First Test Match

ENGLAND v. AUSTRALIA

Norman Preston

At Manchester, June 8, 9, 10, 12, 13. England won by 89 runs at 3.12 p.m. on the fifth day with two and a half hours to spare. The wretched weather which had prevailed since the beginning of the season might well have ruined the match from all points of view, but the Old Trafford area missed some heavy storms almost on its doors. Nevertheless, the majority of people preferred to stay at home and watch an exciting contest on their television sets; no-one could blame them for the wind was bitterly cold. The largest attendance was on Saturday when 12,000 people were present; altogether 38,000 paid and receipts for the whole match came to only £18,000.

England generally held the upper hand thanks to more reliable batting and accurate bowling, but the slip fielders of both teams dropped many vital catches. Greig, top scorer in both innings, besides bowling effectively, and Arnold made satisfactory first appearances against Australia. Stackpole alone of the Australian front-line batsmen really caused England anxiety, but when all seemed lost the left-handed Marsh gave a Jessopian display seeing the score from 147 for eight to 251 while he struck 91 in two hours.

Contrary to expert predictions, including that of Bert Flack, the groundsman, the pitch proved to be hard, and with some dampness always rising to the surface, it had life and bounce until the last day because on the Monday afternoon it was open to a downpour which left it more amiable.

Illingworth faced an awkward decision when he won the toss on his fortieth birthday. Wisely he preferred to bat and when play began at one o'clock, Boycott received a nasty blow from a ball from Lillee in the third over of the match. England scored 13 from seven overs before lunch and Boycott did not return after the interval. Edrich played confidently until the tea interval, but it seemed that the intense cold had affected him for on resumption he looked nothing like his true self. He finally ran himself out when trying to snatch a single to Lillee at short mid wicket for his 50.

So Greig joined d'Oliveira, who had settled down comfortably, but the tall South African (he stands 6 ft. 7 in.) lived perilously. Still, he survived, whereas d'Oliveira's first wayward stroke brought about his downfall and England, having batted four and a half hours, wound up the first day at 147 for five. Australia had scarcely made the best use of the lively pitch, especially Lillee and Colley; both bowled much too short and off the target, but as the match advanced each improved considerably.

Next day, Greig and Knott, in poor light, remained together for an hour and a half, adding 63 valuable runs, some against the new ball, and there was some admirable slow bowling by Gleeson. Illingworth and Gifford offered stubborn resistance until Ian Chappell at short leg slickly ran out Gifford when he moved his left leg. There had been little colour in the England innings which lasted seven hours, fifty minutes for 249.

A glorious hook by Stackpole of his old rival Snow from the first ball of the Australian innings raised false hopes in the touring team's camp for although the Sussex man was not at his best on this dreary day, Arnold reached near perfection in length, line and late swing either way. In his second over Arnold had Stackpole missed off his second and third balls by Greig and Snow in the slips and Francis should have been taken low by Snow off the fourth.

These disappointments left Arnold unperturbed and he continued to bowl superbly, but while Francis stuck mainly to defence Stackpole, getting right behind the ball, scored freely, although he was nearly bowled by a breakback from Greig, and as soon as d'Oliveira came on Greig dropped him at second slip. At length d'Oliveira broke the opening stand by getting Francis lbw and immediately afterwards when Ian Chappell faced his first ball, England gained their biggest prize. Greig baited a long hop; the Australian captain hooked it high and as it was sailing for six the tall Smith, waiting on the long-leg boundary, held it high above his head.

On Arnold's return he had his reward with a fast ball that trapped Stackpole and Watson soon edged him to Knott so that with half an hour remaining to the close, Australia were 99 for four. For fifteen minutes Snow and Arnold severely tested Walters and then the umpires offered respite for bad light.

Next morning, Snow and Arnold swept through the six remaining wickets in ninety minutes for 39 more runs, and England had gained a valuable lead of 107, Snow's share being four for 17. Boycott, having fully recovered from his arm injury (he had fielded throughout the Australian innings), straight drove Lillee's first ball to the sight screen and went on gathering runs in his own immaculate style, his straight bat providing a contrast to the methods of the majority of the opposition. Although Edrich had his full share of the strike he was content with only nine runs in ninety minutes before tea against Boycott's 43. Surprisingly Boycott tried to sweep a straight ball from Gleeson and was leg before. Luckhurst soon fell to a fine delivery from Colley and when Edrich, having taken the initiative, mishit a loose ball from Watson three wickets had gone for 81.

With d'Oliveira offering bold strokes in a drizzle which seriously inconvenienced Smith, wearing glasses, this pair did well to see the total to 136 for three at the week-end. The sun shone on Monday morning when Lillee revealed his true potential as a fine young fast bowler. He took six of the remaining seven wickets, including the last three in four balls, and Marsh equalled an Australian wicket-keeping record with five catches in an innings. For England, Greig was the man of the moment with 62 out of 94 in two and a half hours.

Australia wanted 342 to win in nine and a quarter hours but rain reduced it by an hour and consequently Ian Chappell decided against the pitch being rolled between the innings. Again Australia were let down by their early batsmen ( Stackpole excepted). Ian Chappell fell attempting a similar hook to that which brought about his previous downfall and at the close, with Australia 57 for two, it seemed that England could be foiled only by rain.

Stackpole and Greg Chappell resumed confidently but after half an hour careless strokes cost Chappell and Watson their wickets. An hour's cricket yielded 58 runs and Australia were in front of the clock, but when Walters played on trying a vigorous off drive England were romping home. Stackpole was seventh to leave after a fine display of three and a half hours.

Then came the solitary three-figure stand of the match between Marsh and Gleeson. Four hours remained. Illingworth tried to tempt Marsh into error by bringing on Gifford with his left-arm slows for the first time in the match--the new ball was shortly due--and Marsh struck him for four mighty 6's. Finally Greig accounted for Marsh and he picked up Gleeson with the new ball.

Forty-two years had passed since England had won the first Test of a home series against Australia--they humbled the old foe at Trent Bridge in 1930.

During the five days 38,000 people were present of whom 22,816 paid £20,337.

--N.P.

© John Wisden & Co
 
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