Australia won by five wickets. They were well on top until a startling collapse occurred when they went in to get 69 for victory. Even so, there seemed little chance of England snatching the match from the fire and the game was over a day and a half early.
Almost throughout, batsmen were worried by the fast bowlers on a lively pitch and there were several cases of knocks and bruises, although fortunately none serious. There were talks from the first day of a ridge at the Nursery end and immediately the match ended M.C.C. called in a team of experts to survey the pitch. They discovered several depressions and M.C.C. stated that they would make an attempt to put things right before the start of 1962.
Most of the time the ball flew at the Nursery end but even at the other end the fast bowlers were able to get plenty of lift and anyone who stayed at the crease a long time needed plenty of good fortune, besides determination and courage.
England made two changes from the side which drew at Edgbaston, May and Lock replacing M.J.K. Smith and Allen. D.R. Smith, the Gloucestershire fast-medium bowler, was omitted from the twelve originally named, although he would probably have played had the selectors known how the pitch would behave.
The Australians were without Benaud, because of his damaged shoulder, and Harvey led the side for the first time. As it happened Benaud's slow bowling was hardly missed, for the pace men on both sides controlled the game, taking 33 of the 35 wickets that fell.
Cowdrey retained the captaincy, despite the return of May and yet again he won the toss. That made twelve in succession for England, nine by Cowdrey and three by May. As at Edgbaston, the toss did not help England, for they were soon in difficulties.
Davidson made the ball rear around the batsmen's ribs when pitching just short of a length and even off a length at times. Dropped catches looked like being costly. Pullar, when five, offered a simple chance to Burge in the gulley off Davidson, but he added only six. Lawry, at short leg, missed a sharp catch from Dexter off Misson and the same bowler had Subba Row dropped on the leg side by Grout.
England appeared to have made the most of these escapes but in the last five minutes before lunch both men were out at the same total, 87.
The Duke of Edinburgh watched the morning's cricket and the players were presented to The Queen before the resumption. Five more wickets fell before tea for only 80 runs, Davidson, McKenzie and Misson all being dangerous. May received a fine ovation on his return to Test cricket but after producing a few delightful strokes he was a victim of one of the many balls which lifted awkwardly.
Cowdrey was out when he tried to avoid a ball which followed him and flicked his gloves. Murray stayed almost an hour, Illingworth fought hard for seventy minutes and Trueman and Statham added 39 for the last wicket, but even so England's total of 206 and disappointing.
Davidson well earned his five wickets and McKenzie, the only newcomer to Test cricket in the match, supported him well. In the last hour of the first day Australia lost McDonald and Simpson cheaply but Lawry and Harvey prevented further disaster. When bowling McDonald, Statham took his 200th Test wicket, a feat previously accomplished for England only by Alec Bedser.
The second day belonged to Lawry, the tall 24-year-old left-handed batsman from Victoria. He gave a magnificent display of tenacity in his second Test Match and he stayed six hours, ten minutes for 130. During the course of it he became the first Australian to complete 1,000 runs on the tour. The pitch was still awkward, although not quite so bad as on the first day. Harvey helped Lawry add 75 before being caught at first slip after receiving two successive blows in the body.
Dexter captured the valuable wicket of O'Neill without any undue help from the pitch and with four wickets down for 88 Australia were struggling.
Then Burge joined Lawry and they added 95. Lawry, extremely strong on the leg-side and solid in defence, completed his maiden Test century in four and three-quarter hours. He was still there when Australia went ahead with four wickets to fall, but was out at 238. He hit eighteen 4's and did not give a chance, although he was occasionally beaten outside the off-stump by Statham.
The last two wickets added 102 and practically ended England's chances of victory. MacKay played another of his stubborn innings and McKenzie and Misson showed remarkably good style and skill for numbers ten and eleven. McKenzie, celebrating his twentieth birthday on the Saturday, helped in a stand of 53 and Misson stayed with MacKay while 49 came for the last wicket.
England, 134 behind, made a lively start, Pullar scoring 24 out of 31 in twenty-five minutes before lunch. Then England's troubles began. Subba was quickly out, Dexter was bowled off his body, Pullar gave a catch at the wicket and Cowdrey presented an easy catch to cover. They were then 84 for four. May and Barrington improved matters with a stand of 47 before Grout held a brilliant one-handed catch when May received another rising ball.
The arrears were cleared with five wickets left, but Illingworth did not last long. Practically everything depended on Barrington, who settled down to a determined effort. Murray provided good support and at the close of the third day England were 44 on with four wickets left.
These soon went. Barrington added only seven more, having batted three hours twenty minutes and hit eleven 4's in 66. McKenzie ended the innings by taking three wickets in twelve balls and he finished with five for 37 off 29 overs. Grout held five catches in the innings and eight in a Test for the second time in his career. During the second innings he claimed his 100th Test victim.
Australia needed only 69 for victory, but suddenly ran into trouble against Statham and Trueman, who made the most of the still lively pitch. McDonald and Lawry both went at 15 and two more wickets, those of Harvey and O'Neill, fell at 19. With their leading batsmen gone Australia unexpectedly found themselves on the run. Had Lock held a difficult chance offered by Burge from the last ball before lunch Australia would have been 35 for five.
Burge ended England's faint hopes with a confident display and although Simpson left with eleven still needed the result was never again in doubt. Burge finished the match with two successive fours off Statham, the game ending at ten minutes to three on the fourth day. Burge made 37 of the last 52 runs in an hour.
This was England's first defeat since Melbourne, 1959, after 18 matches without a reverse, the most in their history. During the four days the attendance was 117,000, with 109,759 paying. The gates were closed on Saturday with 32,000 inside. There were also 32,000 present on Friday.