Fifth Test Match

England v Australia

Norman Preston

At The Oval, August 17, 18, 19, 21, 22. Drawn. Although the destination of the Ashes had already been decided in Australia's favour, victory in this match would have enabled England to draw the rubber. Instead, England made such a poor start that they always seemed to be fighting against adversity.

England went into the match without a Yorkshireman in the side, the selectors preferring Flavell to Trueman while Australia played Gaunt for McKenzie. It was Gaunt's first Test against England.

Cowdrey had an unfortunate match. Dismissed for a duck on the first day, he spent the next three days in bed with a high temperature caused by a return of the throat infection which kept him out of the fourth Test and though he batted on the fourth day he was not really fit.

Three Australian batsmen, O'Neill, Burge and Booth, carried off the main honours, the first two making their first centuries against England. Barrington played two sound innings for England, and Subba Row, who had announced his retirement, stayed six hours and forty minutes for 137 in ensuring England immunity from defeat.

May won the toss for England and decided to bat, although he was well aware of the danger of taking first innings at the Oval where conditions always favour the pace bowlers in the early stages.

Within fifty minutes Davidson and Gaunt had bowled to such purpose that three wickets were down for 20. Then May and Dexter played soundly until the Sussex captain in the last over before lunch tried to cut a high ball and a poor stroke provided a catch for Grout so that four men were out at the interval for 67.

There followed the only real stand of a dismal innings, May and Barrington by cautious methods adding 80. The running between the wickets was sluggish. Indeed, Murray alone showed the same sense of urgency to get the first single quickly as did all the Australians later.

There was a rare duel between the rival captains, May and Benaud. It lasted over half an hour. May appeared to be the master and produced some superb strokes, lifting Benaud straight into the vacant deep until trying to force him over mid-on he skied the ball to deep point where Lawry was waiting for the catch. May occupied just over three hours for his excellent 71 and he hit eleven 4's.

Australia took the new ball in the 87th over with the total 181 and proceeded to remove Barrington, Murray and Lock so that the end of the first day found England with eight wickets down for 210, the side having averaged only 35 runs an hour.

The next day Australia passed England's 256 in four hours, twenty minutes, having taken two and a half hours less time. They found the pitch perfect for making runs after some early troubles.

Statham trapped Lawry with the second ball of the innings, Murray holding a fine catch as he leapt towards the slips. Then Flavell yorked Harvey and the two England bowlers looked really menacing while Simpson and O'Neill raised the score to 49 for two at lunch.

No sooner had the game been resumed than England committed a serious fielding blunder. O'Neill was only 19 and the total 57 when Barrington dropped him at slip off Statham and as in the previous Test at Old Trafford this proved a costly mistake. Though Allen knocked back Simpson's leg stump with a yorker at 88 O'Neill went on to give a dazzling display while Burge played the part of sheet anchor.

Such was O'Neill's brilliance in the next hour that he made 67 (eight 4's) from 74 balls while Burge confined himself to 13 runs from 90 balls. During the whole of this scintillating partnership which realised 123 in five minutes under two hours, O'Neill claimed 83 from 110 balls compared with Burge's 40 off 126 balls.

Finally, O'Neill hit at everything until M.J. Stewart, fielding in place of Cowdrey, intercepted a fierce cover drive and brought off a splendid catch. O'Neill spent three hours and twenty minutes for his excellent 117 and he hit fourteen 4's. A sheer joy to watch, O'Neill pointed his left shoulder to the bowler and time and again danced down the pitch to drive.

Burge seized the initiative as soon as O'Neill departed. He excelled with the hook and sweep and was particularly severe on Allen. May did not take the new ball at 200 but waited an hour until Australia reached 265 in 85 overs before he recalled Statham and Flavell and by that time Booth was also established, Australia finishing the second day with their total 290 for four; Burge 86, Booth 33.

Despite two breaks for showers, which reduced the cricket by an hour, Australia continued to score freely on the third day. Booth, a stylist, drove beautifully, hitting twelve 4's before being fifth out at 396. England now paid the penalty for not having used the new ball earlier.

The crowd cheered Benaud all the way to the wicket and though the later batsmen, apart from Grout, caused little trouble, Burge maintained his onslaught until he was ninth to leave, having hit twenty-two 4's in his 181 which took six hours and fifty minutes. Australia held a lead of 238 and England were thankful that their two left-handers played through the final fifty minutes on Saturday while seeing the score at 32.

Rain reduced play on Monday to three hours. The loss of Pullar and Dexter first thing for only a single seemed to have destroyed England's chance of survival, but Subba Row, although handicapped with a groin injury which he received in the first innings, saw them through the crisis.

By adopting a more venturesome policy and giving the loose ball the punishment it deserved, both Subba Row and May set a good example. Despite a severe drenching the pitch never became treacherous -- the delay lasted from twelve o'clock until four -- and May drove superbly, treating MacKay with distain. He had hit seven 4's in 33 when a lofted drive was well taken by O'Neill at deep mid-off despite colliding with Benaud who also went for the ball.

MacKay bowled craftily for two hours. He soon disposed of Cowdrey and then Subba Row (39) had Dexter as runner for the remainder of his innings.

With Barrington using the hook and cut to good purpose England were 155 for four wickets on Monday evening; Subba Row 69, Barrington 35.

With a difference of 83 still in Australia's favour, England faced another hard struggle on the last day and that they avoided defeat was due mainly to Subba Row and Barrington who played through the two and a half hours session before lunch on the final day to take the score at the interval to 245 for four, representing a lead of seven.

Their vigilant partnership lasted four hours and twenty minutes and yielded 172 before Subba Row presented a return catch to Benaud who had missed him off Davidson at silly mid-on when he was 100. Subba Row hooked MacKay for 6 and also hit fifteen 4's.

England became anxious again when Benaud accounted for Barrington, O'Neill taking a running catch at mid-on, and MacKay got Lock caught at short leg. In less than half an hour Benaud had removed the two main obstacles and also held Lock and England, with three wickets left, were only 45 in front.

Not for the first time in the series, Murray and Allen showed their ability as batsmen and their partnership of 72 removed all danger for England finished 132 ahead and still had two wickets in hand. Barrington's 83, like Subba Row's 137, was his best against Australia. He hit ten 4's and was so restrained in the later stages that his innings occupied four and three-quarter hours.

Grout, by taking six catches finished the series with 21 victims, a record for a wicket-keeper in an England-Australia rubber.

During the five days no bowler on either side was no-balled. Twelve months previously the problem of the throw and the drag confronted the cricket world. Thanks to the good sense which prevailed at the 1960 Imperial Cricket Conference and the friendly atmosphere created by Richie Benaud and his team, these annoyances no longer prevailed.

© John Wisden & Co