Cricketers pick their favourites

'How do you bowl to this bloke?'

Part nine: Ian Chappell on the best centuries he's watched. Among them: Doug Walters' assault on spin in Port-of-Spain, 1973 (00:00)

Producer: Ranjit Shinde

September 11, 2012


Doug Walters, 112 v West Indies, Port-of-Spain, 1973

'How do you bowl to this bloke?'

September 11, 2012

Doug Walters plays a shot to the leg side, Marylebone Cricket Club v Australians, Lord's, 2nd day, May 22, 1972
Doug Walters: "They broke the mould once he was born" © PA Photos

Doug Walters
112, v West Indies, Port-of-Spain, 1973

The Australian tour of the Caribbean in the 1972-73 was a strange one. We played the first Test at Sabina Park, and about halfway through that match I thought to myself, "Something funny is going on here, and I can't work out what it is." I told Rodney Marsh that. Standing next to him, I said, "But I'll work it out."

I kept hearing from the locals: "Wait till you get to Trinidad… it spins a lot." We didn't have Ashley Mallett on the tour because he wasn't available. They had Lance Gibbs and Inshan Ali.

About halfway through the Barbados Test - the second one - the penny dropped for me. I said, "Hello, these guys aren't trying to win the first two Test matches. They are waiting for Trinidad because they think they can beat us on a pitch that turns a lot, with Lance Gibbs, and we haven't got Mallett."

I said to Rodney, "That's okay. I don't mind that. We have got a decent batting side and guys who can play spin bowling. So we've got a chance in the game."

I sprained my ankle the day before the Test match. I played but I batted at No. 6. So Greg Chappell went to No. 3 and Dougie Walters bumped up to No. 4. Greg got out second ball of the last over before lunch - caught off Lance Gibbs.

So Doug comes in to face the first ball after lunch. Bear in mind, this is a pitch that is turning a lot and there is a big hole right on the length where Lance Gibbs likes to bowl, just outside the off stump to the right-hander. So it hits the hole, it might go that way, it might go that way, or it might go that way. So life is not that easy, particularly for the right-hander.

What's the toughest shot for a right-hander to play against an offspinner? Cover drive. Doug Walters walks in - four balls still to face from the over in which Greg got out - and he cover-drives the first ball for four. I mean, it is a hard enough shot to play when you are set, never mind you just come in and do it the first ball. And I thought, "Oh, that is a good start."

Well, that was just the beginning of things. He got 102 in the session. Three times in his career Doug Walters scored a hundred in a session in a Test match, and he did it in an international match as well. Now the records aren't complete, but I think that Bradman is probably the only person who scored centuries in a session more times than Doug Walters.

On this occasion in Trinidad, at Queen's Park Oval, as I say, there was a big hole perfectly placed for Gibbs. His field placing for Doug Walters: he had a point, he had a cover, and he had a mid-off. No slips, so only three on the off side, six on the on side.

Doug Walters, his footwork… he wasn't a guy you remember coming out the full three metres, but he was very quick on his feet. He was very decisive. When he came forward, he came forward quickly. When he went back, he went back very quickly. So he was very hard for the spinners to bowl to. And he is the best player of offspin bowling that I have ever seen.

Anyhow, Gibbsy running up, bowling at this hole… and there is one sequence of shots that I will never forget on this occasion. Gibbsy has just missed the hole by about that much, and Doug, quick on to the back foot, and bang - over midwicket, one bounce, and four.

So Gibbsy says, "Right, we'll put an end to this." And he takes the guy from point and puts him out at midwicket on the boundary. So now he has got seven on the on side and two on the off side. Runs in, ball pitches in roughly the same position, Doug Walters, quick, back on the back foot, and also back towards the leg stump, and bang - he cuts the ball straight past point, where Gibbsy has just taken the fielder out from.

Gibbsy now is exasperated, you see. He says, "Right, you," and he calls the guy from midwicket and he puts him back at point. He bowls the next ball and it virtually pitches in the same spot again. Doug: quick, back, bang - and he hits it over midwicket for a four again. And I reckon Gibbsy just threw his hands in the air, almost sort of saying, "How do you bowl to this bloke?"

When I say he is the best player of offspin bowling that I have ever seen, I say that because I have seen him bat against… Gibbsy was the world record-holder, and I saw him bat against [Erapalli] Prasanna. He got his first two hundreds in Test cricket against [Fred] Titmus and [David] Allen from England, who were decent offspin bowlers. But he didn't just survive against them in conditions where it suited the offspiners. There were times when he absolutely clattered them all around the park.

Magnificent player, and one I have always described as a freak. They broke the mould once he was born, because to do what Doug used to do at night, with the smoking and the drinking and staying up late, and then to come out and do what he used to do on the field… quite remarkable.

So Walters got 102 in the session. He went on to make 112, and it is one of the best… probably the second-best Test match that I ever played in. Australia finished up winning the match by 44 runs. At lunch on the last day, West Indies needed 66 to make with five wickets in hand and we finished up winning by 44 runs. But we couldn't have won that match without the innings of Doug Walters.

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