First Test Match


At Perth, December 14, 15, 16, 18, 19. Australia won by 138 runs. It was unfortunate that Australia's victory at the end of an enthralling match was soured by Lillee's unsavoury behaviour in seeking to use an aluminum bat in the first innings despite objections from Brearley, the umpires and his own captain. He caused play to be held up for ten minutes before being persuaded by Chappell to exchange it for the traditional willow. The incident served only to blacken Lillee's reputation and damage the image of the game as well as, eventually, the reputation of the Australian authorities because of their reluctance to take effective disciplinary action.

Lillee's behaviour also partly overshadowed other individual performances more in keeping with the spirit of the game, notably the bowling of Botham and Dymock, the batting of Hughes and Border, and Boycott's gallant attempt to save England on the final day.

Although only once before had an England captain won a Test in Australia when asking the opposition to bat first - at Melbourne in 1912 - Brearley opted for that course now to support the decision to go into the match with two off-spinning all-rounders, plus Underwood who was making his first Test appearance in Perth. Brearley must have been reasonably content with his decision when Australia's first innings closed at 244. It was built in the main around Hughes, who made 99 in almost four hours and defied the remarkable bowling effort of Botham, being used as both strike and stock bowler. In 35 overs Botham took six wickets. But any feelings of satisfaction Brearley held were soon swept away as Randall and Boycott went without scoring and the first six England wickets fell for only 90 runs. Brearley rescued the situation himself, batting stubbornly for four hours ten minutes in making 64 and producing one of his best innings for his country. Dilley, on his Test début, gave him fine support, batting nearly three and a half hours for his 38 not out, and Australia's lead was limited to 16.

By the end of the third day, however, Australia appeared to be in a strong position, 174 ahead with eight second innings wickets in hand, after Wiener, with a half-century in his first Test, and Laird had opened with a stand of 91. But another marathon bowling stint by Botham, refreshed after the rest day, changed the situation dramatically, and Australia owed much to Border for their eventual lead of 353 with an innings of 115 in six hours twenty-four minutes. He was repeatedly in trouble against Botham early on but survived to pass 1,000 runs in Tests in eleven days short of a year. Botham, with five wickets in the innings, ended with match figures of eleven for 176 from 80 overs and five balls.

Only sixty-five minutes remained of the fourth day when England started their second innings, but it was time enough for Randall's second failure before bad light stopped play. Worse was to follow on the final day, most of the wounds self-inflicted by lack of application as England lost wickets regularly while Chappell switched attack intelligently and Dymock responded with accurate seam bowling. Only Boycott showed the technique and determination needed to survive and he was still unbeaten, 1 short of his century, when England's last man, Willis, became Dymock's sixth victim with 14.4 of the last twenty overs left.

© John Wisden & Co