A Moment In Time
If the West Indies cricket tour of Australia in 1960/61 was dramatic and entertaining, it wasn’t just the quality of play that was superb; it was the sportsmanship that was rigorously testing, yet mutually admiring.
No wonder the tour produced the (then) unique result of a tied Test in the first match at Brisbane, and also contrived to evoke a spontaneous outpouring of people on the streets at Melbourne to bid goodbye to the tourists as they were about to depart from Australia at the end of the tour.
In Tony Cozier’s piece, ‘Reflecting on a rich past’ he wrote: “on the eve of their departure, someone had the idea to stage a motorcade for the popular losers through the streets of Melbourne. Nearly 100,000 turned out-and this was at a time when Australia still observed a whites-only immigration policy. It was a highly significant chapter in West Indian history, the first time they were led on tour by a black captain, Frank Worrell.
It was a post previously the preserve of the three per cent white elite and Worrell was only appointed after a strident campaign that paralleled the struggle for independence. There were those waiting for him to fail to say ‘we told you so’. That the opposite was the case was an enormous fillip to the people’s self-esteem.
The second and third Test matches were almost as absorbing as the first. So was the fourth, although it is nowadays almost forgotten, except for the crucial incident in the final session of play on the final day. So much so, but how many of you remember the outstanding performances by two of our own heroes; Rohan Kanhai and Lance Gibbs?
Matter of fact, by virtue of their outstanding performances they were considered then as the best in the world. Rohan Kanhai became the first West Indian to score a separate hundred in each innings of a Test in Australia. As for Gibbs who achieved the rare feat of a hat-trick in Test cricket. It is the only hat-trick in an Adelaide Test.
There was a big question mark against Gibbs’ name when he arrived in Australia. True, he had done reasonably well at home in his first series against Pakistan. But since then he had a lean time in India and Pakistan, and had not played at all in the series against England.
Generally, he was regarded as a sort of second-string bowler, as one would do a lot of work in the state matches and so allowed the famous Sonny Ramadhin to be at his best in the Tests. Thus, more than a few eyebrows were raised when Frank Worrell told the press before a ball was bowled in the series: “Gibbs can well prove the sensation of our tour.”
Worrell, of course, proved to be correct but it didn’t look so for the first four matches when Gibbs, like the other West Indian bowlers was hit all over the place. Nor did it look like anything more than a wishful thinking when Gibbs pulled a muscle before the first Test and, consequently could not be considered for that or the second.
But then came the third Test. Ramadhin was dropped-a sensation in itself! Gibbs was placed in his place. And the Guyanese icon, Gibbs bowling in tandem with Alf Valentine, almost collected a hat-trick, as he took three wickets in four balls and propelled the visitor to a comprehensive win. He followed up this feat with a most astonishing one-a hat-trick in Test in Australia since 1903-04 and the second West Indian to do so.
According to Gibbs: “I can remember that quite clearly. It sticks out as one of my better performances. I had two for about 60 at the time and I first dismissed Ken Mackay lbw and then Wally Grout was caught by Sobers at short-leg and a fellow by the name of Frank Mission was coming out to bat, so we had the fielders crowd round him, as we put the pressure on, but he was expecting me to get up in the air with an off-spinner, and I bowled a real quick delivery and before he could have brought the bat down, he was bowled!"
Iin any language, that was sensational! Gibbs followed this with four for 74 runs in Australia’s first innings in the final match at Melbourne, after playing in three Test matches, he found himself heading the bowling averages with 19 wickets at 20.28 each.
In Rohan Kanhai, West Indies had one of the true originals of modern batting. Small and perfectly balanced, Kanhai had all the conventional shots, plus many inventions of his own-particularly a sweep-cum hook on the leg side into which he would put all his weight and after fall over in the follow through.
From his first Test in 1957, he played sixty-one international matches without a break and, although the range of his shots and exciting attacking play made him appear an impetuous batsman, he was in fact extremely consistent and rarely threw his wicket away when there was a big score to be made.
When the fourth Test opened at Adelaide Oval, both teams had won one match each, and it was evident that whichever side won the fourth Test would have the advantage of setting the tactical agenda for the fifth and final Test: the fourth Test could therefore be decisive in the rubber.
Immediately before this Test, the West Indies showed excellent form in annihilating a weak South Australian County Eleven by an innings and 215 runs. Sobers and Joe Solomon, for instance, scored a century partnership in only thirty-nine minutes.
The Australians, on the other hand, seemed less buoyant: because of illness and injury, they had to leave out three of their most reliable players-Davidson, Meckiff and Harvey.
The match opened on a scorching, hot day, and Hunte (6) was soon lbw to Hoare: 12 for one. Kanhai and Cammie Smith scored quickly until Smith (28) was caught and bowled by Benaud only to be followed by Sobers (1) being bowled by Benaud: 91 for three. Skipper Worrell and Kanhai scored at breakneck speed, adding 107 runs before Kanhai (117) was caught at slip off Benaud: 198 for four.
