Fourth Test Match

England v Australia

Leslie Smith

Toss: Australia. Test debuts: England - J.A.Flavell; Australia - B.C.Booth

Australia won by 54 run and made certain of retaining The Ashes. They deserved great credit for fighting back three times when in difficulties, but England, on top for a large part of the match, disappointed, particularly on the last day.

Dropped catches proved costly to England and had an important bearing on the result. The game was intensely keen throughout and was the best of the series.

England were without Cowdrey, suffering from a throat infection, and the selectors decided to play three fast bowlers and omit Lock. Close and Flavell were included and Statham returned, Jackson losing his place. Flavell gained his first Test honour at the age of 32. Booth, another newcomer, replaced the injured McDonald for Australia.

Benaud won the toss for Australia, who batted on a green pitch which helped the faster bowlers appreciably on the first day. Simpson fell in Statham's first over and, switching ends, the Lancashire fast bowlers also dismissed Harvey at 51.

O'Neill, never happy, was struck frequently on the thigh and body when facing Flavell and the game had to be held up occasionally while he recovered. Once he vomited when at the bowler's end, but he continued. O'Neill was out when he fell into his wicket in trying a hook. The ball hit him on the wrist and broke a blood vessel in his left forearm, but it was not serious and he continued for the rest of the match.

Flavell took his first Test wicket when he bowled Burge shortly after lunch and Australia, despite the sound batting of Lawry, were 106 for four. A little later rain ended play for the day, three and a half hours being lost.

Next morning the remaining six wickets fell in an hour and a half for 66, Statham and Dexter each claiming three. Lawry's splendid 74 took three hours. Statham thoroughly deserved his five wickets for 53, frequently beating the batsmen with his swing and movement off the ground.

England lost Subba Row and Dexter cheaply, but gained the upper hand with a third-wicket stand of 111 between Pullar and May. By the close of the second day England, with seven wickets left, were only three runs behind, but they ran into trouble first thing on Saturday, losing May and Close at the same total with 25 added. May missed a century by five runs, being caught at first slip when Grout dived and scooped the ball up for Simpson. May batted just over three and three-quarter hours and hit fourteen 4's.

Barrington and Murray carefully put England back on top by adding 60 and another good stand came for the seventh wicket, Barrington and Allen adding 86. Then Simpson quickly ended the innings, but England led by 177.

Lawry and Simpson knocked off 63 of the arrears before the end of play, but England should have ended the stand at 38, Subba Row, at second slip, missing Lawry (25) off Trueman. This proved an expensive mistake for Lawry went on to his second century of the series. The opening stand reached 113.

Another fielding lapse occurred when Harvey was dropped in the slips by Close when two and he was missed again in the slips, this time by Barrington off Flavell when 26.

Australia cleared their deficit for the loss of two wickets, but a fine catch by Trueman at backward short leg ended Lawry's stay of four and a half hours. Firm drives and, as usual powerful hooks and leg-side deflections, brought Lawry most of his thirteen 4's.

Although O'Neill, again received a painful blow on the thigh, he fought hard, but England steadily captured wickets. On the last morning Australia lost three men while adding three runs and the total went from 331 for six to 334 for nine. Allen took all three without cost in 15 balls.

At that point Australia were only 157 on and England looked to have the game comfortably won, but there developed a splendid last-wicket stand between Davidson and McKenzie. Davidson took 20 in an over off Allen and removed his menace on a pitch taking a fair amount of spin. The other bowlers could make no impression and 98 were added before the innings closed. It was Australia's highest last-wicket Test stand in England. This not only made England's task harder in terms of runs, but it took valuable time away from them. They were set to get 256 in three hours, fifty minutes.

Pullar and Subba Row began with a brisk partnership of 40. Then came a glorious display of controlled hitting by Dexter which put England right up with the clock. Driving with tremendous power and cutting and hooking splendidly, Dexter took only eighty-four minutes to score 76, which included one 6 and fourteen 4's. The second-wicket stand with Subba Row produced 110 in that time.

Suddenly the position changed completely. Benaud, bowling round the wicket and pitching into the rough of Trueman's footholds, brought such a collapse that in twenty minutes to tea England virtually lost the game. After getting Dexter caught at the wicket, Benaud bowled May round his legs, had Close, following one drive for 6, caught at backward square leg and bowled the solid Subba Row.

England resumed after tea needing 93 in eighty-five minutes with only Barrington of their leading batsmen left. When Murray and Barrington fell for the addition of eight all thoughts of an England victory had gone and it became only a question of whether Australia could finish the match in time. They did so with twenty minutes to spare and thus Australia gained their first Test win at Old Trafford since 1902. Benaud claimed six for 70, his best performance against England. Owing to his shoulder trouble he attempted little spin, being content to let the ball do its work on dropping into the rough.

Good crowds were present on the first four days; the gates being closed on Monday with 34,000 inside. The total attendance was 133,739.

© John Wisden & Co