A fascinating match

JOE SOLOMON'S THROW from the on side hits the stumps to leave Australian Ian Meckiff yards out and the Test ends in a tie.-THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

In the statistical sense the 1960 tie remains unique in the annals of Test cricket, writes Gulu Ezekiel.

In 129 years of Test cricket there has been just one `perfect' tie — West Indies v. Australia at Brisbane in December 1960.

Yes, Australia were involved in another tied Test, against India at Chepauk in 1986. But in that particular match captain Allan Border declared in both the innings.

Only at Brisbane did all 40 wickets fall with the scores exactly equal. In that statistical sense the 1960 tie remains unique in the annals of Test cricket. It is also universally still considered to be the greatest Test match of all time.

The run up to the match is fascinating. It was a time of crisis for Test cricket. The 1950s had produced drab cricket and the world looked to Australia and the West Indies to inject new life into the old game.

The tourists were packed with big names and were led by a non-white, Frank Worrell, for the first time.

Benaud and his boys had received a pre-series lecture from Don Bradman, chairman of selectors. Don stressed the need for the Aussies to play exciting and positive cricket. Worrell said much the same thing to his players. Those two chats had a lasting effect on the players.

The form of the tourists had been patchy in the run-up to the opening Test at the 'Gabba. They had lost two of their warm-up matches and doubts were raised about their ability and commitment.

Worrell took the first strike on winning the toss and the tourists were off to a blazing start. They finished the opening day at 359 for seven with Garry Sobers scoring one of the most memorable centuries especially in Australia. Pace bowling legend Alan Davidson, who removed the first three batsmen with 65 runs on the board, said he had never seen anyone hit the ball so hard.

Sobers' stand of 174, for the fourth wicket, with his captain helped the team post a challenging total of 453.

But the Aussie batsmen were in great form and passed that score and ended with 505 by the end of the third day. Norman O'Neill, who was dropped four times, led the way with 181. A draw looked the most likely result at this stage. Who could possibly have dreamed of the heart-stopping drama that would follow on the final two days?

Early on the final day, the West Indies were dismissed for 284, Worrell making his second 65 of the Test and Davidson taking six wickets to add to his five in the first innings. The Aussie target was 233 at 45 runs per hour. Would they go for it?

The odds certainly favoured the hosts. But then came a fiery burst from Wes Hall who tore the heart out of the batting. Bob Simpson, 92 in the first innings, was out for a duck this time while O'Neil managed only 26.

Hall had snatched four of the five top wickets and at 92 for six it looked curtains for Australia when Benaud and Davidson were at the crease. This was when the real drama began.

"Our policy after tea was to try to rattle the West Indians with our running between the wickets and our selection of shots, carry the attack to them and see if they would crack. They did crack a little under pressure, but so did we," the Aussie captain, Richie Benaud, wrote in his autobiography.

Both batsmen were now stroking freely. Davidson's first boundary had come after 84 minutes at the crease. The equation was now 105 runs in 100 minutes.

The pair went after the left-arm spinner Alf Valentine as they raced towards the winning target. With an hour to go, 60 were required. Tension was mounting in the dressing rooms and on the field it was Worrell who was calming down his excitable troops.

There were just 4,100 fans at the ground but they were in for a splendid show.

Davidson had brought up his half-century and the hundred partnership had been reached in 95 minutes. It was pulsating stuff.

Worrell's final gambit was the new ball, which he took at 206. Just 27 were needed now in 30 minutes with four wickets in hand.

This was where the Aussies cracked and the West Indians held their nerve. By the time Benaud had reached his fifty, it was down to a mere 10 runs in 15 minutes. There was no way a team could lose from this stage.

But the Aussies nearly did!

It was a fielder, not a bowler who turned the tide. Joe Solomon, the batsman of Indian descent ran out Davidson for 80 with a stunning throw from wide of square leg. The stand worth 134 had been broken and now the Windies felt they had their foot in the door.

There were no minimum number of overs in the day or the last hour so every minute counted. Wally Grout raced out to join his captain. Seven runs in six minutes, three wickets in hand, four balls of Sobers' over remaining and then the final one of the match. This was what five amazing days of cricket had all come down to.

A scampered single and now six runs were required from the final over (8 balls) to be bowled by Hall.

A leg bye by Grout from the first delivery and now it was up to Benaud. One stroke was all that was needed but at this vital stage he was caught behind for 52. It was a courageous innings but the dismissal put the tail-enders under pressure.

Ian Meckiff could not get a run from the third delivery while the fourth resulted in a frantic bye. Four to go, four to win. Grout decided to give it his all.

A dropped catch, another single and Meckiff was on strike.

He took a huge swing, the ball flew towards the square leg boundary and certain victory.

But Conrad Hunte chased it down and threw in from 80 yards into wicket-keeper Gerry Alexander's gloves. The batsmen had crossed for two and the scores were now level but Hunte's amazing throw saw Grout fall agonisingly short of the crease as he scampered for the winning run. Two balls left, one to win and the last man Lindsay Kline walked out.

He and Meckiff decided not to wait for the final delivery. They would run, come what may. Worrell had one last piece of advice for Hall. "Do you realise that if you bowl a no ball you will never be able to return to Barbados?" Hall nodded in agreement.

Kline nudged the ball towards square leg and set off. But Solomon swooped in and threw down the stumps to run out Meckiff. Three batsmen had fallen in seven balls, two to run outs.

But neither the umpires nor the players were certain of the result as they raced off the field. Benaud came out and he and Worrell walked off with their arms across each other's shoulders. They had both achieved their pre-series aims — Benaud's of positive cricket and Worrell showing that he was fit to lead the West Indies. The two teams celebrated together in the dressing rooms.

The game had been given the kiss-of-life and the '60s would be a glorious decade for the game. It has never looked back since.

And all the thanks to that fantastic Brisbane tie and the two inspiring leaders behind it.

* * * Brief Scores

West Indies 453 (G. S. Sobers 132, F. M. M. Worrell 65, J. S. Solomon 65, F. C. M. Alexander 60, W. W. Hall 50, Davidson 5 for 135, Kline 3 for 52) and 284 (C. C. Hunte 39, R. B. Kanhai 54, F. M. M. Worrell 65, J. S. Solomon 47, Davidson 6 for 87) tied with Australia 505 (C. C. McDonald 57, R. B.Simpson 92, N. C. O'Neill 181, L. E. Favell 45, K. D. Mackay 35, A. K. Davidson 44, Hall 4 for 140) and 232 (N. C. O'Neill 26, K. D. Mackay 28, A. K. Davidson 80, R. Benaud 52, Hall 5 for 63)