First Test Match

O'Neill seals the victory

England, contrary to expectations, were beaten. Their batting sadly disappointed and O'Neill, in this first Test match, gave his rivals an object lesson in hitting the ball.

The match was notable for a less admirable reason -- a marathon batting performance by Bailey who took seven hours and thirty-eight minutes over his second innings score of 68.

The turning-point came on the fourth day when Graveney was run out and Cowdrey given caught by Kline though many present were convinced that a catch had not been made. England, who had been gaining a grip on the game after a breakdown in the first innings, lost their hold and surrendered the initiative to Australia who were inspiringly led by Benaud, the new captain.

Trueman, unfit through back trouble, was not considered for England and the last place went to Loader who had recovered from a strained Achilles tendon. Australia made Simpson twelfth man.

May, who set a Test record by captaining England for the twenty-sixth time, won the toss and though the pitch showed some traces of green he decided to bat. Benaud put his faith in Davidson and Meckiff, both left-arm medium-fast, and these two, supported by Benaud himself with mixed spin, dismissed England in just over four and a half hours.

The breakdown, in humid weather, began early with Milton yorked and Richardson taken low at third slip. Graveney, given a lift when one by O'Neill at slip off Davidson, managed to stay during a critical period before edging a catch to the alert Grout at wicket, and May, forced largely on the defensive, kept up his end for two hours. Then Grout, moving to the off, brilliantly anticipated a catch which came high to him. Cowdrey, after a promising start, fell to a fine low catch at short square-leg and the only other protracted resistance came from Bailey.

Davidson, who went off an hour before the close with heat exhaustion and cramp, and Meckiff made the most of conditions which gave them the opportunity to cause the occasional ball to lift disconcertingly. O'Neill left the field with a damaged finger but returned after an X-ray which showed nothing worse than bruising.

In the last ten minutes McDonald and Burke scored eight runs, and on the second day the England bowlers, in a shade temperature of 90 degrees, stuck determinedly to their task. Loader and Bailey, backed by smart fielding, took the honours with their intelligent bowling, but Statham, for all his wholehearted work in trying circumstances, failed to gain reward.

With the pitch having eased under hot sunshine, M.C.C. had to wait until the last ball before lunch for their first wicket which came when Burke, who had been dazed by ducking into a bouncer from Loader, was caught behind the wicket. McDonald, helped by the no-balling of Loader for overstepping the crease, gave a fairly confident display, but Harvey and Burge were soon out.

O'Neill required to pay strict attention to defence, found his scoring powers kept in bounds by accurate bowling and when MacKay, after an unusually brisk start with three boundaries among his strokes, was taken at the wicket, half the Australia wickets were down in four hours.

May, using his bowlers in short spells to conserve their energies in the heat, saw a major obstacle in O'Neill removed when Graveney leapt to his right and brilliantly held a slashed stroke, and Australia at the close were 156 for six.

Australia lost their remaining wickets on Monday for 30. Loader and Statham again bowled in lively style and Laker finished the innings immediately he was brought on. The innings, which occupied six and a half hours, ended just before lunch and England once again made an unimpressive start.

A smart one-handed return catch disposed of Richardson. Bailey, promoted as insurance against another breakdown, quickly lost Milton, but the Essex all-rounder fulfilled his task and with Graveney defied Benaud, Davidson and Kline for the rest of the afternoon in adding 58.

They could have hit harder for the bowling, though steady, was far from dangerous on an easy-paced pitch. The day's play produced only 122 runs in five hours while 63.1 overs were bowled. Benaud gave Meckiff three overs at the start of the innings, then rested him until the closing quarter of an hour. Benaud's accuracy was reflected in a spell of 11-4-19-0.

Bailey, at drawing of stumps, had been at the crease nearly two and three-quarter hours for 27 out of a score of 92 for two, and next day the crowd of about 8,000 --half the attendance of the previous day -- endured even slower scoring before England were out for 198 a few minutes before time. So in practically a day's play of just under five hours only 106 runs were scored. Bailey batted in the most determined but unenterprising manner and lost opportunities of forcing the game against ordinary bowling through his insistence on dead-bat defence. His doggedness cost England many valuable runs but he was not alone in preferring this style of play.

Graveney proved equally remiss and in the first hour and a half England added only 19 runs. The association of Bailey and Graveney ended with the running out of Graveney off his own stroke to cover where Harvey promptly threw back. May, after one on-side boundary, fell to Benaud's googly.

Then followed the controversial catching of Cowdrey who was just seeing the ball well when Kline dived to a deflection. McInnes, the bowler's umpire, gave Cowdrey out caught after receiving signalled confirmation from his colleague Hoy, at square-leg, that in his opinion a fair catch had been made, but many onlookers were just as certain that the ball had bounced in front of Kline.

The incident unsettled England and doubtless caused Bailey to concentrate even more thoroughly on defence. Evans and Lock helped him in short spells of quiet defiance before Laker supplied badly needed vigour by taking ten in an over off Burke.

Ten minutes from the close Bailey, to everyone's surprise, dashed out to hit MacKay, missed and was bowled for 68, made up of 23 singles, ten 2's three 3's and four 4's in seven hours and thirty-eight minutes. He scored off only forty balls out of 426 he received.

Meckiff again bowled erratically, being unsteady in comparison with Davidson, and Kline caused far less bother than Benaud who brought the England innings to an end three minutes from the close by luring Statham into lofting a catch to long-off. Australia, with two days remaining, needed only 147 for victory.

The pitch on the fifth day, which proved the last, showed little signs of wear. All the green look had disappeared and with it went England's hopes. Australia's strategy depended on Burke keeping up and end while his freer colleagues pushed the score along, but only 20 runs had come in fifty minutes by the time McDonald fell to a splendidly judged running catch at deep square-leg. Harvey took over the role of stroke-maker and despite untiring fast bowling by Statham and Loader and accurate slow bowling by Laker the score was raised to 58 before Harvey mistimed a forward defensive stroke to forward short-leg.

With refreshing willingness to hit, O'Neill then played a delightful innings. He square-cut fiercely and drove off the back foot with tremendous strength and only smart fielding prevented many more boundaries.

Australia were 96 for two at tea, and afterwards O'Neill, with a storm reported to be approaching Brisbane, hit even harder. He took ten in an over off Bailey who was not used till the board showed 91, and with seven in the last over off Lock he helped his side to win by twenty minutes to five. Burke made the winning hit--an on-side single. O'Neill, who gave a chanceless display, made his not out 71 of 89 for the unfinished third-wicket partnership in seven minutes under two hours -- a gallop in comparison with earlier proceedings - and hit seven 4s. The crowd gave him a great ovation as he walked off. His aggression had been timely for a thunderstorm with a heavy downpour, which saturated the outfield, followed. The total attendance was 76,954 and receipts £A20,986 8s. 6d.

© John Wisden & Co