Cricinfo XI

One-way traffic

Andrew Miller and Martin Williamson look at some depressingly one-sided Test series

Martin Williamson and Andrew Miller

May 16, 2006

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The one-sided nature of West Indies' series win over Zimbabwe was hardly an advertisement for the game, but it is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that a side has failed to compete. Here Cricinfo recalls 11 of the most (or least) memorable. Are there other more deserving selections? Send your thoughts to feedback



The daunting figure of Warwick Armstrong and England captain Johnny Douglas ahead of the Sydney Test in 1920-21 © The Cricketer
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Australia v England (5-0) 1920-21
Both countries were weakened by the Great War and England were reluctant to tour so soon, but were persuaded to do so and almost immediately regretted the decision. Whereas England had effectively banned cricket for much of the war, Australia had continued playing, and the difference was clear. Australia won all five Tests by thumping margins - 377 runs, an innings and 91 runs, 119 runs, eight wickets, and nine wickets - and only in the third Test were England remotely in the hunt. Australia's batsmen scored heavily, aided by poor catching by the tourists, and that gave their bowlers runs to play with. Arthur Mailey took 36 wickets in the series, at the time a record haul. England's misery was to be continued when Australia toured the following summer - the two teams returned on the same ship - and the losing run was extended to eight Tests.

England v New Zealand (4-0) 1958
Many consider the 1958 New Zealanders as the weakest side to have toured England. In a dismal summer - more than 29 days' play on the trip were lost through bad weather - their side was woefully inexperienced and their batsmen simply not good enough. In the first four Tests their scores were 94 and 137 at Edgbaston; 47 and 74 at Lord's; 67 and 129 at Headingley; and 267 and 85 at Old Trafford. Only rain at The Oval - where they scored 161 and 91 for 3 - saved them from a whitewash. England went one better the following summer, thrashing the Indians 5-0, but in between they were overwhelmed 4-1 in Australia.



Nari Contractor clutches his head after being struck by Charlie Griffith, the lowpoint of India's dismal Caribbean tour in 1961-62 © The Cricketer
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West Indies v India (5-0) 1961-62
India travelled in hope after beating England at home earlier in the season, but, in a portent of things to come, their own board arranged a schedule which gave them no time to recover and meant they took to the field in their first match in Trinidad less than 12 hours after completing a marathon trip to the Caribbean. Their only first-class win in 10 outings came in their final match against Leeward Islands. In the Tests they had no answer to Wes Hall, Garry Sobers and Lance Gibbs, who took 74 wickets between them, while only one Indian - Salim Durani - took more than ten. India's batsmen, with the exception of Polly Umrigar, showed little stomach for the fight; Wisden described it as "inept". The Indians morale was further sapped by the life-threatening injury Nari Contractor, their captain, sustained midway through the tour.

South Africa v Australia (4-0) 1969-70
The last hurrah for the old South Africa, but what a farewell and a sign of what might have been. Australia, weary from a gruelling tour of India, were an unhappy squad and disputes over pay (were it not for a row over cash, this would have been a five-Test series) and conditions further undermined their morale. By contrast, South Africa were hungry, having not played for three years, and young. All four Tests followed a familiar pattern, with South Africa winning the toss, rattling up a massive score and then ripping Australia apart. "Demoralised by the batting failures and an unbelievable epidemic of dropped catches - totalling almost 30 in the series - the outcome was invariably a foregone conclusion," observed Wisden. It was to be the only time that players such as Barry Richards, Mike Procter, Eddie Barlow and Graeme Pollock played Test cricket together.



The only way is down: Gordon Greenidge is out to the ninth ball of the series, lbw to Dennis Lillee, in 1975-76 © The Cricketer
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Australia v West Indies (5-1) 1975-76
This was billed as the battle for the world championship, but in turned out to be as one-sided as the Ashes had been a year earlier. West Indies did level the six-match series at Perth, but thereafter their batsmen were helpless as Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson wreaked havoc and battered West Indies into submission. Although the tourists had their own arsenal of fast men, the Australians played them much better than the West Indians, who largely adopted a suicidal and unsuccessful attack-your-way-out-of-trouble approach. Clive Lloyd was reluctant to use Lance Gibbs, his veteran spinner, and the seeds of the West Indies all-out pace attack which dominated the 1980s were sown.

Australia v England (1-5) 1978-79
It is unlikely that Australia ever fielded a weaker side than against Mike Brearley's England in 1978-79. With the bulk of their front-line players having defected to World Series Cricket and serious internal disputes blighting morale, Australia lost five home Tests for the only time in their history. The series started with the official Australia side attracting large crowds, but these dropped off alarmingly as the series ground on. If the humiliations achieved anything, it was to prompt the settlement with Kerry Packer at the end of the season. The only home player to emerge with credit was Rodney Hogg, who grabbed 41 wickets at 12.85. England completed the rout in front a smattering of spectators at Sydney as a lone bugler on The Hill sounded The Last Post.



