Cricket: England's extraordinary victory triumph of persistence

Fourth Test: England 270 & 244 Australia 340 & 162 England win by 12 runs Headley's six-wicket salvo tears the heart out of Australia before Gough supplies the coup de grace

IT HAS taken nearly 16 days of Test cricket for England to win a session, but when they did it was decisive. They now go to Sydney knowing one more win will level a series few gave them hope of drawing when they arrived here in October.

Setting Australia 175 to win, after the tourists had been bowled out for 244 in their second innings, it might have been a glorious failure as the home side cruised to 130 for 3. But England's bowlers had other ideas. Pushing themselves to the point of exhaustion, in a final session that lasted four hours, they dismissed Australia for 162, as their opponents choked on a mixture of complacency and bad memories.

If one man could be singled out it was Dean Headley, who took 6 for 60. Headley came on at the Southern end at 5.48pm and bowled until the end. The duration of the spell - 105 minutes - was impressive, and the impact should last even longer. Australia go into the last Test with the Ashes safe and a 2-1 lead, but they also know they are no longer indomitable.

England's record at the MCG is far superior to that on other Australian grounds, and there were similar resonances this time to England's victory here in 1982, when the winning margin was three runs. Indeed, since the Ashes have been contested Australia have won 25 Tests here to England's 19, a fair proportion for an away team.

When the glorious moment came at 7.33pm, 14 minutes after Steve Waugh had insisted on taking the extra half-hour, the shadows were longer than the Australian faces.

Victory is not commonplace in England's repertoire, but they have an aptitude for winning the close ones, something this Australian side lacks. They lost to England at the Oval 18 months ago, chasing less, and a memory must have surfaced.

Mind you, England had to get close first, and you could tell by the emotion that swept across the MCG when Darren Gough's toe-crusher caught the last man, Glenn McGrath, stone dead that this success was a lottery win not a certainty.

"I thought 175 would be competitive," said Alec Stewart afterwards. "In the past Australia have slipped up chasing totals like that."

Ironically, Stewart had wanted to come off when the extra half-hour became available to him. "Sure I was trying it on a little," he admitted. "With tea being taken early, it was a long session and I felt our bowlers were tired. But, seriously, if teams have to make up for time lost to rain the length of session needs to be looked at.

"I was pleased with the fight we showed. Dean Headley's was a magnificent effort along with Darren Gough's and Alan Mullally's. I was about to take Dean off on several occasions, but he kept battling. Our aim is to square the series and go home 2-2, not 3-1."

Well though Mullally bowled in taking two key Aussie wickets, it was his batting, an entertaining 16, that took the aerial route, that proved crucial.

Before this innings he had made five ducks in the series, one away from equalling the record set by Alan Hurst. McGrath tried, as he has done all series, to scupper him here with a barrage of bouncers and verbals, though this time the latter cost him a A$2,500 (pounds 900) fine from the match referee, John Reid.

Yet if the match turned on one key moment, it was probably the superb catch taken by Mark Ramprakash to dismiss Justin Langer. The left-hander, who had already taken a heavy toll of his Middlesex team-mate Angus Fraser, was on 30 when he tried to do the same to Mullally.

Pulling the lanky fast bowler, after he had dropped a delivery a fraction short, Langer could only laugh in disbelief as Ramprakash, fielding alongside the square-leg umpire, flung himself scrum-half-like to take a miraculous catch with his right hand.

People talk about moments that inspire change. Well, this was one that transformed England's sweaty toilers into blinkered believers and hard graft into sweet success.

"Ramps' catch was the thing that fired them up," said Australia's captain, Mark Taylor. "Our attitude over the last two hours was bad. We batted as if it was just a matter of going out there and hitting the ball."

Many believe that Taylor, who won the toss and put England in to bat, had made a major error. Since 1963, no more than 200 had ever been made by a team batting last at the MCG.

Taylor added: "There's no doubt that, at 130 for 3, everyone on the ground was convinced that that was the game. But just as we were thinking what we might do tonight, a brilliant catch, a poor shot and we're under pressure. Often 15 or 20 minutes is all it takes to change a Test."

Whether or not England are disciples of that particular Andy Warhol-ism, there is no escaping the fact that, until Headley removed Mark Waugh for 43, they were the outsiders.

Until that moment Waugh had looked untroubled. But Headley, after an early savaging from Michael Slater, bowled with real gusto and Waugh's dismissal, which was well taken by Graeme Hick at second slip, was made to look more slovenly than it really was.

With Waugh gone, Headley hit the motherlode, wreaking havoc among Australia's middle order. In 14 balls, he took 4 for 4, including Darren Lehmann and Ian Healy, whose gambling spirit fell flat as he scythed to second slip.

It was easy to forget the work achieved earlier in the day by the England batsmen. With runs a priority, Hick, Stewart, and Nasser Hussain all made half-centuries. Hick can feel gratified that one of his efforts was at the forefront of victory instead of buried in a defeat.

Australia are never beaten until Steve Waugh has been forced to lay down his bat. But his team-mates were feeling the squeeze. Suddenly, the debutant Matthew Nicholson, having added 21 with Waugh, edged Headley behind for 9. But Waugh made the error of allowing his new partner, MacGill, to take the strike. It was a mistake, with the ball swinging Irish and England with their tails up.

