First Test Match

England v Australia

Norman Preston

Australia won with a day and a half to spare after Denness, the England captain, had won the toss and sent them in to bat.

It was a gamble which the majority of the England team supported on a dull grey morning, but the weather forecast for the next days predicted rain and Denness took the risk of his batsmen being caught on a wet wicket and this was exactly what happened. The general opinion was that the England batsmen were not anxious to face Lillee and Thomson. They preferred to postpone the evil hour.

This was the tenth time in 215 Tests that England had put in Australia and only once had England won -- at Melbourne in February 1912 when heavy rain had left the ground soft and J.W.H.T. Douglas told Clem Hill to bat. Seven times now England have lost and two Tests have been drawn. Australia have put in England twelve times to date and won three, lost five and drawn four.

Obviously, England hoped that the ball would move about under a cloudy sky, but the four seam bowlers found no response either through the air or off a lifeless pitch. Occasionally, McCosker and Turner (in his First Test) looked in difficulty, but they saw their side safely through the first two hours before lunch, scoring 77.

Later the bowlers obtained some movement, but the ball never rose awkwardly, yet by five o'clock England were happier with five wickets down for 186. Then Edwards held firm while Marsh in his swash-buckling way hit 47 out of 57 added before rain stopped play seventeen minutes early with Australia 243 for five.

Curiously, Underwood was given only six overs on this first day when beside the opening pair, Ian Chappell played well, excelling with the drive.

The second day, Friday, also went in Australia's favour. Edwards led a charmed life when Snow and Arnold took the second new ball and altogether he stayed four hours for his 56, but the main value of his great effort was that Australia put on 197 runs while he was at the crease.

Marsh made 61 out of 79 added for the sixth wicket and showed much displeasure at his dismissal which followed next ball after a delay of five minutes when the ball had lost its shape within eight overs of first coming into use. Thomson swung his bat to good purpose until at last England remembered Underwood and in his only over for 24 hours he promptly ended Thomson's frolics.

No sooner had Edrich and Amiss begun England's reply at a quarter to three than after one over a thunderstorm drenched the whole ground. The hold up lasted one hour, forty minutes, but with the late extra hour now added in such circumstances there remained two and three-quarter hours and in that time Australia, through Lillee and Walker, captured seven wickets for a paltry 83 runs, including five wides by Thomson in his first two overs and one no-ball.

Thomson was so erratic that Chappell allowed him only two overs before turning to the more reliable Walker. Lillee, in great form, caused the ball to lift awkwardly, but while Edrich defended gallantly until five minutes before the close, his partners were helpless against two splendid bowlers whose analysis at the end of the day read: Lillee 12-6-13-3; Walker 15-5-35-4.

Australia never released their tight grip on the game. They took the last three England wickets in twenty-five minutes on Saturday morning, Lillee and Walker each finishing with five victims. The match must have been completed that day, but for two more hold-ups through rain. This time, Thomson found proper length and direction to add to England's problems.

The first setback when England followed on 258 behind came in Lillee's third over. Amiss turned his back on a short ball and it struck him a painful blow just below the left elbow that made him quite ill. Fletcher alone managed to survive, his runs coming mainly through skilful leg strokes and square cutting over the slips, until Walters at third slip juggled and held a difficult catch.

Gooch, in his First Test, survived only three balls in the first innings and seven in the second when he received a horrible lifter from Thomson, but he was only one failure among so many in a nightmare situation. England had lost five wickets on Saturday night for 93 runs.

A thunderstorm in the early hours of Monday morning delayed the resumption by twenty minutes and further hindrance soon occurred, but only forty-five minutes cricket was lost before lunch and by three o'clock England had suffered their first defeat in 17 Tests at Edgbaston.

Amiss, now recovered, soon fell, caught off the glove from a lifting ball in the leg trap, but Knott and Snow offered resistance and Snow drove Mallett over mid-off for 6.

Thomson took the second innings bowling honours with five wickets for 38 and true to their reputation for splendid fielding the Australians brought off many remarkable catches in a victory they so thoroughly deserved. Attendance 44,391, receipts £40,943.

© John Wisden & Co