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Toss: England. Test debuts: M. C. Ilott, M. N. Lathwell, M. J. McCague, G. P. Thorpe.
Rarely before can a draw have been welcomed with such rapture in England, for, after seven consecutive Test defeats, this was not only a moral victory but a victory for morale. After three days, another Australian win looked almost certain. That evening, however, Australia were severely censured by the referee, Clive Lloyd, for their deportment on the field after complaints from both umpires. To what extent that influenced the change that overtook the match is problematic. Australian coach Bob Simpson said not at all: if his players were more subdued after the rest day it was just that England gave them nothing to become excited about.
What could be quantified were inspiring centuries from the patriarch Gooch and the initiate Thorpe, the first England player since F. C. Hayes in 1973 to score a century on Test debut. By Tuesday evening, it was England who felt cheated out of victory. But this was a very different England team. At last recognising the stability they had sought for the stagnation it had become, England dropped Gatting, Hick, Foster, Lewis and Tufnell and brought into the squad Igglesden, McCague, Bicknell, Hussain, Thorpe and Lathwell to go along with the uncapped Ilott, left out at Old Trafford and Lord's - seven men, with a total experience of four Tests, none gained in the previous three years.
The selection of McCague to bowl with the New Zealand emigré Caddick provoked a storm in both hemispheres, for although he was born in Ulster, he grew up in Port Hedland in Australia's dusty north-west, graduated from the Australian Cricket Academy, and played Sheffield Shield cricket and high-class Australian Rules football. But when he was made twelfth man for the 1991-92 Shield final, he became disillusioned with Western Australia. He had already joined Kent, where his Irish birth conveniently made him an English player, and now an England player - a rat joining a sinking ship, said a Sydney newspaper.
His Kent partner Igglesden again had to withdraw through injury, and Bicknell was omitted. That left an attack whose total exposure to Test cricket was the four games Caddick and Such had played between them in this series, but a seven-men batting line-up, with Gooch dropping down to No. 5 so that the 21-year-old Lathwell could open, even though the Gooch-Atherton partnership had been just about England's only success of the first two Tests. Australia brought in Julian for the homeward-bound McDermott.
The pitch was predicted to be a spitting, seaming monster, but neither captain could see it and Gooch had no hesitation in batting first. The early portents were familiar. Smith, relieved to have escaped the purge and elevated to No. 3, made a roistering 86 from 113 balls until Julian, seeking only to stop a powerful drive, caught and bowled him with one outflung hand. Hussain, in his first Test for three years, batted elegantly for a maiden fifty, but Hughes and Warne were too good for the others and England were out early on Friday for 321. Hughes, now Australia's premier bowler, took five wickets in an innings for the first time against England.
McCague immediately entered into the affections of uncertain Englishmen by making the first breach in Australia's innings. But Boon and Mark Waugh ran up their third century partnership in successive Tests, 123 at more than five an over, until the brilliant and enigmatic Waugh again threw away a century, swiping at Such for McCague to take a catch in the outfield. Boon proceeded serenely and smoothly to another century; the elusive was now becoming a habit. Australia faltered slightly, but Border, batting laboriously at No. 8 because of illness, and Warne stretched the lead of 52.
Then came the acrimony. Atherton stood his ground after a low catch by Healy. While the Australians clustered around Atherton, Barrie Meyer seemed to waver for a moment before giving him out. Warne cast a spell over Lathwell and deceived Smith with a beautiful leg-break. That left England 122 for four at the close and in familiar waters. However, on Monday, it took a chastened Australia more than an hour to remove the nightwatchman Caddick, who had now batted nearly seven and a half hours in the series, and almost another four to claim the next wicket. Gooch repaid Australia's aggression with 11 boundaries in the first session, and though he was less cavalier later, he achieved his 19th Test century, his 11th as captain and his 8,000th Test run. It was a masterful innings, and yet he could scarcely bring himself to make one celebratory flourish of his bat, for all the statistics would ring hollow if England were to lose another match. Hughes, desperately seeking to get rid of him, bent his back into an especially fast bouncer, strained a groin muscle and was out of the Test match.
Warne eventually turned out Gooch, but Thorpe remained and early on Tuesday reached his century with his patent whipped hook. The Surrey left-hander had batted with a poker-faced stoicism that enabled him to rise above the suspicion that, after four England A tours, he was not good enough for Test level, and the indignation of the public that he was not Gower. He was, at least, verifiably English.
Thorpe and Hussain had put on 113 when Gooch felt able to indulge himself in the rare luxury of a declaration, leaving Australia 371 to win in 77 overs. Slater went before lunch, charging impetuously at Such, and the Australian batsmen suddenly seemed mortal and susceptible to pressure. Australia lost five wickets in a feverish middle session - more than they had lost in the entire second Test - as Caddick began, without notice, to swing the ball disconcertingly. It was 115 for six at tea but Australia need not have feared. Julian, seemingly oblivious to the gravity of Australia's position, stroked his way to 47 and then hoisted Such's arm ball into the stands at long-on to go to his maiden Test fifty. Steve Waugh also rose to Australia's two hours of need. The ball grew soft, the pitch remained firm, the bowlers became tired and, in the finish, Australia averted disaster comfortably.
Before the match, there had been another rash of reports that Gooch would resign his commission if England lost. Asked to verify them afterwards, he answered: "We didn't lose, did we?" In a more emotional man, those words might have caught in his throat; it had been nearly a year since the last Test when he was able to utter them.
Man of the Match: G. P. Thorpe. Attendance: 48,824; receipts £828,100.
Close of play: First day, England 276-6 (N. Hussain 50*, A. R. Caddick 10*); Second day, Australia 262-5 (D. C. Boon 88*, B. P. Julian 5*); Third day, England 122-4 (G. A. Gooch 12*, A. R. Caddick O*); Fourth day, England 362-6 (G. P. Thorpe 88*, N. Hussain 16*).