Fifth Test Match


Australia achieved, without too much trouble, a result which was enough to make sure they regained the Ashes, held by England since 1977. Although Australia had also beaten England in Australia in 1979-80, that was a three-match series, arranged at short notice, in which the Ashes were not at stake. After this victory in Sydney, Greg Chappell stood down from the Australian captaincy for the series of one-day matches that was to start in Melbourne two days later, Hughes being appointed in his place. The match won, Chappell also produced a silver cup, presented by an Australian supporter, which he said contained the ashes of one of the bails used at Sydney and which, in future, would be kept in the offices of the Australian Cricket Board in Melbourne. "Who said the Ashes never come back to Australia?" commented Chappell, a reference to the fact that the original urn is permanently housed at Lord's.

Australia fielded the side that had just lost in Melbourne. England made two changes, Hemmings being preferred to Pringle, because of bare patches on the pitch, and Randall coming in for Fowler, whose toe, hit by a ball from Thomson in Melbourne, was found to be chipped. With the ball expected to turn appreciably later in the match, Chappell, on winning the toss, chose to bat. Off the last ball of the first over, without a run on the board, Willis, off his own bowling, looked to throw out Dyson, who had answered Wessels's call for a sharp single. Although shown on film to have been a good eighteen inches short of his ground, Dyson was given not out by umpire Johnson, who said afterwards that he had given Dyson the benefit of the doubt, being unsure whether he was six inches in or six inches out. No-one could do more than speculate as to the significance, not least from a psychological viewpoint, of this unhappy decision. England had to wait for another hour before they took a wicket; Dyson went on to make 79, and Australia, by close of play on the first day, were 138 for two, nearly three hours having been lost to rain. For totalling 314 Australia had to thank Border, who, after a shaky start (he survived a difficult chance to silly point off Hemmings when he was 15), played very well. Botham held four splendid catches in the match, the first of them at slip, in Australia's first innings, when he clung to a flash from Hookes off Hemmings.

Left with two and a half hours' batting on the second evening England made their customary poor start, soon being 24 for three. Gower and Randall, continuing into the third morning, then added 122 with some rousing strokeplay. Until Gower was sixth out, brilliantly caught at slip by Chappell, diving to his left, it looked as though England might do better than the 237 with which they finished. In the end, though, only a partnership of 50 for the eighth wicket between Taylor and Hemmings enabled them to get even as far as that.

With the ball starting to turn, Australia were glad of a first-innings lead of 77. In the closing stages of the third day and for the first hour of the fourth (which followed the rest day), their batsmen were under pressure from England's spinners. Had Hughes been given out, caught at short leg off Hemmings, as England were convinced he was, Australia would have been 88 for four in their second innings, a lead of 165 with their last two specialist batsmen together. Instead, Miller and Hemmings, given every chance, took time to settle into a length, and with Hughes going on to make a superb 137, his third hundred against England and eighth for Australia, and Border, another fine player of spin, helping him to add 149 for the fifth wicket, England's chances of winning had virtually gone by the middle of the fourth afternoon. Border, by then, was well clear of the bad run he had had for much of 1982.

With 460 needed in 375 minutes - scarcely more than an academic proposition - England's hopes for the last day were concentrated on putting up a spirited resistance, which, for the most part, they did. Led by Hemmings, who had gone in as a night-watchman on the fourth evening and came within 5 runs of scoring an improbable hundred, England managed to save the game without boring the crowd. With an hour of the match left, and faced by a possible eleven overs of a new ball, England, at 293 for seven became finally safe from defeat only when Miller and Taylor dug their toes in. Australia's catching for most of the series had been very good. Chappell claimed he had never played in a series in which more good catches were held. Of these, none was better than Hookes's on the last day when, at extra cover, he dived for a skier from Gower which had looked as though it would drop far over his shoulder. Marsh's 28 catches in the five Test matches surpassed by two the previous record for a Test series. The total attendance of 148,323 was the best for a Sydney Test match since the middle seventies.

© John Wisden & Co