Fifth Test Match

ENGLAND v. AUSTRALIA

Norman Preston

Toss: England. Test debut: England - B.Wood.

This was a splendid match with fortune swaying first to one side and then to the other. The result remained in the balance until the last half hour when England, having lost Illingworth their captain the previous afternoon, were finally mastered. Among the several notable personal performances that of Lillee, Australia's demon fast bowler, was the keynote to his side's success. From the moment Illingworth won the toss for the fourth time in the series and gave England first innings on an excellent pitch which lasted well throughout the six days, Lillee, by his sheer pace coupled with the occasional shock-telling bouncer, was the man England feared most. He took five wickets in each innings, bringing his number of victims for the series to 31, a record for an Australian bowler in England. The previous best was 29, by C.V.Grimmett in 1930 and G.D.McKenzie in 1964.

England were always fighting an uphill battle for yet again their specialist batsmen let them down and soon after tea on the first day eight wickets had fallen for 181, by which time Lillee had well-nigh exhausted himself as Knott came to the rescue with a daring display. Earlier Wood, on his first appearance for England -- he was the only new cap the selectors deigned to award during the whole summer--gave a staunch exhibition after being struck a painful blow by Lillee on his upper left arm in the first over from an ugly bouncer. For an hour Edrich looked unperturbed, but there was much movement by spectators at the Vauxhall end where surely Surrey must restore the old large sight screen to give the batsmen a fair chance to prevent annoying stoppages when the bowler is about to start his run or is in the middle of it. Two people were walking right behind Lillee when he trapped Edrich leg before at 25.

Two hours cricket before lunch produced only 27 overs while England made 50 for the loss of Edrich and Wood. Then Parfitt and Hampshire settled down to a confident stand until just after the ball had been changed for the umpteenth time in this series, when Hampshire cut a high bouncer of good length to Inverarity at short third man. Then came a landslide, only relieved on the appearance of Knott, who ably assisted by Arnold saw the total to 267 for nine at the close. Besides Lillee's pace, which brought him three wickets in four balls for the second time in the rubber, England had also been troubled by Mallett, whom let the wiseacres of Headingley note, turned the ball quite a lot early on this first day to take three for 80.

Knott continued to thrash away next morning, but when Lillee flung a bouncer at Underwood, possibly England's ace bowler in a six-day match, and struck his arm, Knott called it a day, having hit seventeen boundaries in a grand knock that brought him 92 in two and a quarter hours.

Arnold and Snow soon disposed of Australia's opening pair, Watson and Stackpole, for 34 and then began the highest stand of the rubber between the Chappells, who in just over four hours put on 201--each reached three figures, the first time two brothers had hit a hundred in the same innings of a Test match. Ian Chappell played the captain's part, paying strict attention to defence--he had a rare duel with the two slow bowlers, Underwood and Illingworth, and there were few false strokes in a memorable day's cricket watched by a full house of 28,000. In fact, the gates were closed on this Friday and the next two days. Eventually, Greg Chappell hit too soon at a shorter ball from Illingworth and was well caught at mid-on, having struck seventeen 4's. Ian Chappell, not out 107, had seen his side within 10 runs of England's 284 and Australia still had seven wickets intact to start the third day, Edwards having stayed the last forty-four minutes of Friday for 16.

On Saturday, the game veered England's way, for Australia were seeking a total of 500, but Snow and Underwood, ably backed by Arnold and Greig, bowled splendidly. For the spectators, the day was spoiled through light rain preventing play for two hours after lunch and at the end another half hour was lost to bad light. The sun shone powerfully during the first session when Snow and Arnold fed Ian Chappell with the odd short ball, until for the fourth time in these Tests his favourites uppish hook brought about his undoing with a well judged catch by Snow at long-leg. In all, Ian Chappell batted five and a half hours with twenty 4's as his chief strokes.

Underwood showed his class with some immaculate bowling on a firm true surface with four men besides Knott close to the bat. Underwood undid Edwards--three hours, forty minutes at the crease with nine 4's in his 79-- Sheahan, Marsh and Inverarity, taking his four wickets on this day in 13 overs for 29 runs--a masterly effort. So, at the week-end Australia were 394 for eight.

With the game equally poised at the half-way stage, bearing in mind that Australia faced fourth innings, England continued their strong challenge to win the rubber. They soon captured the two outstanding Australian wickets for the addition of five runs and the lead was restricted to 115. A stupendous effort by the England batsmen was required and considering that all the first nine proceeded to acquire double figures, this was forthcoming but really only Wood, and later Knott again, answered the call as their supporters hoped.

True, for the first time in the summer, England mustered 300, but in the process of clearing their deficit they lost Edrich, Parfitt and Hampshire, and throughout a praiseworthy struggle, Australia's pace trio, Lillee, Massie and Watson, were dominant opponents. At first, Lillee harried Wood and Edrich with bouncers and Edrich played on to the first ball after lunch. Hampshire fell as he did in the first innings, but d'Oliveira, refusing to be tempted while the Australians persistently bowled well outside his stumps, showed something of his best form in a stand of 80 with Wood.

Wood stayed four hours, thirty-five minutes and he hit fifteen 4's. After such a grand effort, he was unfortunate to miss by 10 runs a hundred on his Test debut. It was good to see again someone present a straight bat to Lillee and Massie and someone who was not afraid to get behind the line of the ball, ready to hook the bouncer. At the end of the fourth day England stood only 112 runs in front with half their wickets standing.

Australia had delivered 82 overs and so Ian Chappell resumed next day with his slow bowlers Mallett and Inverarity. Illingworth, accompanied by Greig, helped himself to 12 before Lillee and Massie went into action after three overs. Lillee soon removed both men, but Snow kept up his end sensibly while Knott plundered freely for a memorable hour as he helped himself to nine 4's, being last out, and not giving Underwood a chance to face Lillee.

So at three o'clock on the fifth day Australia began the task of making 242 to win. Arnold soon dismissed Watson leg-before, whereupon Ian Chappell joined Stackpole in what was really the deciding partnership. For fifty minutes Snow and Arnold bowled admirably and were then relieved by Greig and Underwood. By tea, Australia were 56 for one. Then Illingworth shared the attack with Underwood and a rare tussle ensued, despite some aggression by Stackpole against Underwood who once more bowled superbly, as indeed did the captain round the wicket until he slipped on delivering and sprained his right ankle an hour before the close.

The leadership fell on Edrich who relied on Greig to replace the injured captain. At the drawing of stumps Australia were 116 for one, with Stackpole 70, Ian Chappell 29. The loss of Illingworth, coupled with an injury to d'Oliveira who could not bowl, proved the death knell for England well as Underwood and his colleagues maintained the challenge. Snow, too, took no part in the attack, having received a severe blow on his left arm when facing Lillee with the bat. Nevertheless, within half an hour of resuming on the last morning England accounted for Stackpole, Ian Chappell and Edwards for five runs. Stackpole (nine 4's) had batted three hours and twenty minutes.

Australia still wanted 71 and between them Sheahan and Marsh in their differing styles saw them home. Sheahan, so often disappointing, was the man of the moment with his straight bat and upright stance. He batted two hours and twenty minutes. Marsh began carefully until the new ball was taken at 210 when he sensed victory at hand and unleashed many exciting leg hits which sent Australia hurrying to square the rubber and for the first time in their history without a single player from New South Wales in their eleven.

Altogether the match drew 102,000 people, of whom 87,473 paid £75,193--both records for The Oval.

© John Wisden & Co