Australia came to Eglinton on August 14th. A Test playing touring team had not been to the area since the famous West Indies visit to Sion Mills in 1969. It was Scotland's turn to host Australia but the Irish Cricket Union, starting in June 1996, sought a further gap in Australia's programme. This was granted subject to the Ashes being retained at the time of the visit. On July 28th Australia went 2-1 up in the Ashes series following the fourth Test at Nottingham. They decided on that day to come to Ireland, giving 17 days for preparation.
The Eglinton club did very well to stage the match so well at such short notice. The local Match Manager, Ivan Lapsley, did wonderful work in providing entertainment for the visitors in what was a three day stay. The local Councils of Derry and Limavady put up £5,000 between them, the gate (about 1600 people) was £10,000 and £1,000 was made on the raffle. Australia's Alan Crompton (Manager), Geoff Marsh (Coach) and Mark Taylor (Captain) could not have been more friendly and co-operative.
Ireland selected 10 players prior to the Scottish match. Byrne was left out to allow Lewis to return and Heasley was preferred to McCallan. Post the Scottish match McCallan and Cooke were asked to attend, the 11th place being between them. Both played because, on the morning of the match, McCrum was unfit with leg trouble. Australia fielded six players who had won the 5th Test on the previous Monday and so won the Ashes series. They were Elliott, Blewett, Mark Waugh, Ponting (whose Irish great aunts turned up), Taylor and McGrath. Also both Bevan and Kasprovich had played in earlier Tests. Slater and Mark Waugh were the only survivors of the 1993 Australian team in Dublin. Both had also played for MCC -v- Ireland in earlier years. Benson, Lewis and Curry remained from Ireland's 1993 team.
Cooke gave Ireland a great start. He started his first over with a wide and a no-ball. Slater, clipped the last ball to square leg where Lewis dived to his left and took a low two-handed catch. With Blewett joining Elliott there was a flurry of no-balls from both Cooke and Davy. Elliott took 16, including a six, off a Davy over. Benson dropped Blewett (12) at slip off Cooke at 39 and 50 was up in the eighth over. Then Patterson caught Elliott - a good catch running back at mid-on. 52-2-28. Lewis dropped a difficult catch at square leg off Davy while Mark Waugh was scoreless and next over Cooke bowled Blewett on a no-ball. He played on. Molins and Heasley came on and the latter got Blewett in his second over. Joyce took the catch over his head at long-on. 92-3-44. Waugh hit Molins for a six to bring up 100 in over 20 but Bevan did not last long. He drove at Heasley and was caught at gully. 114-4-2.
In the next over (Molins) came Ireland's best moment. Waugh was sucked down the pitch, missed, and was stumped. 116 for five in over 22 was Ireland's out cricket high point. Ponting, who had made a century in the Headingley Test, joined Langer in a 149 run stand for the sixth wicket in just over 15 overs. It was a new record in Ireland by opponents for this 6th wicket beating 129 by a Scottish pair in 1951. An unusual six was credited to Langer early in the stand - a run two and four overthrows. After 30 overs the score was 147. 156 came in the last 20. Curry bowled 10 of these and conceded only 60 of the 156. At the other end Heasley conceded 15 to Ponting in one over and 21 in two. Joyce went for 30 in three overs, Davy for 21 in two and Cooke, returning, 22 in three.
200 was up in over 37 and Ponting reached 50 in 46 balls in over 38. In over 43 250 came up and, in the same over, with successive fours, Langer went to 53 off 64 balls. Curry was rewarded in his eighth over, the 46th. His second ball broke the stand. Langer was caught at cover. 265-6-57. Taylor came in and saw Ponting to his century off 81 balls in over 49. Curry took a well deserved second wicket in the last over. Taylor swept him high to short fine leg where Molins took a good catch running in from the deep. The last ball of the innings saw Ponting hit Curry for six to mid-wicket where the fielder made the catch beyond the line. He finished on 117 off 87 balls with six sixes and 10 fours. His last 66 came off 41 balls.
Cooke, Heasley and Curry had two wickets each. All gave up six runs per over but Curry's final 10 over stint was very praiseworthy. Molins gave up only 36 runs in his 10 overs with the prized scalp of Mark Waugh. The Irish fielding held up well in face of the onslaught.
Curry and Patterson came out at 3.15 p.m. to face McGrath, the best fast bowler in the World, and Kasprowicz. Curry made 12, three fours two of them off McGrath. He then tried to cut a fast lifting ball and was taken at the wicket. Patterson soon followed, McGrath crashed through his defence and sent the middle stump cart wheeling. 20-2-0. Blewett came on and Kasprowicz changed ends. Joyce had the unusual distinction of being dropped by Taylor at slip off Blewett. Two balls later he smashed a ball to Langer's left at cover. 33-3-6. At 40 Lewis gave Kasprowicz his only wicket in the eight overs he bowled. Lewis flashed at a fast rising ball and wicket-keeper Berry took the catch.40-4-12.
McCallan came in and remained to the end. He joined Benson and 50 went up in over 18. Ponting, a "non-bowler" bowled the 21st over and got Benson at once. He had a big "flash" and gave Berry another catch. At 84 Heasley gave Ponting another wicket, again caught by Berry and Davy gave a repeat three balls later. Ponting went off with three for 14 in six overs, all caught by Berry. The score was now 86 for seven in over 29. Then more non-bowlers appeared for the rest of the innings - Elliott, Slater, Langer and finally, the Captain, Taylor. Nine bowlers, in all, were used.
This eased matters for McCallan and Cooke. Only singles were scored until 100 was up in over 35. Then the pace quickened and 150 arrived in over 43. McCallan had been moving along steadily and reached 50 at 125 in over 40. Cooke hit two sixes and the stand put on 75 in 15 overs. At 161, in over 44, Cooke was caught at extra cover, Rutherford was bowled first ball and Molins was stumped off Taylor's third ball. McCallan was left 64 not out off 104 balls with five fours. He had a good week having made 66 and 47 -v- Scotland. Only he and Cooke got more than 12 in the innings.
Ponting was given the Northern Bank's Man-of-the-Match Award. The Australian wicket-keeper, Berry, had five catches and one stumping, one dismissal less than J Brown's seven for Scotland -v- Ireland in 1957. The five catches had been achieved by three others, the last being Findlay of West Indies in Rathmines in 1976.