The reason for Australia's brief visit to England in August 1980 was to play a Centenary Test match. It was 100 years since the two countries had first met in England, and although the original match was played at The Oval on September 6, 7, 8, 1880, last year's celebration was held at Lord's.
With only three weeks' cricket before the Test match, in which to become accustomed to English conditions, and with their WSC players now back in the fold, the Australians relied heavily on experience. Of their fourteen players, ten had been to England before on full tours while Allan Border, Graeme Wood and Graham Yallop were all in the Australian party for the Prudential Cup in 1979. Only John Dyson, an opening batsman from New South Wales, had not already visited England with an official Australian team.
By the end of the tour the only specialist bowler not to have passed the age of 30 was the orthodox left-arm spinner, Ray Bright. Although Dennis Lillee, who was 31, bowled beautifully, it was obvious that the Australian selectors would soon be searching for young bowling talent. Len Pascoe's five for 59 in the first innings at Lord's was in the best traditions, but the limitations of the Australian attack were revealed in the defeat by England, in the two limited-overs internationals, and by both Surrey and Nottinghamshire in two of their four matches against the counties. With every English county except Yorkshire now reinforced by overseas players, these are no longer matches which touring sides are able to take in their stride. And, in spite of having played a good deal of it, limited-overs cricket is something at which the Australians have yet to excel. The weather, too, was against a side with little time to find its feet.
Yet Australia's performance in the match that mattered most, the Centenary Test, did them much credit. Whereas the occasion was memorable, the match itself was not; but for the disappointments on the field and the controversies which developed off it the Australian cricketers were blameless. They bowled, batted and fielded better than England, putting behind them the unconvincing form of their earlier matches.
Having won the toss, on an easy-paced pitch, Australia batted very well. Greg Chappell, on his second tour to England as Australia's captain and his fourth English tour in all, remains one of the best batsmen in the world and at 32 he still has a lot of runs left in him. Both Hughes and Wood scored Centenary hundreds, Hughes showing a flair that marked him as a new star in the Australian constellation, and the left-handed Wood batting with a doggedness that England first encountered when he scored 100 against them at Melbourne in 1978-79. As vice-captain of the party, Hughes had the look of Chappell's natural successor. After several low scores he ran into form in the first of the limited-overs internationals, making 73 not out after being dropped before he had scored. His other scores in the representative games were 98, 117 and 84.
As in Pakistan earlier in the year, the Australian batting averages were headed by Allan Border, a left-hander no more than 5ft 7in tall who shows an uncommon ability to accumulate large scores without compromising his attacking instincts. Comparisons have been made between Border and the great Australian batsman, Neil Harvey. Yallop, also a left-hander and, like Hughes, a former Test captain (during the WSC days), played in a much stronger Australian side against West Indies as long ago as 1975-76, and he is still only 28. He too, and also Bruce Laird, a much improved opening batsman since he was last in England in 1975, made the point at Lord's that Australia should not go short of runs in the immediate future.
The form of Jeff Thomson bore no comparison with his great days of the mid-1970s. He was left out of the Lord's match and was seldom sufficiently sure of the shoulder injury, which first set him back in 1976, to let fly with a throw-in from the deep. The two specialist spinners, Ashley Mallett and Bright, went short of wickets, and Border, who also bowls orthodox left-arm spin, was no more than plain. As a bowler at medium pace Chappell is inclined to underrate himself.
All the bowlers, except when Pascoe was finishing off England's first innings at Lord's, were overshadowed by Lillee. As in Australia in 1979-80, when he caused England such trouble, he was nothing like as fast as he used to be, but his wonderful control and ability to move the ball late more than compensated for this. Lillee showed in England last year that it is possible to be fiercely hostile without bowling either furiously fast or persistently short. With his classical action and strict attention to physical fitness he remains one of the most formidable of strike bowlers, and it was worth a visit to Lord's just to see him bowl. Rodney Marsh, the wicket-keeper, had also retained his fitness and enthusiasm remarkably successfully. He was at least two stone lighter than when in England last. The side was managed by Mr Phil Ridings, a former captain of South Australia, who was appointed Chairman of the Australian Cricket Board of Control in succession to Mr R. J. Parish soon after his return home.
Test matches - Played 1: Drawn 1.
First-class matches - Played 5: Won 1, Lost 2, Drawn 2.
Win - Hampshire.
Losses - Nottinghamshire, Surrey.
Draws - England, Lancashire.
Non first-class matches - Played 3: Lost 2, Drawn 1. Losses - England (2). Draw - Young England.
Match reports for