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Match reports


At Melbourne, December 22, 23, 26, 27

At Melbourne, December 22, 23, 26, 27. Australia won by 28 runs. One of the most exciting Tests in recent years finished with Australia two ahead in the rubber, but England again gave them a much harder fight than expected. As it was, lack of nerve and experience at a critical time cost England the match.
On this occasion Brown could not have been sorry to lose the toss. Complete covering for some days to keep off heavy rain contributed to making the pitch green and fast at the start. Atmosphere which remained heavy most of the day and a grassy outfield provided other incentives to swing bowlers, and Bedser and Bailey gave of their best. Uplifted by the swift capture of Morris's wicket, Bedser, who moved the ball through the air and cut it either way from the turf, opened with a spell of sustained hostility lasting two and a half hours. Twice more he returned to hurl himself into the attack with life, lift and swing. No batsman played him with anything approaching relish and, for once, the adjective great carried no exaggeration. When shooting out his massive right hand at second slip and catching Archer, Bedser also helped Bailey to one of the four wickets which went to his energetic and aggressive bowling partner. As in the first Test, Hassett was the victim of a fine ball which whipped across from leg.
Bedser and Bailey received support from Brown and Close, both bowling medium pace in order to exploit the conditions, but Wright could not strike a length. Subsequent events emphasised the costliness of his eight overs. Australia owed much to the imperturbable Hassett and to Loxton, who shared a fifth-wicket stand of 84, the highest of the innings. Neither found opportunity to play with freedom. Archer's first Test innings was notable for his self-discipline and concentration, but Harvey, with whom Archer added 61, could not look back with much satisfaction. At one time Bedser beat him five times in two overs and to the end Harvey was fortune's darling. Four wickets in the last ten minutes, three in five balls, brought the innings to a close and the day to a dramatic end.
Undoubtedly pitch and atmosphere favoured England on the first day, but on the second the air was clear and the turf less helpful to men of pace and swing. At times the ball kept low, but generally batsmen should have held the advantage. Yet England crumpled under the attack of Lindwall, Miller, Johnston and Iverson. All bowled excellently and were well assisted by the field. England were without Compton, who was kept out because of a swollen knee, but weak batting combined with the accurate and zestful bowling caused six wickets to tumble for 61. Courage and determination came from Brown, Bailey and Evans. With a straight bat in defence, Bailey stayed for an hour and ten minutes while 65 were scored, mostly by Brown, who drove and cut with all his power. One huge hit by Brown off Johnson went for 6 and altogether he proved conclusively that the Australian bowling could be punished. Evans, restrained at first, followed his captain's example after Brown's dismissal and the lead was gained with the last pair together. A feature of Australia's fielding was a forward diving catch at second slip by which Miller sent back Dewes.
By taking 14 from Bailey's opening over, Australia more than wiped off their arrears. Then the game was held up for Sunday, the 24th, and Christmas Day. Scorching sunshine throughout the two days enlarged the cracks which had appeared in the turf, and when Australia resumed their innings on Tuesday the tendency of the ball to keep low increased. Again Bedser, Bailey and Brown bowled excellently, and in less than two and a half hours after lunch Australia lost their last nine wickets for 99 runs. As in the first innings, Brown, the chief wicket-taker, bowled medium pace and relied on length and slight movement either way from the pitch.
In spite of the low scores in the first three innings, England looked to have a golden chance when they began their second, wanting 179 to win. Instead they provided the fourth batting failure of a Test in which, for the first time in Australia since 1896, a total of 200 was not reached in one of four completed innings.
All seemed to depend on Hutton, and he batted correctly for two hours forty minutes for 40 out of 70 until mishitting Johnston to mid wicket. Some of the other batsmen offered an excess of caution which played into Australia's hands. Possibly they were overawed by thoughts of breaking Australia's long run without defeat. Bedser, the number ten batsman, looked so much at ease that the failures of some of his colleagues received greater emphasis.
At the end the impression could not be avoided that if England had been left with three or four hours to make the runs instead of three whole days they would have adopted different, and probably more successful, methods.