chance of getting back into the series. In the event, it was an hour before a ball got past the bat, and Australia, by the close of the first day, were 265 for three. Chappell's second hundred of the series, his 22nd for Australia and first in Adelaide, was smoothly and chancelessly compiled. It contained nineteen 4s and was ended, ten minutes before stumps, only by a blinding catch in the gully by Gower.
England's one good day of the match was the second when, by accurate bowling and keen fielding, and with the pitch playing at its very best, they claimed Australia's last seven first-innings wickets for the addition of 173 runs. Gower held another brilliant catch, this time at cover point, and Botham two, one at second slip, the other at deep square leg. Hemmings, despite a sore shoulder, played an important part by pinning the batsmen down with his excellent control. Pringle's no-balls, eighteen on the first day, were fewer on the second. With Lamb and Gower gaining confidence after the early loss of Tavaré and Fowler, England, in their first innings, were 66 for two at the end of the second day and 140 for two at lunch on the third.
Their collapse on the third afternoon was one of the worst they have ever suffered in Australia. When Gower was third out in the first over after lunch, caught at the wicket off a ball of steep bounce, England needed only 99 to save the follow-on. It seemed they had nothing to worry about. Yet by tea they were padding up again, having lost their last seven wickets for 76 runs, the last six of them for 35. If Lamb was unlucky to be given out, caught at the wicket down the leg side for a well-made 82, what happened owed no more than that to chance. Things only began to look really ominous for England when Randall and Miller went in quick succession, Randall yorked second ball. Botham was still there, playing carefully, but at 213 he was eighth out, caught at short mid-wicket off the first ball of a new spell by Thomson, who then finished off the innings, with England still 23 runs short of saving the follow-on. With the rest day to come, Chappell had no hesitation in enforcing it.
When, in the third over of England's second innings, Thomson had Tavaré caught at short leg, he had taken four wickets in 22 balls for 6 runs, the last three in the first innings and the first in the second. No wicket had fallen in the morning of this third day, none fell in the last 110 minutes (England were 90 for one at the close: Fowler 37, Gower 43); between 1.42 and 4.10 nine went down. Until affected by the heat, in the last hour or so, Lawson, Thomson and Hogg made a fast and awkward trio, pitching short enough though not, in Willis's opinion, excessively so.
England began the fourth day still 132 behind and knowing that they would need to bat for four full sessions, probably more, to save the match. Only when Gower and Botham were adding 118 for the fourth wicket (during this second innings Botham passed 1,000 Test runs for 1982) did they look remotely like managing it. Gower was eventually fifth out at 247, and there were still 50 minutes of the fourth day left when Australia went in again, needing only 83 to win. Gower's splendidly staunch 100 was his fifth for England, though his first for 38 Test innings. The increasingly uneven bounce of the ball added to its merit. Australia cantered to victory on the last morning.
The total attendance of 75,678 was considered satisfactory in view of the timing of the match. Previously the Adelaide Test had benefited from being played over the Australia Day weekend in late January.