Third Test Match


At Melbourne, February 1, 2, 3, 5, 6. Australia won by eight wickets. A fine innings of 99 by Gooch enabled England to start their first innings with a bang on their last appearance in Australia. And a remarkable second innings century by Botham, with only the tail end batsmen for support, allowed them to finish with a captivating flourish. In between, however, events were largely dictated by Lillee bowling a mixture of leg-and off-cutters which presented Australia with a clean sweep in the series.

England looked to have every chance of ending the tour on a high note when Brearley, having won the toss, elected to bat and Gooch and Boycott produced England's highest opening partnership since they scored 111 together against New Zealand at Trent Bridge in 1978. When Boycott went at 116, Larkins, on his Test début, helped Gooch take the score to 170 before the all-too-familiar middle-order collapse began. Five wickets fell for the addition of 22 runs, including that of Gooch who ran himself out in the final over before tea going for the single that would have brought him his maiden Test century. Once again England were indebted to a defiant unbeaten innings from Brearley - he batted for close on four hours - while Lillee, with six wickets, caused the damage at the other end.

England's total of 306 was their best of the series but Australia had little difficulty building a useful lead of 171. With the exception of Hughes, all their leading batsmen were among the runs. Laird, a gritty, determined opening batsman, and Ian Chappell put on 127 for the second wicket; Greg Chappell and Border added 126 for the fifth, the Australian captain spending the rest day on 99 and needing 1 run to complete his sixteenth Test century and second of the summer. The third delivery on the fourth morning saw him duly reach it after two hundred and fifty-four minutes at the crease, during which time he suffered both a leg injury and a stomach upset. Lever, playing his first Test of the series, was England's most successful bowler, putting in one memorable stint when he bowled for more than two hours without a break.

Although the wicket was offering help to the bowler capable of cutting the ball, there seemed no reason why England, with sensible batting and application, should not make it tight for Australia. Yet within two and a half hours England were 88 for five and Australia appeared set for an innings victory. Botham's entrance changed the picture. He soon lost Brearley, but with the help of Taylor - 32 in an hour and a half - and Lever - 12 in 106 minutes - the England all-rounder showed the Australians how well he could bat by scoring a century in exactly two hundred minutes.

Left to make 103 to win in just under two and a half hours, Australia set about their task cautiously, determined not to repeat England's mistakes. Even so they lost both their opening batsmen in the first hour and a half and still required another 61 when Greg Chappell joined his elder brother. In another fifty-three minutes it was all over, Greg Chappell having helped himself to 40 of those runs as he batted with supreme arrogance.

© John Wisden & Co