Match reports


Toss: England.

Toss: England.
The first ball of the third day, a full toss which Gooch drove back to McDermott, marked the moment when England lost their chance of cancelling out their defeat in Brisbane. From then until McDermott sealed Australia's victory, two days later, what was left of England's resolve and fighting spirit disappeared. It was almost a relief when a hat-trick by Warne, the first in an Ashes Test since 1903-04, hurried Australia to within a wicket of a 2-0 lead on the final morning. Tufnell fell in McDermott's next over and Australia completed their 14th Ashes victory in 21 starts since the Fifth Test of 1986-87.
From Gooch's dismissal in the first innings, which pulled England back to 148 for five from what had been a promising 119 for one, the only redeeming features of England's cricket were Atherton's determination, Gough's buoyancy and Tufnell's discipline in bowling defensively against his inclinations in Australia's second innings. Ray Illingworth, the chairman of selectors, who had arrived 36 hours before the game, commented that, without dramatic improvements, the tour was in danger of ending in a shambles.
Crushing as the defeat was, however, it was an unlucky match for England. If Australia's first-innings 279 was at least 80 more than Atherton would have hoped for, having let his bowlers loose on a damp first-day pitch, England might still have overtaken it with several wickets standing. But the first ball after lunch broke Stewart's right index finger, for the second time on tour, and close decisions went against the other three of the top four batsmen. England had scored ten when Stewart, defending a length ball from McDermott on the back foot, was unable to adjust to its lift. Though he returned next morning and batted at No.7 in the second innings, his scores had no bearing on the match.
Forty minutes later, Hick was given out by umpire Randell after a breakback appeared to deflect to Healy off his thigh. Warne came on next over. Through sensible and watchful cricket, however, Atherton and Thorpe re-established the innings, adding 79 off 33 overs, only for both to fall to Warne, leaving England 124 for three. Atherton was out lbw to a leg-break that turned at least an inch before hitting his pad; umpire Bucknor declined to give him the benefit of the doubt. Thorpe, like Atherton defending on the front foot, fell bat-pad to Mark Waugh at silly point. The appeal, from all four close fielders, was instantaneous but Thorpe clearly believed the deflection came off pad alone. Taken in conjunction with Steve Waugh's narrow lbw escape off his first ball, from Gough, two crucial wickets in seven overs were a reverse England could not withstand.
Australia exploited the opening with the efficiency of a team who knew they had the edge. Handed Gatting's wicket 23 minutes later, when Steve Waugh, 30 yards from the bat behind square leg, acrobatically pulled down an ill-judged sweep, Warne and McDermott finished England off in 15.4 overs on the third morning, following Gooch's crestfallen departure.
Batting again with a lead of 67, Australia had Boon to thank for keeping them in control. Using every time-wasting device, Atherton saw to it that England bowled no more than 124 overs in 533 minutes - 13.95 per hour - despite Tufnell bowling 48 of them. Through the ICC's inflated allowances (four minutes per drinks break, two minutes per wicket), plus the fact that over-rates were being calculated over the whole match, no fine could be levied. But if, as some believed, the torpor induced in the players was a factor in their subsequent collapse, Atherton and England got what they deserved. Boon's patience was inexhaustible as he completed his first Test hundred at Melbourne, and his 20th in all. On an uneven, two-paced pitch, he was sustained for 378 minutes by his on-drive and square-cut.
England's remote chance of holding out for 120 overs vanished when Fleming, playing his second Test, had Gooch caught behind and Hick bowled with textbook out-swingers in his first two overs. When Thorpe succumbed to a loose stroke and Atherton, after an untroubled 73 minutes, received a second dubious decision from umpire Bucknor, England closed at 79 for four. The remaining batsmen fell in 12.5 overs on the final day, McDermott and Warne - who had passed the milestones of 250 and 150 Test wickets respectively - taking three each. Defreitas, Gough and Malcolm formed Warne's hat-trick, his first in any cricket. All were victims of leg-breaks, Defreitas lbw on the back foot to one that skidded through, Gough well taken at the wicket off one that turned and bounced and Malcolm brilliantly caught off his gloves by Boon, who dived two feet to his right to scoop up a fast low half-chance.
Man of the Match: C. J. McDermott. Attendance: 144,492.
Close of play: First day, Australia 220-7 (S. R. Waugh 61*); Second day, England 148-4 (G. A. Gooch 15*, D. Gough 1*); Third day, Australia 170-3 (D. C. Boon 64*, M. G. Bevan 3*); Fourth day, England 79-4 (M. W. Gatting 23*, S. J. Rhodes 13*).