1974: WI Retain Wisden Trophy

Date Published: 
Sham Samaroo

Under the captaincy of Rohan Kanhai, the West Indies toured England in 1973 and regained the Wisden Trophy – their first success in seven years going back to 1967. In the third and final Test at Lord’s, the West Indies, led by a brilliant 157 from Kanhai, and 150 from Sobers, inflicted the second largest margin of defeat on England – a resounding thrashing by an innings and 226 runs.

It was the second time that these two batsmen registered knocks of 150 in the same innings – the first time was in 1968 at GCC Bourda also against England.

In 1974, England returned to the Caribbean for a five-Test series. West Indies continued its re-emergence with a convincing seven-wicket win in the first Test at Queen’s Park Oval.

Kallicharran slammed a brilliant 158, but not before the infamous run out controversy with Tony Greig. It was the last ball of the day’s play and Kallicharran, at the non-striker’s end, started for the pavilion. Greig threw down the wicket and appealed for a run out. Umpire Sang Hue had no choice but to rule Kallicharran out. Overnight, Greig agreed to withdraw the appeal and Kallicharran continued his innings.

On the opening day, England were routed for 131 with Keith Boyce grabbing 4 wickets for 42 from 19 overs. West Indies, led by Kallicharran (158), and Bernard Julien (86 not out) replied with 392. Batting a second time, England were dismissed for 392 despite a 200 – run opening partnership from Dennis Amiss (174) and Boycott (93). Lance Gibbs snared 6 for 108 from 57 overs. West Indies, chasing 132 for victory, got there for the loss of 3 wickets – Roy Fredericks (65 not out) and Kanhai (39 not out) sealed the victory.

Next, it was on to Jamaica where a fighting 262 not out from Dennis Amiss in the second innings helped England stave off defeat in the 2nd Test. Again batting first, England scored 353 with half centuries for Boycott and Skipper Mike Denness. Lawrence Rowe (120) and Fredericks (94) shared an opening stand of 206. Kallicharran (93) and Julien (66) then saw West Indies to 583, and a lead of 230.

In the 2nd innings, England were on the ropes at 258 for 6 – a lead of just 28 – but West Indies failed to deliver the knockout blow and England held on for a draw. In the 3rd Test at Kensington Oval in Barbados, Julien (5 for 57) had England in a spin at 130 for 5 but, yet again, West Indies could not finish them off. Tony Greig (148) and Allan Knott (87) rescued England to 395 all out.

Lawrence Rowe led the West Indies reply with a mammoth 302, and, at one time, looked set to break Sobers’ 365. He shared a 250 run partnership with Kallicharran who scored 118. West Indies were all out for 596. England, batting a second time were 40 for 4 – Andy Roberts, on debut, picking up 2 early wickets. But, once again, the mediocre West Indian attack failed to complete the job. England recovered to 277 for 6 by the end of the fifth day. Keith Fletcher scored a fighting 129, and Allan Knott 67.

At the end of March, England arrived in Georgetown for the fourth Test, and, as usual, the rains came. For the first time, in ages, West Indies were without Sobers who was having a disastrous series. I was at the game with my late brother-in-law, Jai.

In overcast conditions, I watched Kanhai give a lesson to Rowe and Kalli on how to handle Birkenshaw on a rain affected wicket. Both batsmen had a torrid time negotiating Birkenshaw. Rowe, looking for his favourite late cut, lost his off stump to a quicker delivery, and then Kallicharran was bowled all over the place, failing to read the slower one. As Kanhai emerged from the pavilion, my brother-in-law handed me the binoculars and said, “Sham, take a look at the “Babulal” face – he vex no ra$$”.

Earlier, England had scored 448 with hundreds for Amiss and Greig. West Indies were 90 for 2 when Kanhai came to the crease with Birkenshaw creating havoc in overcast conditions. Kanhai, using his feet, forced Birkenshaw out of the attack with several blistering drives to the boundary. Day 4 and 5 were lost to rain and the game ended in a draw.

Gary Sobers returned for the fifth Test at Port of Spain. England led by Boycott (99) managed 267 in their first innings. Julien, Gibbs and Inshan Ali were the wicket takers. Ducks for Sobers and Kallicharran, but a ton for Rowe, and Fredericks (67) saw West Indies to 305 and a lead of 38. Tony Greig captured career figures of 8 for 86. Boycott managed to get his ton in the second innings (112) to help England to 263.

Set a target of 226 for victory, a West Indies lineup of Fredericks, Rowe, Kallicharran, Lloyd, Kanhai, Sobers, Murray, Julien, and Boyce collapsed to defeat by 27 runs. Tony Greig took 5 wickets to give him match figures of 13 for 156. Despite the loss, West Indies retained the Wisden Trophy, having won the first Test, and tied the series 1-1. A surprising result since the West Indies held first innings leads in excess of two hundred in each of the first three Tests.