It was a vintage innings, all power, daring and speedy reflexes, and it was thanks mainly to Kanhai that West Indies ended the day on 348 for seven, and finished the second day 393 all out. Worrell in his usual consistent way contribute 71, Nurse 49, and Alexander 63 not out. Benaud took five wickets for 96 runs in 27 overs and Kline no wickets for 109 runs in 21 overs.
It gives some idea of how fast West Indies scored, to realize that the two main Australian bowlers conceded nearly four runs per over.
In their reply, Australia lost Favell (1) at 9 and O’Neil (11) at 45. McDonald and Simpson steadied things with a stand of 74 before McDonald (71) was caught by Hunte off Gibbs: 119 for three. Then Simpson and Burge took the score to 213 when Burge (45) was bowled by Sobers. At end of play, Australia had reached 221 for four, with Simpson on 85 and Benaud on 1.
Simpson fell for his overnight score early on the third day; but skipper Benaud rallied his troops by scoring a gallant 77, and seeing them through to a total of 336, only 27 behind West Indies. It was a splendid recovery, considering that Australia were 221 for five when Simpson was dismissed. Sobers took three for 64 in 24 overs and Gibbs five for 97 in 35.6 overs-it was a 8-ball over then.
Gibbs achieved the rare feat of a hat-trick in Test cricket when he had Mackay lbw, Grout caught by Sobers, and Mission clean bowled in consecutive deliveries. It is the only hat-trick in an Adelaide Test.
Cammie Smith - Pat Legall’s bunny at Bourda - roared ahead like an out-of-control fire engine when West Indies second innings started. In just about one hour he scored 46 blistering runs, including ten fours. When he was caught by Hoare off Mackay with the score at 66, he had set the tone of dash and daring-do for the innings.
The tone perfectly suited Kanhai who went even faster than Smith, so that when stumps were drawn on the fourth day, West Indies were 150 for one wicket with Kanhai 59 not out, and Hunte 44 not out, although Hunte had started batting almost one hour before his dashing partner. Kanhai continued his fierce onslaught on the fifth day, calling his partner for such sharp singles that Hunte had to caution him.
It was in vain, however. For when he was on 99, on the verge of a separate hundred in each innings of the same Test match, he called for another impossible single and caused poor Hunte to be run out for 79 after a dazzling partnership that had realized 163 breathtaking runs. Kanhai showed remorse by staying for nearly an hour on 103. He seemed to recover; but briefly; for he was soon lbw to Benaud for 115 - the bowler’s 200th Test wicket.
Kanhai is the first West Indian to score a separate hundred in each innings of a Test in Australia. His first hundred lasted 126 minutes, and his second for 150 minutes. By tea on the fifth day West Indies had reached 360 with Alexander on 45 and Worrell 40.
Worrell held back until about 5.30 p.m when West Indies were 432 for six, before declaring and giving Australia 35 minutes to bat before stumps. He had left his opponents 460 runs to make in 395 minutes, an astute gamble that he was well on his way to winning that very day when McDonald (2), Favell (4) and Simpson (3) were all back in the pavilion and the Australian scored only 31.
On the final day, since the wicket was lifeless and of no use to Hall, it was Sobers, Gibbs and Valentine who carried the attack to the Australians of whom O’Neil and Burge fought back most stoutly with a brave stand of 82. Runs were no matter. Survival was all, and the air itself became heavy with concentration, tension and desperation as, bit by bit wicket by wicket, the battle swung inexorably towards West Indies.
After O’Neil was caught and bowled by Sobers for 65 and Benaud dismissed in an identical manner for 17, the score was 144 for six. At tea, following an invaluable 42 from Grout, the total had moved to 203 for seven. At that stage, mere bowlers-Hoare, Mission and Kline remained. Of these, Mission (1) was caught by Solomon off Worrell, and Hoare (0) was bowled by Worrell; 207 for nine.
Now Mackay and Kline, Australia’s last pair, stood between West Indies victory. Surely they could survive for long! This thought was evidently in the minds of the West Indies players, when, with almost an hour’s play remaining. Mackay pushed forward to Worrell and Sobers caught the ball. Sobers and other West Indies players, certain Mackay was out, began to walk off the field. But Mackay stood his ground; and umpire Egar’s finger did not budge.
This was the crucial incident mentioned earlier; it changed the course of the match, and it turned out, the fate of the entire rubber. Try as they might, the West Indies bowlers could not dislodge Mackay and Kline who blocked, pushed, padded and defended for one hundred minutes until the game was drawn with the Australian score at 273 for nine: Mackay 62 not out and Kline 15 not out.
From an Australian point of view, Mackay and Kline were heroes. Today, it scarcely seems possible that so much could have happened in one match: one hundred in each innings by Kanhai, Gibbs’ hat-trick, Benaud’s 200th Test wicket (not to mention his heroic 77 not out in the first innings), Alexander’s 63 and 87 unbeaten in both innings, and Mackay’s defiant 62 not out. For Australians the last ditch heroism of Mackay and Kline must stand out.
But what probably stands out for most West Indians is the catch that the record books tell us Sobers never took.