Third Test Match

Gooch's impossible dream

Toss: Australia.

The enterprise of Gooch and the competitive response of his players kept alive until the final hour a game which had seemed Australia's after they had scored 518 in 652 minutes in the first innings. It was not until the fourth morning that England, anchored by Atherton's 105 in 451 minutes and embellished by Gower's cultured 123, saved the follow-on, but Gooch's declaration at 469 for eight, 49 behind, brought the game to life in a quite unexpected way. The ball was turning - Matthews bowling off-breaks to the left-hander - and Gooch wasted no time in bringing on his spin bowlers.

There was no mistaking the psychological effect of England's declaration. That evening Marsh and Taylor fell cheaply for the second time - in nine Tests against England, Taylor had never before failed to pass 50 - and Australia entered the final day without their usual buoyancy. In the event they survived until two and a quarter hours from the scheduled close, leaving England the almost impossible task of scoring 255 in 28 overs, a rate of 9.1 an over. They made a valiant stab at it, and Gooch's aggression could well have set up a brilliant win had the game followed only a slightly different pattern. The night-watchman, Healy, for example, who made 69 and lasted until seventeen minutes after lunch, gave an awkward chance low to the left of Gower at square leg in Hemmings's first over of the day; while Rackemann, abetted by Gooch's pessimistic view that Malcolm's back strain prevented him bowling, held out for 32 overs against the spinners, a well-advanced left pad thwarting them as often as his bat.

Well as Tufnell bowled, turning the ball perceptibly more than Hemmings and giving full value for his figures of five for 61, Gooch was over-committed to his spinners. When, after four hours in the field, Malcolm was finally handed an overdue new ball- the last pair had been together 25 minutes - he bowled Rackemann with his sixth delivery. Theoretically, England retained a chance while Gooch and Gower were scoring 84 at 7 runs an over, before the latter, having passed 8,000 Test runs, was caught a few yards inside the long-off boundary. Realistically, hopes had ended during Rackemann's 112-minute occupation.

Consistency underlay Australia's batting on the first two days. Malcolm had made good use of the pitch's early pace, having Marsh caught at first slip and Taylor down the leg side, off his gloves, but from the start England tended to bowl too short. Boon, adding 147 with Border, scarcely missed a chance to cut, and his fourth successive Sydney Test hundred looked there for the taking when, having cut and driven Gooch for three fours in four balls to leap from 85 to 97, he sliced an off-side long hop to deep gully. The selectiveness of Boon's attacking play is illustrated by his tally of seventeen boundaries in an innings of 174 balls and 201 minutes. Border, Jones and Waugh consolidated, and Matthews, unsettling Hemmings by his darting footwork, made 128 in 242 minutes (175 balls, seventeen fours), his fourth hundred in 24 Tests. Only Malcolm's stamina and strength saved England from submersion.

The only rain in a sweltering match restricted England's reply that evening to one over, sparing them a testing hour. Gooch and Atherton turned their good fortune to good account with a stand of 95 that lasted until twenty minutes after lunch on the third day, when Reid had Gooch caught down the leg side. And after Larkins and Smith had gone cheaply, the former run out by Border's direct hit from mid-wicket, Gower and Atherton swept away the danger of the follow-on in a stand of 139. The Lancastrian completed a dogged hundred, at 451 minutes the slowest in Ashes Tests, with a lovely cover-drive off Rackemann, one of only eight fours in his innings, before succumbing to his 349th ball, caught off Matthews at short leg. For the past hour he had been little more than a spectator of his partner's spectacular hitting, but he had already done enough to earn unexpected selection for the Man of the Match award. Gower went on to adorn the SCG with his first hundred there in any form of cricket (312 minutes, 236 balls, fifteen fours). When he had added 99 with Stewart, who scored a crisp 91 from 146 balls, Gooch had the material for his declaration.

Man of the Match: M. A. Atherton. Attendance: 106,304.

Close of play: First day, Australia 259-4 (D. M. Jones 27*, S. R. Waugh 22*); Second day, England 1-0 (G. A. Gooch 1*, M. A. Atherton 0*); Third day, England 227-3 (M. A. Atherton 94*, D. I. Gower 33*); Fourth day, Australia 38-2 (I. A. Healy 9*, D. C. Boon 3*).

© John Wisden & Co