Fourth Test Match

England v Australia

Geoffrey Wheeler

At The Oval, August 28, 29, 30, September 1, 2, 3. Drawn. By the end of the first day of this six-day match, England had lost nearly all hope of winning the game to square the series. The Australian score then stood at 280 for one and subsequently England faced an uphill struggle to save the match.

That they did so was due to a fine second innings recovery to which all the batsmen contributed, Woolmer justifying his promotion to number five with a marathon effort which brought him his maiden Test century as he stayed eight hours nineteen minutes for 149, his highest first-class innings.

Another factor in England's favour was the slowness of the pitch, which even at the end of the six days showed little signs of wear, confounding both captains' predictions that it would help the slow bowlers before the end.

If anything the pitch was even more sluggish than for the drawn match with Pakistan the previous year and after such a fine summer it was strange that it was so lacking in pace.

Ian Chappell, playing his 30th and last match as Australia's captain, won the toss for the first time in the series for a side which had Turner restored to open the batting in place of the all-rounder Gilmour who had a sore finger on his bowling hand. England made two changes from Headingley, Roope and Woolmer filling the middle batting places vacated by Fletcher and Hampshire.

Turner was soon dismissed, but thereafter England did not take a wicket until Friday morning. On his way to his maiden Test century McCosker offered one chance at 57 when he was missed at slip by Roope off Underwood. Ian Chappell gave Snow a caught and bowled opportunity in the last over of the day shortly after England had taken the new ball. Otherwise seven bowlers toiled in vain.

From 66 for one at lunch Australia accelerated to 185 for one at tea and consolidated in the final session at the end of which McCosker had made 126 (fourteen 4's) and his captain 142.

England had a relatively successful second day, taking eight wickets for 252 before Ian Chappell declared. Old gave them a flying start by dismissing McCosker for 127 and Greg Chappell for nought with his 12th and 13th balls of the day. McCosker's downfall brought to an end a partnership of 277 in five and threequarter hours with Ian Chappell, who went on to make 192, four short of his best Test score, before swatting a short ball from Woolmer to Greig at square leg. There were seventeen boundaries in Chappell's innings which was always aggressive in intent and lasted for seven hours, twenty-two minutes.

Apart from a bright 32 in forty minutes by Marsh, the rest of the Australian batsmen were content to let the runs come in their own time. Walters at last had a success with his highest test score in England since the match at Old Trafford which began the 1968 series. Even so he needed nearly three hours for 65, the high-spot being three boundaries in an over from Greig.

Old was the pick of the England bowlers, Edmonds bowling too many balls down the leg side. His was a disappointing performance after an impressive début at Leeds.

Edrich and Wood, who played out time on Friday, found that weather conditions had changed ominously on Saturday morning. Whereas Australia had batted in two days of unbroken sunshine, England had to contend with bad light and an atmosphere particularly helpful to Walker's brand of swing bowling. The light and drizzle delayed the start until 12.45 and the England openers were still together at lunch.

Wood's dismissal soon afterwards was the prelude to a collapse. Further stoppages tested the batsmen's concentration and helped to keep the bowlers fresh. Only Steele stayed for long and England finished the day perilously placed at 169 for eight.

Thomson soon took the last two wickets on Monday before England followed on 341 behind and began to fight back. In much brighter weather Walker could slant the ball but not swing it. Lillee and Thomson obtained little bounce and Mallett spun in vain.

Wood scored only 22, but he stayed nearly three hours while he and Edrich made 77, which provided a sound foundation for the big total England had to make. Edrich and Steele took the score to 179 for one by the close of the fourth day, and rarely looked in trouble.

The rearguard action carried on throughout the next day and when bad light stopped play sixty-five minutes early the score had climbed slowly to 333 for four, only eight being needed to make Australia bat again.

All three wickets that fell went to Lillee, who had a fine morning spell with the new ball. He broke the second wicket partnership worth 125 in three and a quarter hours by knocking out Edrich's middle stump when the left hander was within four of his eighth century against Australia. He had been in for just over six hours. Steele lasted three hours forty minutes for his faultless 66 before, for once, he played a loose stroke outside the off stump.

The rally was carried on by Roope and Woolmer, first innings failures, who stayed from 12.40 until 5.20, Roope making his best Test score of 77 as 122 runs were made for the fourth wicket in over three and a half hours. Woolmer, who began tentatively and needed some luck to survive, was 37 not out at the end of the day.

England were still in peril when Greig went early on the last day for they then led by no more than 30 with five hours and only five wickets remaining. Woolmer was equal to the challenge.

Three times edged strokes off Lillee flew through the slips but he survived and gradually wore down the fast bowler, who made a great last effort to win the match for his country. Lillee bowled 52 overs for his four for 91 and was always dangerous.

Knott was a perfect foil for his county colleague and by lunch after a two and a half hour morning session England, at 427 for five were nearly safe.

Woolmer's eleventh 4, a drive off Mallett, took him to his century in six hours thirty-six minutes, the slowest made by an Englishman against Australia. With the game drifting towards a draw Walters took four wickets in the afternoon. Knott was caught behind after making 64 of a partnership of 151 and Woolmer was last out on the stroke of tea when Australia needed 198 in roughly eight-five minutes.

They lost two wickets before the end, the extra half hour not being claimed. One of these was Edwards, warmly received by the England players and the spectators on his farewell to Test cricket.

The receipts were £63,704 for the longest game of cricket played in England and the full attendance was 78,000.

© John Wisden & Co