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Forty-eight hours before England's cricketers flew out of Melbourne for the last time, Alec Bedser was asked by the Australian authorities to present his considered view of the experimental twin-tour programme, the first product of the marriage between the Australian Cricket Board and World Series Cricket which had taken place some nine months earlier. He gave it a definite thumbs down. It was a strictly personal view, sought not in his capacity as England's tour manager or as chairman of England's selectors but from a man who has had the closest possible association with the game through four decades. He received majority support from those who had the best interests of cricket at heart, particularly Australian cricket below Test level. This had been swamped by the accent on Test and one-day internationals, neatly parcelled to present a cricketing package suitable for maximum exploitation on television.
Privately, at least, the Australian players agreed with Bedser. With a programme of six Test matches - three each against England and West Indies - plus the triangular one-day competition for the Benson and Hedges World Series Cup, the Australian players became very much a touring side inside their own country. So anxious was their captain Greg Chappell to rejoin a family he had hardly seen for two months that he was flying home to Brisbane within an hour of bringing the final Test against England in Melbourne to a swift and victorious conclusion.
England's cricketers were just as unhappy with the complicated programme of matches that brought a constant switch from one-day to five-day cricket with few three-day matches in between. It could be claimed that England's verdict was coloured by their three-nil series defeat in the Tests, but Clive Lloyd, West Indies' captain, was just as critical immediately after his side's two-nil series win - their first in Australia at the sixth attempt - and their victory in the World Series Cup.
It was not only the match programme but the whole atmosphere that the England players found disagreeable. Their captain, Brearley, was the subject of a disgraceful campaign wherever he went, and a large section of the Melbourne crowd was so abusive that the Australian team manager, John Edwards, was moved to issue a statement in which he said they made him ashamed to be an Australian. The childish behaviour of Lillee during the aluminum bat affair during the first Test in Perth and his baiting of Brearley during a one-day international in Sydney proved as distasteful to them as the treatment they received from the crowd in the early night games under the Sydney floodlights when they became the target of an assortment of missiles.
The show-business style presentation of the one-day matches by the marketing company during the Australian Cricket Board succeeded in appealing to a new public, but the loutish, drunken behaviour of many of the newcomers posed additional headaches for the ground authorities. Both in Melbourne and Sydney costly extra security measures were taken, along with a restriction on the amount of alcohol sold inside the grounds or taken in. This improved the behaviour but not the language.
In losing the actual Test series against this background it could be said that England achieved all that was expected of them when they arrived in Australia. For the first time for three years, the Australians had available their full complement of players, with Lillee and Thomson, destroyers of England in two previous series, on hand to team up with Hogg, who had taken 41 Test wickets against England the previous winter. Greg Chappell was back to provide the leadership and batting expertise missing twelve months earlier, and there were half a dozen others rich in Test experience. The availability of these players promised to provide England with their toughest opposition since Brearley assumed the captaincy in 1977. Against more modest bowling attacks, England's batting had proved brittle in the in-between years. Against Australia it failed to function as a unit, even though Thomson was seldom fit to take part and Hogg disappeared from the series, losing both his confidence and fitness after a severe mauling from West Indies.
There were pockets of resistance in each Test match, such as Boycott's unbeaten 99 in the second innings in the first Test in Perth when trying to save the game, Gower's unbeaten 98 in the second innings of the second Test in Sydney, Gooch's 99 in the first innings of the final Test in Melbourne and Botham's 119 not out in the second innings to delay Australia's victory. Brearley, too, offered stern resistance in every Test; but Lillee proved that, at 30, he was still a match-winning bowler, even if he had lost that explosive edge. He took 23 wickets in the series, eleven of them in the final Test in Melbourne when he cut his pace and produced a mixture of leg-and off-cutters which drew the highest praise from Brearley.
Apart from the batting failures, the England bowling lacked penetration after Hendrick was forced to return home with a shoulder injury received in his first spell in the opening match of the tour. His bowling was greatly missed. England were relying on his accuracy in the one-day games and each of the Test wickets encountered would have helped him, particularly the one in Perth. His absence - plus that of his Derbyshire colleague Miller, who was also forced to return home, and of Old, who had asked not to be considered - affected England's close-catching potential. Overall England's fielding slipped from the high match-winning standard reached in recent years.
With problems in all departments, Brearley was not as positive as he might have been in countering them. He is not a captain for laying down the law. The England sides under his command have been happy sides, and he seemed reluctant to risk spoiling that harmony by remonstrating with his batsmen even when they continued to display a lack of discipline and sense of responsibility. In fairness, Brearley was also burdened at the start of the tour with additional tasks that should have been no part of his brief and that led directly to his unpopularity with sections of the Australian crowd. Communication difficulties with the Australian Board resulted in England and West Indies arriving with the playing conditions still to be finalised. Renewed pressure was put on Brearley to accept conditions already rejected by the Test and County Cricket Board, namely the wearing of coloured stripes on shirts, flannels and sweaters, using a white ball in day-time matches, and restrictive fielding circles - as used in World Series Cricket - for the one-day internationals. As the spokesman outlining England's objections to conditions which seemed designed principally for television, Brearley was portrayed as a whingeing Pom, which was grossly unfair. It must be hoped that no future captain is ever landed with such a burden.
