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The M. C. C. tour of the West Indies during the winter of 1934-35 was rendered noteworthy by the fact that it supplied the opportunity for the West Indies to win the Test match rubber and so accomplish a triumph that had hitherto been beyond their powers.
The M. C. C. party, comprising fourteen players, could scarcely be regarded as representative of the full strength of England. It consisted of:--
At the same time, the team, before the events of the tour, were considered sufficient for the occasion. How erroneous this impression proved was shown by the results of the Test matches, two of which ended in handsome victories for the West Indies and one in a win by four wickets for England, with the second of the four left drawn.
England's failure was ascribed to various causes: the lack of real pace in bowling; a strained neck that kept Farnes out of two of the representative games; the fact that Smith could not find his form on the hard wickets; a shortage of spin bowlers. The fact remained, however, that our batting was generally at fault, breaking down badly against the concentrated attack of fast bowling represented by Martindale, Constantine and Hylton, a combination described by Wyatt himself as the best of its kind in the world. While the West Indies never resorted to the packed leg-side, and orthodox placing of the field was usual throughout the tour, some of the England players complained of occasional attempts at intimidation in the matter of short-pitched deliveries and full-tosses directed at the batsmen. Whether or not they resorted to those tactics, the three fast bowlers certainly played a big part in the success of the West Indies, claiming in the four Tests all but 17 of the 64 England wickets that fell to bowlers.
The West Indies, in addition, possessed in George Headley the best batsman for the prevailing conditions. In the Test matches, Headley scored 485 runs for an average of 97, and his 270 not out in the first Test created a new record for his country in matches with England. In the second Test, too, he fell only seven runs short of three figures, and he also obtained 127 for Jamaica against the touring team.
The captaincy of Wyatt did not escape criticism. In the first Test, which England won, he emerged successfully from the battle of tactics when declaring with his side 21 runs behind; but in the second big game fortune went so much against him that the home side proved victorious by the pronounced margin of 217 runs. As in the opening contest of the series, Wyatt, upon winning the toss, sent his opponents in to bat--this time a costly business--and then, with England set 325 to get, he almost entirely reversed the batting order, with dire results. The reason for this extraordinary departure was stated to be that he intended his hitters to wear down the bowling. Against the new ball they never appeared likely to do so. The tour ended most unfortunately for Wyatt. Shortly after the start of England's first innings in the last Test, a rising ball struck him with such severity in the face that he had to retire from the game with a fractured jaw.
Few of the England batsmen showed to advantage in the Test matches, though Ames played a capital innings of 126 in the concluding game. Hammond, however, put together a great 281 not out against Barbados and he obtained two other centuries. Hendren twice reached three figures, but he never approached his form of the 1929-30 tour in the islands when, in all matches, he averaged over 120.
The visiting pace bowlers did not at any time present the same difficulty to batsmen as those of the West Indies, but Hollies, with his slow spinners, bowled consistently well throughout, Paine supported him admirably and Wyatt, in the second fixture with Trinidad, distinguished himself by taking nine wickets for 52 runs.
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