Fourth Test Match

The Ashes are Australia's

Australia won by 171 runs and recaptured the Ashes lost on the same ground to Illingworth's team four years earlier. The margin was three up and two to play and it did not flatter them.

This third victory was achieved with only 5.3 overs of the match to run, but Australia dominated it from the time McCosker, playing in his first Test, and Redpath put on 96 for the first wicket after Chappell had won the toss and against expectations chosen to bat on a humid morning and an unevenly grassed pitch.

It proved the right decision, for despite the conditions Arnold, who replaced the injured Hendrick, got less movement with the new ball than England were hoping, while Willis looked jaded after his efforts at Melbourne earlier in the week and bowled a poor line.

Another factor was that Edrich, captaining England because Denness stood down through lack of form, put insufficient pressure on McCosker, who had been brought in instead of Wally Edwards and was opening an innings for the first time in a first-class match.

The New South Welshman had plenty to remember from his Test d├ębut because, apart from scoring 80, he was hit on the head at forward-short-leg by Edrich during England's first innings and forced to retire, and in the groin by Amiss in the second, fielding in the same position, and obliged to take refuge in the slips.

McCosker played extremely well, as did Redpath. But for a player who had shown his strength off his legs during his 52 and 56 in the New South Wales game, life was made easier than it should have been. Neither Willis nor Arnold was given a short-leg in front of square and McCosker was able, with complete safety, to find his confidence with a succession of ones and twos to square-and long-leg.

Australia had two escapes during the opening stand, the first at 36 when Redpath was given the benefit of the doubt on a run out when Fletcher's underarm return hit the bowler's stumps from extra-cover; and at 69 when McCosker was missed by Edrich in the gully from a low, fast slice off Willis.

The Chappell brothers consolidated, but when Walters was lbw to the second new ball after seven minutes on the second morning, Australia were 255 for five and England had a chance of holding them.

Another came at 310 for seven when Greig held a brilliant left-handed catch at second slip to dispose of Greg Chappell. But Greig was over-bowled to the exclusion of Titmus and Australia added a priceless 95 for their last three wickets.

Lillee bowled his best opening spell so far when England batted, but Walker made the breakthrough with the help of a wonderful left-handed gully catch by Mallett to get rid of Amiss in the eighth over.

At 123 for five England were in danger of a follow-on, but Edrich held an end for three and three-quarter hours and on the third day Knott, missed second ball by Marsh off Thomson, rode his luck to score a rollicking 82, lashing his drives through the covers and past the bowler. In the hour after lunch he made 56, adding 92 in 12 overs with Titmus and Underwood, 33 of them in three overs against the second new ball.

Then over-excitement got him out when he swung across Thomson and lost his leg stump. So midway through the day Australia were batting again with a lead of 110.

They received an early setback when Lloyd, at leg-slip, brought off one of the best catches of a series remarkable for its number of great catches when he dived right to pick up Ian Chappell, taking the ball so low that he trapped his fingers and had to go off for repairs. In now-perfect batting conditions, Greg Chappell imperiously took control, scoring 69 off 21 overs to take Australia to 123 for one at stumps.

On the fourth day defensive bowling of machine-like accuracy by Arnold -- 14 overs for 31 runs -- prevented Australia from thrusting home their advantage as quickly as they planned.

Greg Chappell never looked likely to be denied his first hundred of the series (he had passed fifty five times in his previous six innings), and he and Redpath steadily took their stand to 220, a record for Australia's second wicket against England in Australia. Chappell batted four and a quarter hours and gave one chance at 136. Redpath was fourth out, having batted five and three-quarter hours, and ten minutes later Australia declared.

England needed to bat eight and a half hours to save the match -- their target of 400 was 105 more than they had scored in seven starts -- but respite came in the form of a violent thunderstorm before the innings could begin. This trimmed ninety-five minutes from the day and when Amiss and Lloyd luckily survived 11 overs in the evening a draw should have been within their powers.

Yet, on the last day the demoralising effect of Thomson and Lillee was never more apparent. From 68 for no wicket in the 16th over, the score became 74 for three in the 22nd with Edrich on his way to hospital after being hit below the rib-cage first ball by a Lillee skidder.

Though the pitch was playing true the match was virtually decided when he came back strapped and sedated at 156 for six but with Willis, for the ninth wicket, and Arnold, for the tenth, he showed how comfortably it might have been saved by blocking for over two and a half hours to make 33 not out. Willis stayed in eighty-eight minutes and Arnold thirty-five minutes, performances that put the early batting in perspective.

Only Amiss, caught off his gloves off a bouncer that cut back, and Fletcher, shaken by a deflection on to his forehead two balls before his dismissal by Thomson, were exempt from blame, though Greig made a flashy 54 and Knott may have been unlucky to be given out caught at short-leg. The attendance of 178,027 was a Sydney record.

© John Wisden & Co