In the space of three balls, Gough cleaned up both MacGill and McGrath to leave Waugh stranded for the second time in the match. The Waugh zone may not have been breached, but that did not prevent the Barmy Army from invading, and they were still partying well into the wee hours.

For once, the pitch, with barely three days of usage, could not be blamed. What could, was the widespread belief that this England side could not win a Test on a silver platter let alone one at the mecca of Australian cricket.

In the end, with one day left unplayed, it was quite simply an extraordinary Test match, that England ended up winning, and winning well.


Fourth day, Australia won toss

ENGLAND: First Innings 270 (A J Stewart 107, M R Ramprakash 63).

AUSTRALIA: First Innings 340 (S R Waugh 122no; D Gough 5-96).

ENGLAND - Second Innings

(Overnight: 65-2)

*A J Stewart c Slater b MacGill 52

120 mins, 98 balls, 4 fours

D W Headley b McGrath 1

22 mins, 15 balls

N Hussain c Slater b Nicholson 50

157 mins, 131 balls, 6 fours

M R Ramprakash b Nicholson 14

66 mins, 43 balls

G A Hick b Fleming 60

123 mins, 82 balls, 8 fours

+W K Hegg c MacGill b Nicholson 9

28 mins, 21 balls, 1 four

D Gough c Slater b MacGill 4

20 mins, 14 balls

A R C Fraser not out 7

25 mins, 20 balls

A D Mullally c and b McGrath 16

21 mins, 15 balls, 3 fours

Extras (b2,lb4,nb11) 17

Total (333 mins, 80.2 overs) 244

Fall: 1-5 (Atherton), 2-61 (Butcher), 3-66 (Headley), 4-78 (Stewart), 5-127 (Ramprakash), 6-178 (Hussain), 7-202 (Hegg), 8-221 (Gough), 9-221 (Hick), 10-244 (Mullally).

Bowling: McGrath 20.2-5-56-2 (nb6) (5-1-23-0 1-0-3-0 7-3-10-1 6-1-12- 0 1.2-0-8-1); Fleming 17-4-45-2 (nb1) (6-2-12-1 4-0-11-0 3-1-13-0 4-1- 9-1); Nicholson 15-4-56-3 (4-1-11-0 5-1-21-1 6-2-24-2); MacGill 27-3-81- 3 (nb4) (16-2-44-2 5-1-16-0 6-0-21-1); M Waugh 1-1-0-0.

Progress: Third day: 50 in 67 mins, 15.2 overs. Close 65-2 (Stewart 43, Headley 0) 22 overs. Fourth day: 100 in 155 mins, 39 overs. 150 in 213 mins, 52.3 overs. Lunch 174-5 (Hussain 50, Hick 30) 60 overs. 200 in 283 mins, 69.2 overs. Innings closed 3.11p m - early tea taken. Stewart 50: 115 mins, 95 balls, 4 fours. Hussain 50: 140 mins, 121 balls, 6 fours. Hick 50: 101 mins, 72 balls, 6 fours.

AUSTRALIA - Second Innings

M J Slater lbw b Headley 18

26 mins, 23 balls, 3 fours

*M A Taylor c Headley b Mullally 19

50 mins, 33 balls, 1 four

J L Langer c Ramprakash b Mullally 30

105 mins, 47 balls, 3 fours

M E Waugh c Hick b Headley 43

116 mins, 81 balls, 3 fours

S R Waugh not out 30

107 mins, 49 balls, 2 fours

D S Lehmann c Hegg b Headley 4

11 mins, 7 balls, 1 four

+I A Healy c Hick b Headley 0

8 mins, 2 balls

D W Fleming lbw b Headley 0

2 mins, 3 balls

M J Nicholson c Hegg b Headley 9

40 mins, 29 balls

S C G MacGill b Gough 0

4 mins, 2 balls

G D McGrath lbw b Gough 0

2 mins, 2 balls

Extras (b4,lb1,nb4) 9

Total (240 mins, 46.4 overs) 162

Fall: 1-31 (Slater), 2-41 (Taylor), 3-103 (Langer), 4-130 (M Waugh), 5-140 (Lehmann), 6-140 (Healy), 7-140 (Fleming), 8-161 (Nicholson), 9- 162 (MacGill), 10-162 (McGrath).

Bowling: Gough 15.4-2-54-2 (nb1) (5-1-13-0 2-0-11-0 8.4-1-30-2); Headley 17-5-60-6 (nb3) (7-1-34-1 10-4-26-5); Mullally 10-4-20-2, Fraser 4-0-23- 0 (one spell each).

Progress: Fourth day: 50 in 68 mins, 14 overs. 100 in 129 mins, 26.1 overs. 150 in 215 mins, 42 overs. England won at 7.32pm.

Umpires: S A Bucknor and D J Harper. TV Replay Umpire: G T Morrow. Match Referee: J R Reid.

Man of the match: D W Headley.


Compiled by Jo King

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Management Accountant / Analyst (CIMA finalist/newly qualified)

£32000 - £38000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant / F...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - .NET

£27000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of a mark...

Recruitment Genius: Help Desk Specialist

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides Reliabili...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Managing Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of refrigeration, mechan...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor