Monday March 14, day three of the Centenary Test was the Labour Day holiday. Once more playing conditions were ideal, with blue skies overhead. Australia resumed at 3/104. Davis and Walters began intent on consolidation.
Finally, with Davis on 68, a seamer from Tony Greig gave Alan Knott a simple catch. In his first Test, David Hookes came to the crease with Australia 4/132.
Sensing that his breakthrough had slightly revived England's prospects, Greig gave the newcomer a torrid time. Twice, he had Hookes sparring at rearing deliveries outside the off stump, before testing the young left-hander with a verbal barrage.
As Colin Cowdrey poetically explained, the moment had come for the "unpredictable" genius of Doug Walters "to sparkle". England would now regret giving him a second chance last evening. Walters and Hookes added 50 in little over an hour, making Australia 4/186 at lunch.
When Walters fell to Greig immediately after the break, the match became an intense struggle for supremacy. The pugnacious Greig was at the heart of it. He had Marsh swiping tentatively, but the batsman began to gain the upper hand.
Greig hoped that an all-out spin attack would turn the tide. For Underwood, he placed himself at silly point, where he again "tested" Hookes. Riled, the young South Australian decided enough was enough.
Batting at the southern end, he defended to the first two balls of Greig's next over. The third delivery was a well-flighted off-break. With classy footwork, Hookes clouted it back over the bowler's head to the fence. The crowd of more than 55,000 roared, and the outer rose in salute.
After despatching the next ball to the fine leg fence, Hookes "patted the wicket indicating where he would appreciate the next ball." It really didn't matter where Greig pitched it, for his next effort was blasted through the covers.
After each brilliant stroke, spectators expected the fireworks to cease. Each time such thoughts proved to be wrong, their excitement increased. The whole Ground exploded when Hookes clipped the next ball to the mid-wicket fence.
The left-hander was timing the ball so fluently that he appeared "to caress it rather than hit it crudely" like most mortals. His fifth boundary was "so languid that it seemed it would roll only half way to the fence, yet it carried a good 90 metres before dropping into the gutter ahead of the pursuing fieldsman."
By then, Hookes had the place in uproar. Nothing like it had been seen in an MCG Test since Vic Richardson's 21 in six balls in 1925. Hookes drove Greig's final delivery, but Derek Randall fielded safely. The England skipper took his sweater from Max O'Connell with a smile of mock relief. Deep down, he must have known he had little to smile about, for the onslaught had turned the tide Australia's way.
For a few moments, the crowd continued to buzz with excitement. Hookes had reminded some of Graeme Pollock. For Sir Donald Bradman, the dashing strokeplay revived memories of Frank Woolley: "For just five balls ... I thought he had been re-born."
Suddenly, it all turned to disappointment. With no addition to his score, Hookes was caught at short leg off Underwood. In 42 minutes, his partnership with Marsh had added 57, taking Australia to a lead of 287.
As Hookes departed, the crowd rose, applauding not just his contribution to the score but some unforgettable moments of rare brilliance.
Extract from “The Centenary of Test Cricket”, by Alf Batchelder, in The Centenary Test Melbourne Cricket Ground, March 1977, Melbourne : Melbourne Cricket Club Library, 2002. ISBN 0957807449Back to top