Mike Gatting departs, nose shattered, on a trip which produced the Frances Edmonds book Another Bloody Tour © Getty Images
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West Indies v England (5-0) 1985-86
After England's Ashes victory in the summer of 1985, David Gower's assertion that West Indies would be "trembling in their boots" was doubtless meant as a tongue-in-cheek remark. But like Tony Greig's "grovelling" faux pas of a decade earlier, Gower did little but provoke West Indies' mean machine into a full frontal assault. On a brutal 11-week campaign, England's batsmen were made to fear for their lives, from the moment when Malcolm Marshall shattered Mike Gatting's nose in the first one-dayer in Jamaica, to the arrival of the evilly quick Patrick Patterson, at the same ground three weeks later. As Gower and Co. sought solace on luxury yachts at the expense of compulsory net practice, Viv Richards showed that the dominance extended to all aspects of the series, by flailing a 56-ball hundred, the fastest in Tests at the time, to complete a 5-0 whitewash on his home ground at Antigua.

England v Australia (0-4) 1989

It seems comical to recall now that England actually began the 1989 series as favourites. The previous summer had resulted in a 4-0 hammering at home to West Indies, and by recalling Gower to the captaincy, England had moved blithely onto their fifth leader in seven Tests. Australia, meanwhile, had stealthily regrouped since their nadir of the mid-1980s, and under the hard-bitten leadership of Allan Border and the coach Bobby Simpson, they landed in England with a singular aim - to regain the Ashes. Gower was taken aback by the transformation in Border's attitude, and so too were his team, as they were pounded relentlessly for six Tests out of six. But for rain they would have lost the lot, and a 4-0 scoreline told only half the story. England used 29 players to Australia's 12, half the team walked out at Old Trafford to join a rebel tour, and Graham Gooch was so tormented by Terry Alderman that he dropped himself before the selectors had a chance. The precedent for a grim decade of Ashes humiliations had been set.



Gatting and Graham Gooch search - in vain - for inspiration in India © Getty Images
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India v England (3-0) 1992-93
These days, a tour of India is acknowledged as the greatest test of a team's mettle, but England had forgotten that minor detail as they embarked on this humiliating campaign. The signs were not good from the moment the squad was selected, with Gower and Jack Russell controversially omitted from the squad, to the fury of the MCC who debated (and narrowly failed to pass) a vote of no confidence in the selectors. Maybe the MCC had a point, because England's decision to enter the Calcutta Test with a four-seam attack, when their counterparts opted for three spinners, smacked of incompetence all round. Phil DeFreitas didn't take a first-class wicket all tour, Gooch ate a plate of dodgy prawns before the Madras Test and fell ill with food poisoning, and Ted Dexter, the chairman of selectors, blamed the smog for England's eventual 3-0 whitewashing. Mohammad Azharuddin, Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli were the stars with the bat for India, while Richard Blakey, the man who stepped in for Russell, made seven runs in four innings and was tormented throughout by Anil Kumble.

South Africa v West Indies (5-0) 1998-99
In the downward spiral of West Indian fortunes since the end of the 1980s, few moments top this in terms of sheer humiliation. Their first official tour of South Africa should have been an opportunity to demonstrate to the post-Apartheid nation the pride and aspirations of the Afro-Caribbean people, and provide an inspiration for the vast untapped potential in the black townships. Instead West Indies were ridiculed by a team that, on paper, was little better than their own. The tour was undermined from the start by a pay dispute, and crisis talks had to be held at a hotel near Heathrow Airport after the captain and vice-captain, Brian Lara and Carl Hooper, were first sacked then reinstated. As if that was not enough, Jimmy Adams flew home after apparently cutting his hand on a butterknife, an apt metaphor for the ease with which South Africa's sliced through West Indies' resistance in all five Tests. "We were not together as a team," admitted an understated Lara afterwards.

Australia v South Africa (3-0) 2001-02
By some warped ramifications of the ICC Test Championship table, South Africa needed only a draw in their series in Australia to take over as the world's No. 1 side. Fortunately for the credibility of the concept, they never came close. Three thumping defeats in three left those pretensions to the title in tatters, as Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden amassed five centuries between them in six innings to confirm their arrival as one of cricket's great opening partnerships. South Africa's outward display of unity was undermined ahead of the third Test at Sydney, when Jacques Rudolph's debut was vetoed by Percy Sonn, the UCB President, and the Cape Coloured Justin Ontong was cast into the lion's den instead. By the time the teams crossed the Indian Ocean for the return series two months later, South Africa's resistance was spent. Adam Gilchrist slammed a brace of astonishing hundreds to wrap up the series with a game to spare, and at one stage during his double-century at Johannesburg, he began actively seeking to hit a distant billboard behind the midwicket boundary, which was promising a million-dollar prize to the first person to do so.

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Martin Williamson Executive editor Martin Williamson joined the Wisden website in its planning stages in 2001 after failing to make his millions in the internet boom when managing editor of Sportal. Before that he was in charge of Sky Sports Online and helped launch and run Sky News Online. With a preference for all things old (except his wife and children), he has recently confounded colleagues by displaying an uncharacteristic fondness for Twenty20 cricket. His enthusiasm for the game is sadly not matched by his ability, but he remains convinced that he might be a late developer and perseveres in the hope of an England call-up with his middle-order batting and non-spinning offbreaks. He is now managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group as well as his Cricinfo responsibilities.

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