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At the end of five tense days, Australia finished a low-scoring match eight runs short of victory with two wickets standing, much to the credit and relief of an England side reduced to four bowlers through an injury to Hendrick.
Australia began their second innings late on the fourth evening needing the highest total of the match, 246, to win. The pitch (though never true) played as easily as at any stage and it was little comfort to England that such a thing had never been achieved in an Anglo-Australian Test, considering that not only were they without Hendrick, but there was a possibility that Titmus would be unable to play his part as a result of a blow on the right knee from Thomson during England's second innings.
In the event, however, a limping Titmus overcame his problems to the extent of bowling 29 overs for 64 runs, and with determined help from his three fellow-bowlers prevented Australia from taking control even after Redpath and Greg Chappell had played them into a winning position with a third-wicket stand of 101.
Walters kept Australia well within striking range by scoring 20 in fifteen minutes after tea; but when he was sixth out, with 75 needed in one hour forty-five minutes, including the mandatory 15 overs, Marsh and Walker had to guard against a further quick loss and the last hour began with Australia still 55 from their goal.
It was then that their tactics defied explanation, for they added only seven runs from seven overs from Titmus and Underwood, satisfying Denness that they had settled for a draw and that it was therefore safe to make a last attempt to win the match for England by taking the new ball, which had been available from the start of the last hour.
Instead, it had precisely the opposite effect. Marsh opened his shoulders against Willis to club a high 4 over mid-on in his opening over, which cost nine, and though Marsh was out next over, Walker and Lillee attacked so effectively that Australia reached the 13th over only 16 short of victory and still with three wickets in hand.
Then, with the match apparently theirs and 42,827 spectators poised to shout them home, their tactics unaccountably changed again, only two runs coming from Greig's next over and a subdued Lillee making little effort to disturb a maiden by Underwood. Lillee's dismissal from the fourth ball of the last over virtually ended their chance and the match was left drawn twenty-six minutes after its official closing time.
An extraordinary test had begun on Boxing Day in front of a crowd of 77,165 (total attendance was 250,721) with Ian Chappell putting England in to bat for the second time running.
England were strengthened by the return of Amiss and Edrich after injury, of Hendrick after illness and by the restoration of Underwood -- Luckhurst, Fletcher, Old and Arnold being omitted from the side that lost at Perth. Australia were unchanged.
Moisture in the pitch gave some help to bowlers, but after the loss of the opening batsmen, Cowdrey and Edrich were playing England into a promising position when they were out in successive overs shortly before tea.
Edrich was much the more fluent of the pair, batting just over two hours compared to three and three-quarter hours by Cowdrey; but when he was out, controversially judged caught down the legside when Marsh was appealing for a stumping, the familiar collapse developed and England reached stumps at 176 for seven.
On the second morning a sturdy 52 by Knott enabled the last three wickets to add 66 and the innings closed at 242.
Redpath and Wally Edwards gave Australia their best start in five innings, but their chance of taking advantage was lessened by the loss of two and a quarter hours to the weather on the second day and the fall of three wickets in the first four overs of the third, including Greg Chappell's to the type of rearing ball from Willis England's batsmen had grown used to receiving from Thomson and Lillee.
Australia were 126 for five when Redpath, after batting four hours, was a victim of the varied bounce when attempting to square-cut Greig; but Ian Chappell, Marsh and Walker -- who was proving a batsman to be reckoned with at number eight -- consolidated in the afternoon and evening, and Australia were set for an important lead when in twenty minutes their last four wickets fell for four.
Willis, deprived of Hendrick's help from the second morning through a pulled hamstring, bowled with hostility in all his spells to take five for 61.
On the fourth morning a beautiful innings by Amiss, who made his first 50 in seventy minutes, seemed to put England out of danger. With some luck against the fast bowlers, Lloyd helped him to put on 115 for the first wicket; but as though to disprove the belief that from such a start collapse was impossible, the middle batting yet again disintegrated and eight wickets crashed for 67.
Greig's massive confidence and showmanship saved the situation and with studious help from Willis he added 56 for the ninth wicket to set the match up for its astonishing finale. Thomson, with eight wickets, increased his series bag to 24 to keep well in touch with Mailey's record.
The following facts are recorded for the statisticians:--
The attendance of 77,165 on the first day was the third largest to watch a Test match. The two larger crowds were also at Melbourne: 90,800 fifth Test v. West Indies, 1960-61, second day; and 87, 798 Third Test v. England, 1936-37, third day.
A.P.E. Knott's 19th run was his 3,000th for England in 69 Tests. No other specialist wicket-keeper had attained that aggregate in Test cricket.
D.L. Amiss took his aggregate of Test match runs in 1974 to 1,379 -- two runs fewer than R.B. Simpson's record scored for Australia in 1964.
F.J. Titmus took his 150th wicket for England in his 51st Test when he had R.W. Marsh caught at the wicket.