No. 1 December 14, 2008

McGregor catches Weekes

The last hurdle is cleared for New Zealand's first Test win

All sportspersons, as indeed all lovers of sport, live for special moments on the field, moments during which all the action, all the drama, all the sweat and toil, find release. Moments that embody a burst of genius, or ones that capture the significance of a landmark moment. Cricinfo celebrates 50 such moments from the last half-century in this new series (first published in the print version of Cricinfo Magazine) featuring selections by a panel of cricket writers including Mike Coward, Rajan Bala, Tim de Lisle, Suresh Menon, Fazeer Mohammed, Rob Steen, Peter Roebuck, Christian Ryan, Mike Selvey, BC Pires and R Mohan.

History in black and white: the scoreboard from the game © Cricinfo Ltd

Auckland, March 13, 1956

For what seemed an age, but was perhaps five or six seconds, the hearts of 9000 Eden Park faithful stopped beating - and many, many thousands of steam-radio listeners held their breaths - as the ball went steeple-high and then dropped down toward Noel McGregor on the midwicket boundary fence.

In the three previous Tests of the series, Everton de Courcey Weekes and his fellow West Indians hadn't really toured; they had simply taken the lead in a regal procession. The great man had centuries against Auckland, Canterbury and Wellington, and one in each of the three Tests - two of which West Indies won by an innings, and one by 10 wickets.

Weekes had different work to do at Eden Park. New Zealand fought so splendidly that on the last afternoon West Indies needed 268 in four hours - just the sort of challenge Weekes relished. However, by the time the maestro had his baton, his orchestra had lost wickets at 4, 16, 16, 16, 18 and 22.

West Indies were 68, Weekes 31, when the young legspinner Jack Alabaster, trying for extra turn, dragged the ball down short. As soon as he sensed the length, Weekes decided the ball would go over the midwicket fence.

"It turned a little more than I expected, I got it maybe three-four inches too high up the bat," said Weekes afterward.

And wee McGregor: "…when I saw the shot, I knew it was coming to me; then I realised it could be a catch. The thought flashed through my head that if I dropped it, I would hop back over the fence, and disappear in the crowd. Oh, the joy when I held the ball in my hands."

Normal heartbeats ensued until West Indies were out for 77, and New Zealand had their first Test cricket win.

Don Cameron is a writer based in New Zealand