Second Test Match


At Sydney, January 4, 5, 6, 8. Australia won by six wickets with a day to spare. A decision to give the Sydney groundstaff the day off to celebrate the New Year virtually decided the outcome of the second Test and the three-match series. The pitch was left exposed to a violent thunderstorm, and further rain over the following two days resulted in it still being damp and patchy when the match began three hours fifty minutes late.

Winning the toss almost guaranteed victory. Chappell, who protested that conditions were not fit, won it, and although the pitch was never as spiteful as many imagined, England were bundled out in 43 overs, a strange selection of strokes by the middle-order batsmen helping their downfall. Even so, it is doubtful whether Australia would have matched England's 123 if England's bowlers had been given first use of the pitch.

Brearley wasted little time introducing Underwood into his attack on the second day - he was on after only four overs - but once again it was Botham who proved the more effective as Australia inched to a 22-run lead. For this modest advantage they were heavily indebted to Ian Chappell, recalled to Test cricket after a three-year absence to add experience to the batting, who demonstrated his undoubted class during his one hundred and five minutes stay.

By the close on the second day England were in trouble once more, having lost three wickets for 59 and been forced to send in Underwood as night-watchman. He took this rôle so seriously that he turned it into a day-time occupation next day, surviving until after lunch and falling to a catch at short leg only 2 runs short of his highest Test score. Brearley and Randall proved effective partners for Underwood before Gower took over to boost England's hopes of squaring the series. Gower lived dangerously during his first half-century, going for his strokes but missing as often as he connected. Once he reached his 50, though, almost immediately everything clicked and for the last hundred minutes of his innings he again looked one of the most talented batsmen in the world. Like Boycott in Perth, Gower was denied his century, being 98 when Willis was last out.

Australia, requiring 216 to clinch the series, were 191 short with all second innings wickets intact when the rest day started. England were convinced both Wiener and McCosker should have been given out during the last thirty-five minutes of the third day and they suffered a further disappointment on the fourth when Greg Chappell, then 32, survived a concerted appeal for a catch behind off Dilley. A wicket at that stage and England would have been well in the hunt. Both openers, plus Ian Chappell, had fallen and Greg Chappell and Hughes were still struggling to impose their authority. The not out verdict by umpire Bailhache proved the turning-point, for the Australian captain and his vice-captain added 105 in 137 minutes to put victory in sight. Chappell, having secured it, was offered a long hop by Botham for the winning runs, and a chance to reach his century with a 6, but he managed only a 4.

© John Wisden & Co