First Test Match

Thomson's blistering impact

Australia won by 166 runs -- their fifth victory in eight post-war Tests at Brisbane. It was achieved with eighty minutes to spare after a hard-fought match that had run narrowly their way from the second morning.

It was played on a pitch of uneven bounce after hasty preparation by the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Alderman Clem Jones, following storms that flooded the ground two nights before the start. (Mr. Jones had dismissed the curator ten days earlier). The bounce was especially unreliable at the southern end, where England lost 16 of their 20 wickets and Australia eight out of 15.

Australia's advantage lay in the possession of the one bowler strong and fast enough to profit from the conditions, Thomson's second Test bringing him nine wickets, including six for 46 in England's second innings.

Lillee, sparing his back at that stage, was aggressive but not as fast as in England in the previous series. He took two wickets in each innings on his return to Test cricket.

So Thomson emerged as the key figure. He revealed himself as a pure slinger who changed feet two strides out, pulling back his right shoulder to get into position for a long swing of his arm, showing batsmen the studs of his left boot and a large area of his back in his delivery stride.

His erratic control was shown by three wides and 13 no-balls, but his very inaccuracy had merit in that batsmen never knew what to expect. He broke Amiss's thumb in the first innings and his great speed, which often enabled him to explode the ball waist-or chest-high from almost a full length, made him an awesome opponent.

Wesley Hall of West Indies was the only bowler Ian Chappell, the Australian captain, could think of to compare with Thomson in speed, and he added that Thomson and Lillee were the fastest combination he had played with or against at any time.

Despite uncertainty about the pitch, Chappell chose to bat when he won the toss, and the decision was justified when after the quick loss of their opening batsmen Australia reached midway point of the final session with only three men out.

Chappell, whose 90 lasted four and three-quarter hours, held the innings together with successive stands of 100 with his brother Greg and 87 with Ross Edwards (no relation of Australia's new opening batsman, Wally, who was also a West Australian). Three wickets in four overs, two of them taken with bouncers by Willis, reduced Australia to 219 for six at stumps, giving England the advantage.

This was increased in the first twenty minutes of the second day when Jenner, hooking, and Marsh succumbed to the new ball. Then, on a pitch that appeared to have lost pace the England fast bowlers were unable to dislodge Walker and Australia, adding 80 for the last two wickets, regained control.

England began disastrously by losing four wickets in two hours, Amiss to a brutal ball from Thomson that cut in chest-high off a length and flew to gully off the batsman's gloves. But Edrich, dropped at one off Lillee, and Greig batted through the 110 minutes to stumps, when England were 114 for four.

Edrich was out early on the third morning, caught at slip off Lillee an over after being rapped hard on the top hand -- the ball that caused the break. His 48 spanned three and a quarter hours and won England much-needed breathing space. Knott and Lever followed, but Greig found a determined partner in Underwood and, having faced the prospect of a three-figure deficit, England cut Australia's lead to 44.

Greig's hundred was a memorable mixture of brilliant offside strokes, wild passes, and continual attempts to rattle Lillee by shadow-boxing underneath the bouncers. He batted five hours and hit fifteen 4's. His hundred was only the second for England at the Woolloongabba ground; M. Leyland scored 126 there in the 1936-37 series. E. Hendren scored 169 at the Exhibition ground in 1928-29.

Australia's second innings began two and a half hours from stumps, but again they soon lost Wally Edwards and when Underwood had Ian Chappell caught at slip, losing no more wickets became their top priority. This suited England and Underwood had a spell of 7-5-3-1, figures that showed great control even against batsmen unprepared to take a chance.

Two more consolidating sessions followed on the fourth day, Australia advancing from 51 for two overnight to 211 for five by tea, Greg Chappell needing four and a quarter hours for his 71.

They made their push afterwards, Walters and Marsh extending their stand to 98 in even time before Chappell declared. Denness set England a tireless example in the inner ring and the fielding never wilted.

England needed to bat six hours forty minutes to save the match, or make 333 to win. Only two overs were possible on the fourth evening because of a breakdown of the motor-roller, which added seven minutes to the interval between innings, and through bad light, and at stumps England were 10 for no wicket. They had a good chance of saving the match with a successful first session, but in mid-morning Thomson dismissed Edrich and Amiss in successive overs -- Amiss, who was batting with a broken thumb, with another explosive ball that was edged to third slip -- and from then on Australia were in command.

After lunch England collapsed from 80 for three to 94 for six, Thomson again striking with wickets in successive overs, one of them when he yorked Greig with one of the fastest balls of the match. Knott, who batted two hours, and Underwood, who helped him to add 47 for the eighth wicket, resisted with determination as Thomson tired in great heat, but when Underwood mis-hit Jenner to mid-on the end came swiftly.

The 199th run of Australia's second innings was their 100,000th in Test matches against England. England reached a similar aggregate at The Oval in 1972 during the previous Test between the two countries.

Knott became the first wicket-keeper since T.G. Evans (219) to make 200 dismissals in Test cricket when he caught R. Edwards in the first innings.

© John Wisden & Co