Australia needed to win this match to save the rubber--the Ashes already belonged to England--but with twelve hours and twenty minutes of the thirty hours allocated to the game lost through rain, a definite result could not be reached. In any case, England generally dominated the sruggle, and Australia, who in both of their innings lost half their wickets for less than 50, were fighting a rearguard action after tea on the last day.
The match began with some entertaining cricket which held the attention of everyone until immediately after lunch on Saturday. Then, when England had made 76 for the loss of Cowdrey in their second innings, a series of rainstorms left the ground in such a swamp that nothing could be done for three days, the game being resumed at ten minutes past two on Tuesday with only four hours remaining for play.
The selectors, after their successes in picking Washbrook (98) for the third Test and Sheppard (113) for the fourth Test, enjoyed yet another triumph on this occasion when they brought back Compton, who made top score, 94. It was a wonderful return to Test cricket following the removal of Compton's right knee-cap the previous November.
Compton replaced Oakman, and Tyson, able to play for the first time during the series, renewed his association with Statham. Bailey, about whose fitness there was some slight doubt, stood down. Australia welcomed back Davidson, who broke an ankle-bone in the first Test, and Langley also resumed his place again, Mackay and Maddocks being omitted.
After May won the toss for the fourth time in the series, England received a set-back, for Cowdrey fell to the fifth ball of the opening over and the first he received. Playing forward, he touched an outswinger into Langley's gloves. Lindwall and Miller, both employing five slips and two short-legs, bowled admirably, but after only twenty minutes and with the total 13 rain not only caused a brief stoppage but left the outfield so wet that the shine soon disappeared from the ball.
On resuming Richardson received a life in the slips off Miller and the second pair had raised the score to 53 when fifteen minutes before the lunch interval Sheppard, who excelled in cutting and turning the ball to leg, was taken at first slip.
Johnson kept his bowlers fresh by using them in short relays and Benaud was the sixth to be tried when he shared the attack with Miller at the beginning of the second session. Miller soon earned Australia another success when Richardson, shaping for his favourite square cut, yet again became a victim of Langley behind the stumps.
The crowd gave Compton a great welcome and he led a revival with his captain, May. Between 2.20 p. m. and 6.15 this pair put on 156 and England were handsomely placed. Then came a remarkable change. Archer, the tall Queenslander, took three wickets in seven balls, claiming Compton, beautifully caught at short fine-leg, Lock and Washbrook, and, with Miller disposing of Evans, England slumped from 222 for three wickets to 223 for seven at the close.
For his first ball, Compton faced Miller his old friend and foe, and Miller gave him one of the fastest balls sent down during the day on this easy-paced pitch. Compton let it go through to Langley and a quarter of an hour passed before he relieved anxiety by opening his score.
Gradually, Compton unfolded all the familiar strokes of his golden days. The special leg-sweeps of his own brand and the most delicate of late cuts, as well as peerless cover-drives took him and England to prosperity. In less than an hour the partnership went to 50 and at 33 Compton overtook his captain.
May, too, produced some superb strokes, notably the cover-drive off the back foot, and by the tea interval England were 159 for three wickets. Then Australia put forward a great effort and between five and six o'clock England could add only 30. Compton fell just after hitting his seventh boundary. He batted for three and a half hours and the way he dominated the cricket was illustarated by the fact that he made his 94 out of 156.
It was in failing light that England suddenly collapsed. As Lock went first ball, taken on the leg-side by Langley, Washbrook faced the ordeal of averting the hat-trick from the next over by Archer after May had played an over from Miller.
Heavy night rain followed by sunshine left Australia a fearful prospect on the second day when May made 16 of the 24 runs added by the last three England wickets to the Thursday score. One could not praise May too highly for another grand display. He took out his bat after a stay of four and three-quarter hours in an innings that lasted six and a quarter hours.
Australia's troubles began with a sizzling right-handed leg-slip catch by Lock in Tyson's first over when McDonald seemed to have achieved a perfect glide. May gave only two overs to Statham and three to Tyson before he turned to his spinners, Laker and Lock. Laker bowled splendidly. His length was perfect and he obtained some spin, but Lock, in his keenness, sacrificed flight for pace.
Each gained an early wicket for encouragement and Laker passed Bedser's record of 39 wickets in an England-Australia series when he induced Craig to make a rash stroke. The loss of three men for 30 prompted Johnson to promote himself while the pitch was in its most hostile mood, but when half the side had fallen for 47, Australia were in danger of the follow-on.
Johnson lasted forty-five minutes, but the man who really saved the side was the left-hander, Harvey. He remained for two and a half hours and made it his business to tackle Laker, but in the end a vicious off-break caused him to be caught at forward short-leg.
Archer fell to a spectacular catch by Tyson running in from the square-leg boundary, but already Miller had established himself and the time was ripe for bold hitting when Benaud joined him. Both Laker and Lock received some ill-treatment while Benaud made 32 out of 43 for the eighth wicket, and then Lindwall and Miller put on 44 unfinished in the best stand of the second day, so that Australia finshed only 49 behind with two wickets still to fall--a remarkable recovery.
More night rain left the pitch soft and Australia added only four more runs, Miller being ninth out after batting three and a half hours during which he hit two sixes and two fours.
When England began their second innings on a drying pitch one had visions of Australia taking complete revenge for their collapses in the two previous Tests. Every time the ball pitched it left its mark. Laker and Lock would have been almost unplayable, but Australia possessed no spin bowler capable of taking advantage of the conditions.
For half an hour Lindwall and Miller used the new ball; then Johnson resorted to spin, calling on Davidson, left-arm slow, and Archer, who reduced his pace and tried off-cutters. In his first over Davidson produced a kicker which Cowdrey could not avoid and Benaud received a simple catch in the gully.
Richardson and Sheppard adopted bold methods to combat the difficult stituation and succeeded handsomely. Occasionally they were beaten, but anything deficient in length or direction received vigorous punishment and their running was an object-lesson in quick thinking, understanding and confidence in each other.
Australia were handcapped when Langley received a cut on the forehead from a vicious ball from Archer. Harvey went behind the stumps (standing back) while Langley was taken to hospital for an X-ray which revealed nothing serious. Johnson and Burke tried a spell of off-breaks, but were ineffective. Indeed, Sheppard treated Burke with scant respect, putting Benaud in peril at short fine-leg.
After lunch (64 for one), only eleven balls were bowled before another storm broke and soon the whole ground was under water, the game being held up until ten minutes past two on Tuesday. With the conditions barely fit for cricket, Lindwall bowled round the wicket to maintain his foothold. Sheppard again shaped magnificently and both he and Richardson left to forcing strokes.
For a time May and Compton exercised much care. May might have essayed an early declaraton, but not wishing to risk sacrificing the rubber, he waited until the tea interval. This left his bowlers only two hours to dismiss Australia, who faced the impossible task of making 228 on a soft pitch and dead outfield.
Between the innings, Earl Alexander of Tunis, the MCC President, presented to Laker a silver salver from the Board of Control on which was inscribed the full score of the Manchester Test in which Laker set up so many new bowling records.
Preservation of their wickets was Australia's main concern. Only one over was bowled by Statham before May brought on Lock, who rubbed the ball on the ground to remove the shine, and Laker. In the first hour England captured four wickets, only to meet stubborn resistance by Miller and Johnson, and when ten minutes remained bad light followed by rain finally ended the proceedings.