He failed to appear.
(1) ✲ What he failed was to appear.
(2) What he failed to do was appear.
(Angela Downing, English Grammar: A University Course)
Oxford has the case that fail takes noun phrase as its direct object(She failed her finals), but the book above says ‘He failed to appear.’ can’t be said as (1). Does the usage of fail without infinitive clause be limited only to certain meanings, like exams, tests?