A brief history

England v West Indies: 1928-1960

1928-1960 | 1960-1980 | 1980-1995 | 1995-2011

George Headley emerged as one of the game's great batsmen in the 1929-30 series © The Cricketer


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Although cricket tours had been going on between the two countries for many years, the 1928 tour marked the arrival of West Indies as the fourth Test-playing country. As expected, in alien conditions and against strong England sides, West Indies were outclassed, losing all three Tests by an innings.
England 3 West Indies 0


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England's first official tour to the Caribbean was not with a full-strength side - there was another team in New Zealand at the same time - and it was led by The Hon. FSG Calthorpe, who made his debut in the first Test. England were still a decent side, and certainly did not lack experience - Wilfred Rhodes and George Gunn were both over 50. In fact, when J Sealy made his debut for West Indies aged 17 years and 122 days, Gunn's last Test for England had been before Sealy was born! West Indies batting and bowling on home pitches was far more formidable, and the teams went into the final Test at 1-1. The Timeless Test which followed, like the other more famous one nine years later, ended in a draw after rain and a boat that had to be caught. England made 849 and Andy Sandham 325 - both records - and West Indies, set 826 to win, finished on 408 for 5. George Headley emerged as one of the great batsmen, making 703 runs at 87.87, including 223 in the final innings.
West Indies 1 England 1 Drawn 3


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England, under Douglas Jardine with Bodyline fresh in the headlines, again won the series but not as easily as the scoreline suggests. They started with an innings victory at Lord's where Walter Robbins took 6 for 37 as West Indies were bowled out for 97, losing by an innings. The fearsome Learie Constantine was not released by his Lancashire League side for that game, but at Old Trafford he and Manny Martindale peppered England with Bodyline - the only time they got back what they had dished out - in a drawn game. Ironically, Jardine top-scored with 127. At The Oval, England's star was "Father" Marriott, an Irish-born schoolteacher who took 11 for 96 in his only Test in another innings win. Martindale took the most wickets in the series with 14 at 17.92.
England 2 West Indies 0 Drawn 0


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As was customary, England sent a second-string side to the Caribbean and paid the price, losing the Test series 2-1 after winning the first Test at Bridgetown - a classic low-scoring game on a sticky pitch which England scored 75 for 6 to win despite Martindale's match return of 8 for 61. West Indies squared the rubber at Port-of-Spain with their first Test victory, and after a rain-affected draw, they routed England by an innings in the decider at Kingston. Headley made a then record 270 out of 535 for 7 and then bowled England out for 271 and 103.
West Indies 1 England 1 Drawn 3


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The tour was increasingly overshadowed, and ultimately abandoned, because of growing unrest in Europe. West Indies returned home early and war was declared while they were still mid Atlantic, necessitating a detour which meant some did not arrive back in the Caribbean until November. England won the three-match series thanks to victory in the opener at Lord's, despite Headley becoming the first batsman to score a hundred in each innings of a Test on the ground. Rain ruined the Old Trafford Test, and although West Indies took a 146-run first-innings lead at The Oval, hundreds from Denis Compton and Len Hutton ensured the match ended in a draw. It was to be the last Test anywhere for almost seven years.
England 1 West Indies 0 Drawn 2


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Coming after a tough Ashes tour the winter before, England sent a very weak side under the leadership of the 45-year-old Gubby Allen, and they were further hampered by injury. Even so, West Indies fully deserved their 2-0 series victory and were outplayed in the two drawn matches which opened the trip. Rain saved England in the first Test (where they were led by ken Cranston in the absence of the sidelined Allen) and with only 12 fit men, they had to call-up Billy Griffith, the reserve keeper, for the next Test in Trinidad. A makeshift opener, he made 140, while another debutant, Andy Gauteaume, made a ton for West Indies - it turned out to be his only Test. Allen, who had broken down at Port-of-Spain did so again in the third Test, and even the inclusion of Len Hutton, flown out as emergency cover for a ravaged side, could not prevent defeat. West Indies cemented the series with a 10-wicket victory in Jamaica. Never again would England take a trip to the Caribbean so lightly.
West Indies 2 England 0 Drawn 2


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This was the watershed series, when West Indies really arrived as a major force in the game and, according to CLR James, the Caribbean finally came of age. West Indies not only beat England on home soil, they outplayed them in almost every aspect, winning the series 3-1 after going behind with a heavy defeat at Old Trafford. At Manchester, Alf Valentine took 8 for 104 in England's first innings, and at Lord's he and Sonny Ramadhin took 17 wickets between them as West Indies crushed England by 326 runs - the dancing and singing that followed has gone down in cricket legend. A ten-wicket win at Nottingham showed that was no one-off, and at The Oval England were routed by an innings. Valentine took 33 wickets at 20.42, Ramadhin 26 at 23.23 and Frank Worrell scored 539 runs at 89.63.
England 1 West Indies 3

Alf Valentine took 33 wickets in the 1950 series © Getty Images


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Rarely has there been a more fractious and ill-tempered series, with crowd trouble, poor over rates and England niggling the umpires. West Indies extended their winning sequence to five matches with wins in the opening two Tests after England's batting proved suspect. At Georgetown, Len Hutton's hundred helped England win by nine wickets in a game marred by a riot after a run-out. In Trinidad the three Ws - Worrell, Weekes and Walcott - all made hundreds as West Indies amassed 681 for 8, but the a matting wicket offered bowlers nothing but heartache and England easily held out for a draw. Trevor Bailey took 7 for 34 and Hutton scored 205, and not even the brilliant batting of Walcott could deny England a series-levelling win.
West Indies 2 England 2 Drawn 1


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The series turned on one partnership in the first Test at Edgbaston when Colin Cowdrey and Peter May put on 411 for the fourth wicket as England faced an innings defeat. It saved the game and, more importantly, ended the hold that Ramadhin and Valentine had over them - Ramadhin bowled 774 balls in the match, still a record. Thereafter, it was a one-sided contest with England winning three of the remaining four Tests by an innings. Four England batsmen topped 400 runs as the great West Indies side of the 1950s were crushed.
England 3 West Indies 2, Drawn 2


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England sent a young side under May - who was replaced by Cowdrey on health grounds midway through the series - and came home victorious thanks to an innings victory in the second Test, another match marred by serious crowd trouble which caused the abandonment of the third day. Wes Hall was at his fearsome best for West Indies, leading the wicket-takers with 22, although Fred Trueman met fire with fire and ended with 21. Garry Sobers was the pick of the batsmen with 709 runs at 101.28, but Ted Dexter, Ken Barrington and Cowdrey all scored heavily to blunt West Indies' attack.
West Indies 0 England 1 Drawn 4

1928-1960 | 1960-1980 | 1980-1995 | 1995-2011

Martin Williamson is executive editor of Cricinfo