England, knowing that defeat would mean the loss of the Ashes, fought with more spirit after another first-innings breakdown had put them in serious danger, and emerged with an honourable draw.
Two factors swung the course of the game after England faced a first-innings deficit of 138. Meckiff broke down with tendon trouble in his heel and the resistance of May and Cowdrey -- the latter showing by far his best form of the tour -- tipped the scales.
May was able to declare and challenge his rivals to make 150 runs in an hour and fifty minutes for victory, but on a wearing pitch they did not attempt the task. England took two wickets fairly quickly, but they never had enough time to snatch what would have been a dramatic win, reversing the fortunes of the early play. Benaud bowled well in taking nine wickets for 177 runs.
May caused surprise by dropping Watson in favour of Dexter after Milton had been passed fit to open with Bailey. The England captain, again winning the toss, had to decide whether first use of what promised to be a good batting wicket would be offset by the expected movement of the ball through moisture due to late covering because of rain and swinging caused by humidity.
He chose to bat, but both openers failed. Milton deflected a ball to backward short-leg and Bailey fell leg-before to a delivery which kept low.
With two wickets down for 23, Graveney and May survived a critical time before England were once more in trouble with the dismissal of May, Graveney and Dexter in two overs from Slater, the Australian newcomer, and one from Benaud. May was brilliantly caught low at cover, Graveney edged a catch to slip and Dexter misjudged the ball off the pitch.
Cowdrey, realising the necessity for aggression, hit boldly in company with Swetman who overcame early uncertainties and made a good impression by the manner in which he used his feet to the spin bowlers.
Slater began with his medium-pace deliveries but changed after five balls of his second over to off-spin. His first two wickets in Test cricket cost him only four runs in four overs. The catching of Cowdrey at slip left England with six men out for 190 at the close and the four other wickets added only 29 runs next day.
The crowd had an unfortunate experience this day, for after morning rain they had to kick their heels outside the ground while the staff took steps to dry an exposed pitch adjoining the covered Test strip. The captains, disagreeing about the fitness of the ground, left the decision to the umpires and the game was not resumed until 4.15. Then several thousand spectators were let in free.
They saw England out in fifty minutes, the last three wickets falling to Benaud, who turned the ball appreciably, in nine deliveries for eight runs. In this deadly spell magnificent one-handed catches by MacKay at forward short-leg and Harvey at slip helped in England's downfall. Harvey's was a really wonderful effort. He broke the force of a hard cut with his right hand and after the ball soared in the air away from him he dived sideways, regained possession and held on although falling full length.
Swetman received an ovation on his dismissal after staying for two and three-quarter hours. Trueman pulled Benaud for 6 but England were out soon after half-past five. Burke and McDonald made six runs in three overs from Statham and Trueman before stumps were drawn, but McDonald was let off before scoring when Swetman missed a catch off Trueman.
England started well on the third day, disposing of Burke, Harvey and McDonald for 87 runs, but they lost their grip as O'Neill and Favell, who justified his recall, gained the upper hand in an unfinished stand of 97. May gave Trueman and Statham only brief spells and during the day placed almost entire reliance on Laker and Lock who bowled twenty-seven overs each out of sixty-eight sent down. They often turned the ball appreciably but not sharply enough to cause a collapse.
May did not give one over to Bailey or Dexter and used Trueman for only five overs at the start and one over after tea when he wanted to switch Laker and Lock, and two overs near the close.
The day began hopefully for England when Burke, unhappy against spin, glanced the ball to backward short-leg where Lock swooped on it close to the ground. Harvey, also uncertain against the turning ball, was beaten by Laker's off-break--leg-break to the left-hander -- and McDonald was splendidly cought at silly mid-off where Graveney dived for the catch.
Favell, growing sure after an unsteady start, and O'Neill then defied England for the next two hours to the close. Both cut well and O'Neill, sound and strong in his defensive strokes, also pulled powerfully but good fielding by Graveney and Trueman stopped many of his best strokes. Laker used Graveney and Dexter as twin silly mid-ons, with Graveney stationed with the toe of one of his boots just on the edge of the pitch.
England met with early and late success on the fourth day, but they yielded ground during an excellent seventh-wicket stand by the left-handed batsmen, Davidson and MacKay.
May once more put his faith in spin and his policy was justified when Favell, taken at slip, O'Neill caught cutting, and Benaud, bowled in dashing out to drive, were dismissed for 11 runs. O'Neill batted three and three-quarter hours and hit seven 4's. His partnership with Favell lasted just under two and a half hours.
Favoured by luck, Davidson and MacKay restored the position for Australia in a stand of three hours before Trueman, who had been given little to do, flattened MacKay's off-stump. Davidson, eighth out, hit eight 4's, and with Grout and Meckiff soon sent back the innings was over at quarter-past five. In the only over possible before the close Bailey scored one off Meckiff and reduced Australia's lead to 137.
Between them, Laker and Lock bowled thirty-five overs for six out of the seven Australian wickets which fell during the day for 173 runs. Laker conceded only 49 runs in nineteen overs.
On the Wednesday, Australia suffered a big blow when Meckiff, in his second over, had to go off with a bruised heel and pulled Achilles tendon. Australia overcame the disadvantage by cheaply sending back Milton, Bailey -- smartly caught at deep square-leg by substitute Simpson -- and Graveney, but May and Cowdrey, aided by fortune, took a grip on affairs. By strong driving and cutting they put on 52 in their first hour together and despite exaggerated defensive field placings by Benaud, who dispensed with even one slip to Davidson, they added 114 by the end of the day. Davidson shouldered the burden of the pace attack, manfully conceding only 33 runs in twenty-two overs. Benaud, who took the first two wickets for 17 runs, was punished later and did not re-enter the attack until ten minutes from the close.
England, 40 ahead with seven wickets in hand, were reasonably well placed for the last day. May's strategy was to go for runs hoping that they would come quickly enough to permit a declaration and provide his spinners with the chance to try to bring off a long-shot victory. Benaud, in retaliation, once again set a defensive field even for the new ball taken by Davidson and Slater who changed back to medium-fast.
Cowdrey, twice driving him for 4 with the new ball, soon saw him off, and in ninety minutes to lunch England added 53. For a quarter of an hour afterwards May, driving gloriously, gave evidence that he was bent on forcing a declaring position, and Benaud in desperation turned to Burke.
The off-spinner did the trick in his second over, for he beat May as he tried to force the ball off his back foot. So May, who hit ten 4's, missed a century by eight runs after an innings of five and a quarter hours. His stand of 182 with Cowdrey kept Australia at bay for nearly four and three-quarter hours.
England's fortunes slumped after May's dismissal. Cowdrey became quiet as Dexter, Swetman and Trueman left in the course of seven overs. Lock hit valiantly and after more than an hour in the nineties Cowdrey, with a scampered off-side single, completed his hundred, which included seven 4's, after just over seven hours at the crease. At the end of the over May declared.
The pitch had taken a good deal of spin during England's innings and May, after four overs from his fast bowlers, brought on Lock at eight and Laker at 12. Two successes fell to Laker when by flight and spin he bowled Burke and McDonald at a cost of eight runs out of 33, but time was all against England and O'Neill and Harvey safely played out the last half-hour.
McDonald's dismissal occurred in curious circumstances. Running the first run when Lock bowled four byes, he stumbled and fell. Though limping he resumed for a while before asking May's permission to have a runner. His request was granted, but with Slater as runner McDonald, shaping up to Laker, was immediately bowled. Total attendance 172,858; receipts £A33,151 14s. 0d.