Fifth Test Match

England v Australia

Geoffrey Wheeler

Toss: Australia. Test debuts: Australia - K.J.Hughes, M.F.Malone.

The Australians ended a rain-ruined game with a clear advantage, but there was little hope of a result once the first day had been lost because sections of the square and outfield were waterlogged.

Chappell's team did their best to make up for lost time by dismissing nine England batsmen for 181 on the Friday before the surrender of another four and threequarter hours to the weather on Saturday ended their hopes of salvaging a win from a disastrous summer.

An atmosphere of anti-climax hung over the match because the series was already decided and there was also an air of sadness that this might be the last meeting between full strength sides of the two countries for a number of years.

The key player for Australia proved to be Malone, the swing bowler who with limited opportunities had previously achieved little on the tour. He entered his first Test because of a doubt about Pascoe's fitness.

Two more players from Western Australia were also brought in, Hughes being preferred to Robinson for his Test début and Serjeant recalled to partner McCosker.

England played Lever for the unfit Botham as their only change, although there had been a strong lobby to omit the Packer signatories in the cause of experiment. Brearley's arguments for the strongest available side won the day.

However, there was no denying that the fine edge had gone from England's form. The close catching, all but faultless in the first four matches, was of a poor standard and the batting lacked concentration.

Yet this was not a charge that could be levelled against Boycott and Brearley who, after England had been put in, launched the innings with a partnership of 86 in two hours, fifty minutes before Walker broke through. The breach was well exploited by the tall and powerful Malone, who after an innocuous first few overs caused everyone trouble by his movement away from the bat.

At the close of the first day, when England were 181 for nine Malone had bowled 43 overs and taken five for 53, showing a splendid appetite for work. His only break was for two overs just before lunch. Other than the opening batsmen only Roope of the specialists looked comfortable before he was nonplussed by Thomson's speed with the new ball.

In Saturday's brief spell of play Willis and Hendrick added 33, taking England to a more respectable total of 214. Hendrick had the distinction of striking the only boundary off Malone in his 47 overs. The tenth wicket pair hit seven of the sixteen boundaries in the innings.

Australia, who began their innings in indifferent light, were 11 for one when a mid-afternoon storm washed out further play for the day.

While the pitch still showed traces of damp on Monday, Australia struggled and might have been put out cheaply yet again had McCosker been caught at slip by Hendrick when he was two. He stayed for three and a quarter hours until the pitch became a typically slow Oval surface. Hookes then entertained a large Bank Holiday crowd in an innings of 85 which compensated for Underwood's dismissal of Chappell when the Australian captain seemed set to play a major farewell innings. Hookes needed some luck on and around the off stump but so sweetly timed were his off-side strokes that he was always good to watch.

Using the same weathered bat with which he scored five centuries in six Sheffield Shield innings Hookes, in company with Marsh, rescued the side from 104 for five. When Hookes was sixth out for 184, having hit twelve 4's, Australia were in sight of a first innings lead for only the second time in the series.

Yet with an advantage of only 12 runs on the final morning with four wickets in hand they had little chance of forcing a win. Marsh and Bright soon perished but Malone, surviving a slip chance to Greig before he had scored, and Walker, badly missed by Brearley at 19, put on exactly 100 mainly by reputable strokemaking. Malone did not fall until the last ball before lunch while Walker finished unbeaten with his highest score, 78 (ten fours), made in two hours, twenty minutes.

Willis's five wickets for 102 brought his tally for the five Tests to 27, easily a record for an England fast bowler in a home series with Australia.

There were fewer than three hours remaining when England went in for their second innings. In a final burst of speed, before he limped off with a damaged ankle, Thomson removed Brearley. Malone rounded off an auspicious début by dismissing Woolmer, but Boycott, who when two completed 5,000 runs in Tests -- the eighth Englishman to do so -- was still batting solidly when the game was given up soon after a stoppage for bad light at 4.50 p.m. Attendance: 54,000. Receipts £125,000.

© John Wisden & Co