Part of England's batting problems stemmed from the pre-tour idea of turning Randall into an opening batsman; a move inspired by his performance for Nottinghamshire late in the season when he scored a double century and century against Middlesex. Taking into consideration the need to score quickly at the start in the one-day competitions and the desire to fit him into the Test side, the idea appeared to have its merits when Randall, having spent three weeks playing for a club side in Perth, scored 97 opening the innings against Queensland in the first match of the tour. But from that moment on, his form slumped alarmingly. A double failure when opening in the first Test at Perth resulted in his being dropped down the order for the second Test, and he eventually lost his place in the one-day side as well. Randall finished the tour a confused figure, having lost his way in attempting to apply various technical theories to counter the Australian bowlers.
Gower was another disappointment. After topping the averages in Australia twelve months earlier, the Leicestershire left-hander was regarded as the key middle-order batsman, but only in the later stages of his innings of 98 in the Sydney Test did he rediscover his true touch and timing. Still only 22, perhaps too much was expected of him. Nobody would wish to curb his attacking bent, but the tour management was entitled to demand a more responsible selection of strokes than those that resulted in his dismissal when England were already deep in trouble.
In the absence of Miller, Willey played a key rôle in England's one-day challenge, both as a tidy off-spinner and number three batsman. But he found the rôle beyond him when it came to the Test matches, managing only 35 runs in his six innings. His Northamptonshire colleague Larkins was perhaps unfortunate. Taken along as the third opening batsman, he was left in the cold for long period by the move to turn Randall into an opener, and he was desperately short of practice when called into the side for the final Test.
With Botham having a lean time with the bat until his final innings in Australia and his one-man exhibition of all his talents in the Jubilee Test against India, it was left to Boycott and, later, Gooch to carry the batting along with Brearley's acts of resistance lower down the order. Being left out of England's first one-day international wounded Boycott's pride, and in response he produced two of the finest innings of the tour. It is doubtful whether he has ever played better than when scoring a century in England's third one-day international, making 105 in 46 overs against Australia, or when a week later, at Perth, he showed his other side with a six hours thirty-five minutes occupation of the crease for 99 not out in a brave attempt to earn England a draw in the first Test.
Neck and finger injuries hampered Boycott in mid-tour, just at the time when Gooch was finding his feet. Surprisingly left out of the first Test team when England used both off-spinning all-rounders, Miller and Willey, plus the left-arm spin of Underwood on a wicket which helped seam bowlers, Gooch worked hard on his technique against the faster bowlers in the nets. He finished the tour a more complete batsman than at the start and missed his maiden Test century, in Melbourne, only by running himself out.
The absence of Hendrick was further highlighted by the decline of Willis as a strike bowler. So unlucky at Perth, by the end of the tour he had surrendered the use of the new ball. This in turn left Botham carrying a heavy burden, and he performed heroically as both new ball and stock bowler. His performance in the first Test was staggering, bowling 80.5 overs and claiming eleven for 176. He surpassed it, though, with thirteen wickets in the Jubilee Test in Bombay, plus a century, as he continued to rewrite the records. Botham finished as England's leading wicket-taker in the series, followed by Underwood, in spite of the latter having difficulty finding his rhythm through a lack of regular bowling. The bonus was the emergence of Underwood's Kent colleague, Dilley. Unable to get a regular place in the Kent side at the start of the 1979 summer, Dilley won a place in the Test team and, at time, looked faster than anybody on either side.
Lever, a model tourist, waited patiently for his chance and took it well in the final Test in Australia and again in Bombay where he bowled without any luck. Replacements Emburey and Stevenson - for Miller and Hendrick - did well enough in their fleeting appearances, and England could not have been served better by their two wicket-keepers. Bairstow was used in the one-day matches, while Taylor was reserved for the Tests and finished the tour in Bombay by setting a new world Test record on ten catches in the match.
At the end of the tour Brearley and Greg Chappell were in agreement that the final margin was as misleading as England's 5-1 series win had been twelve months earlier. The sides were evenly matched, the experience of Chappell and Lillee, the improvement of Hughes, and the winning of the toss in the second Test being the vital factors. The Australians were indeed fortunate to have Greg Chappell back, and the return of his elder brother Ian, surprising as it was after twice being in trouble for incidents involving umpires when leading South Australia, also added much steel to the Australian batting.
Lillee was again the leading influence in the attack, discovering a new rôle with his cutters which could keep him in the Australian side for two or three seasons yet. Additionally, Australia overcame the loss of Thomson and Hogg by utilising the left-arm medium pace of Dymock. He was their outstanding bowler in the first Test and a constant threat throughout the series, building on his fine tour of India just prior to England's visit.
Perhaps the hardest task undertaken by Greg Chappell was raising his side twice to take on England immediately following crushing defeats by West Indies. He said each time it was not a problem because he was always confident of beating England, an attitude which was reflected in his own batting.
Test matches - Played 3: Lost 3.
First-class matches - Played 8: Won 3, Lost 3, Drawn 2.
Wins - Tasmania, Queensland, New South Wales.
Losses - Australia (3).
Draws - Queensland, South Australia.
Non first-class matches - Played 12: Won 7, Lost 4, Drawn 1. Wins - Northern New South Wales (2), West Indies, Australia (4). Losses - West Indies (4). Draw - Combined Universities.
Test match - Played 1: Won 1.
Match reports for
Match reports for
Queensland v England XI at Brisbane, Nov 12-14, 1979
Queensland v England XI at Brisbane, Dec 28-31, 1979
9th Match: England v West Indies at Melbourne, Jan 12, 1980