Great Test Matches: Australia v West Indies, Brisbane, 1960

2009 Jan 19 by DreamCricket

The tied Test match at Brisbane was the perfect way to start the 1960-61 series between Australia and the West Indies. Surely one heart-stopper was enough for a series!

The tied Test match at Brisbane was the perfect way to start the 1960-61 series between Australia and the West Indies. Surely one heart-stopper was enough for a series!

The teams were locked 1-1 when they moved to Adelaide for the fourth Test. Australia had won the second at Melbourne (the 500th Test of all) by seven wickets after poor batting by the visitors. But they stormed back to draw level thanks to fine spin bowling which saw them win the third Test at Sydney by 222 runs.

When left-arm fast bowler Alan Davidson (with 27 wickets from the first three Tests) pulled out with an injury, the odds began to favour the West Indies. They had never won a series in Australia before. Now was their best chance.

West Indies' batting had strength in depth with Joe Solomon coming in at number eight. With Rohan Kanhai top-scoring with 117 and Frank Worrell and Gerry Alexander weighing in usefully, their first innings total of 399 was pretty respectable. Richie Benaud with five wickets was the only bowler to make an impact.

Australia replied with a healthy 366 thanks to half-centuries by Colin McDonald (77), Bobby Simpson (85) and Benaud (77). It could have been even more but at 281 for five, the lanky Guyanese off-spinner Lance Gibbs took a hat-trick, his victims being Ken Mackay, Wally Grout and Frank Misson. The lead was just 33. By the end of the third day Windies had capitalized on that by finishing on 150 for 1.

After Cammie Smith (46) was first out to Mackay, it was left to Conrad Hunte (79) and Kanhai to consolidate. Kanhai got his second century of the Test while Worrell and Alexander (87 not out) helped their side declare at 432 for 6.

Worrell was criticized for not declaring earlier as it was felt even a target of 400 would have been way beyond the capabilities of the hosts.

Then with barely an hour to play on the fourth evening, fast bowler Wes Hall struck two crucial blows.

Australia stumbled to 31 for 3 with McDonald (run out), Les Favell and Simpson back in the pavilion. Now it appeared it would only be a matter of time before the rest of the Aussie batting folded on the final day.

Norman O'Neill and Peter Burge set about repairing the innings on the final day. Worrell rotated his three main bowlers, Hall, Garry Sobers and Gibbs, though the lack of attacking fields was a surprising sight.

The pair were hardly troubled though and brought up the hundred of the innings, and although runs did not really matter, the batsmen looked well in control. Aussie hearts were beginning to feel calmer.

It was left-arm spinner Alf Valentine who made the breakthrough. He got one to bounce and turn and Burge's intended cut landed in 'keeper Alexander's gloves for 49. The partnership had been worth 82 and hauled the side up after their dire start. But they were not out of the woods yet.

Benaud joined O'Neill and ensured they went into lunch without the loss of a further wicket. The morning session had produced just one wicket and a sense of calm was beginning to envelope the Adelaide Oval.

It turned out to be premature. With the total on 129, O'Neill became the fifth batsmen to fall when he popped a return catch back to bowler Sobers for an invaluable 65.

There was still 210 minutes to go for the end of the match and the Windies bowlers now gained fresh heart. Only Ken Mackay and Benaud were left of the specialist batsmen. Mackay, ironically nicknamed 'Slasher' because of his defensive abilities, was a tough, obdurate batsman who put a high price on his wicket. But he was lucky to survive the very first ball he faced when he was nearly caught at slip.

The captain struck a couple of boundaries before he too was caught and bowled by Sobers. His 17 runs had taken up 61 precious minutes on a day when time rather than runs was of the essence.

That made it 144 for 6 and the West Indian camp was confident the match was now in their bag. Perhaps they had forgotten about the legendary Australian grit. Every bit of that would now be needed to save the match.

Wicket-keeper Wally Grout was no great shakes with the bat and was out for a 'golden duck' in the first innings. Would he be able to hang on this time around?

Worrell rung the changes in a desperate bid to polish off the tail. It would all be in vain. Grout played one of his most valuable innings. In 76 minutes at the crease he scored 42 and also added 59 precious runs with Mackay.

Worrell had him lbw for 42 and picked up two more in rapid succession. Australia had lost three wickets for four runs and at 207 for 9 and crucially, still 110 minutes of play remaining, there seemed nothing that could stop the Windies.

Then came the final dramatic chapter of a fascinating Test match. Mackay appeared immovable but he was now left with only last man Lindsay Kline for company. To the amazement of everyone-not least of the batsmen themselves-the two survived everything the West Indians could throw at them. In fact with just over an hour left, Sobers claimed a catch off Worrell as Mackay stretched forward. All were convinced they had their man, except for the person who mattered the most-umpire Colin Egar.

Every single fielder was clustered round the bat as the minutes ticked away. Just one mistake by the batsmen and it would be all over. That mistake though would never come. The bowlers hurried through their overs, bowling the eight-ball overs in just over two minutes. In doing so they might have rushed things and panicked a bit instead of keeping cool heads and thinking through their moves.

Mackay and Kline stuck to their task magnificently. No one had given Kline a chance of staying on for more than a few minutes at best for he was a genuine Number 11, a batting 'bunny'.

Now it was all down to Hall bowling the final over, just as he had done under very different circumstances in the tied Test at Brisbane six weeks earlier.

Hall strove mightily to extract some life from the flat pitch. He thundered in to bowl the final deliver to Mackay who gamely took it on the body to preserve his wicket and it was all over. Against all the odds, the last wicket pair had saved the match for Australia.

Mackay's grim and priceless unbeaten 62 had consumed nearly four hours. Perhaps more remarkably, Kline pieced together 15 not out in 110 minutes. Together they added 66 runs and even the Aussie dressing room could scarcely believe their eyes!

Mackay admitted after the great escape: "We were lucky to see it through. I don't know how many overs we played, or what the score was. I was interested in only one thing--the clock."

Amazingly, there would be yet another classic encounter in the fifth and final Test at Melbourne. Australia won by two wickets to take the series-arguably still the greatest of all time-by a 2-1 margin.

So enthralled was the whole of Australia by the spirit of the tourists that the departing West Indians received a rapturous ticker-tape farewell from their adoring fans through the streets of Melbourne. And this for a side that had lost the series!