The fact of the rubber having already been decided, did not to any appreciable extent affect the attendance at the final Test Match, nearly 50,000 people visiting the Oval during the three days. Delightful weather favoured the game and the wicket from first to last was in capital order. The match ended in a draw, England, after going through a very anxious time on the third morning, leaving off with much the best of the position. It was decided by the Selection Committee that the England team should be exactly the same as in the match at Manchester, Walter Lees thus losing his last chance of the place for which his fine bowling all through the season had given him such strong claims.
Winning the toss for the fifth time in succession, the Englishmen were batting for the whole of the first day, scoring in five hours and three-quarters 381 for seven wickets. At one point a much finer performance than this seemed in prospect, the score when the fourth wicket fell being up to 283. Fifty minutes later, however, there were seven men out for 322, and but for some skilful batting by Arnold and Rhodes during the last three-quarters of an hour, the innings might well have been over before the drawing of stumps. A very bad start was made, MacLaren being out at 12 and Tyldesley at 32, but after this the bating for a long time was superb, Hayward and Fry putting on 100 runs and Fry and Jackson 151. Fry's innings dwarfed everything else in the day's cricket. For the first time in a Test Match, the famous batsman did himself full justice. He found himself on a true wicket of a good pace and the Australian bowlers were not able as before to cramp his game. In second wicket down he was batting for three hours and a half, being beaten at last just after the tea interval by a ball from Cotter. A finer innings even he has seldom played. Just after he went to the wickets Cotter got past him and when he had scored 14 he was lucky in the fact that an unguarded stroke fell harmless on the off side, but while he was getting his last 100 runs or more his cricket was almost without a flaw. As a good deal had been said about his inability to play the Australian bowling, his success must have afforded him the keenest satisfaction. He drove very hard and was as skilful as ever in forcing the ball away on the leg side, but perhaps the most remarkable feature of his innings was his fine cutting. As a rule he does not cut much, but those who imagined that the stroke was outside his range found themselves quite in the wrong. His hits included twenty-three fours and curiously enough his score of 144 exactly tied Jackson's not-out innings at Leeds. Hayward was once more invaluable to his side. Going in first with MacLaren he stayed till the score had reached 132, and was out at last in a very unlucky way, stepping on his wicket in getting back to pull a ball from Hopkins. Jackson played a very good innings, but was certainly not up to the standard he had reached at Nottingham, Leeds, and Manchester. He took fully an hour to get set and was lucky in not being stumped-a palpable chance-when he had made 27. On the second morning England"s innings was finished off in twenty-five minutes, but during that time the score was increased to 430. Rhodes was out in the second over, he and Arnold having put on 72 runs. Of the Australian bowlers Cotter was immeasurably the best. He worked with great energy and fully deserved his seven wickets.
The Australians lost Trumper in the second over and Hill at 44, but at lunch time the score had reached 123 for two wickets, Duff being not out 82 and Noble not out 12. Just before the interval a blunder was committed in the field which caused England a lot of trouble. Duff, when 78, put up a skyer in the slips and would have been out nineteen times out of twenty. MacLaren, however, thinking Hirst had lost sight of the ball, ran against the Yorkshire fieldsman and the catch was dropped. After lunch Arnold missed both batsmen but neither chance was easy. Noble left at 159 but Duff went on hitting in splendid form and was not got rid of till the score had reached 237, his being the fifth wicket to fall. He was missed by Hayward at long-on when he had made 134, but with all his luck he played a great innings, his driving being a marvel of power and cleanness. He hit twenty fours and in getting 146 he had the satisfaction of making the highest score in the five Test Matches. Darling gave a fine display and Kelly and Laver added 59 for the last wicket, the result being that the total reached 363 or only 67 behind. The performance was a fine one but the English fielding was much at fault, four palpable catches being missed and two or three possible ones. Just after the Australians had made 200 Lilley split one of his fingers so badly that he had to retire from the field. A. O. Jones, the twelth man, was permitted by Darling to keep wicket, but such a concession should not have been asked for. Though there is no rule on the subject it is quite contrary to general practice and tradition for a substitute to act as wicket-keeper. Brearley bowled untiringly and was by far the best of the five bowlers. England went in for less than five minutes and lost Arnold without a run being scored.
On the Wednesday morning the cricket up to a certain point was exciting in an extreme, the Englishmen for the first time in the Test Matches since the opening day at Nottingham finding themselves in a position of real danger. In less than half-an-hour two wickets fell to Armstrong"s bowling, MacLaren being beautifully caught by Kelly and Hayward out leg-before-wicket. Three wickets were down for 13, and with Lilley disabled England were only 80 runs ahead. Tyldesley and Fry stayed together for nearly forty minutes, but at 48 Fry was splendidly caught with one hand by Armstrong at deep mid-off from a hard drive. After this Tyldesley and Jackson had to face a crisis, and for fully half-an-hour no one could tell what would happen. Armstrong was bowling with extraordinary accuracy, and Cotter, keeping quite a good length, sent the ball down at a tremendous pace. Jackson at the start of his innings was beaten more than once and nearly bowled by Cotter, but these dangers over he played a great game. In the course of seventy minutes he and Tyldesley took the score from 48 to 103, and it is safe to say they have never had to work harder for 55 runs. At last Jackson was bowled by Cotter, but when he left he had the satisfaction of knowing that all real danger of defeat was over.
At lunch time the score was 124 for five wickets, Spooner being in with Tyldesley who had made 56. The cricket that followed was in the strongest possible contrast to what had gone before. Free from anxiety as to the result Tyldesley and Spooner hit away with amazing brilliancy, actually adding 137 runs in eighty minutes. In all they put on 158 for the sixth wicket in an hour and a half. When at last Spooner was caught at long-off Jackson declared the innings closed. Tyldesley has never given a greater display than his 112 not out. Essentially a hitting batsman, he exercised such self-restraint while the position was critical that at one time he did not score for half-an-hour, but when the game had become safe he did just what he liked with the bowling. He was batting for three hours and a half and hit fifteen 4"s. To look at, nothing in the match was more attractive than Spooner"s 79. Armstrong began the day by bowling twenty-three overs, twelve maidens, for 21 runs and 2 wickets, an extraordinary average for a leg-break bowler, but afterwards 40 runs were hit from him in seven overs. Cotter only took two wickets, but on no occasion during the tour did he bowl more finely.
Only two hours and a half remained for play when the Australians went in and a draw was felt to be inevitable. With Hopkins run out at 27, Trumper caught by the wicket-keeper at 49, and Noble bowled at 58, there was a little excitement, but Hill and Armstrong stayed together for half-an-hour and all chances of England winning disappeared. As no purpose would have been served by going on stumps were pulled up at six o'clock. Owing to illness Duff took no part in the last day"s cricket.