First Test

England v West Indies

Norman Preston

At Manchester, June 2, 3, 4. West Indies won by an innings and 40 runs with two days to spare. It was the first time England had lost in three days since they went down to Australia at Leeds in 1938 and it was the first time they had been beaten so soon in five-day Test.

No doubt, West Indies were fortunate to win the toss and bat on a newly prepared pitch before it turned in favour of spin. Only thirty wickets went down in the match and of these 24 fell to the slow bowlers.

Titmus and Allen took seven for England, but easily the most deadly artist in this important phase of the game was Gibbs, who with five wickets in each innings, finished with a full analysis of ten for 106. Holford, in his first Test, and Sobers gave sound support and between them claimed seven victims with varied leg spin.

The match was favoured with three days of really hot weather. The England selectors made B. D'Oliveira twelfth man and committed the side to carrying an excessively long tail, which proved a great mistake.

The play followed very much the pattern of the 1963 match on the same ground. Then West Indies batting first scored 501 for six declared, with Hunte 182, and they won by ten wickets, Gibbs's figures being eleven for 157.

Now Hunte dominated the cricket for five hours and made 135 (nineteen 4's) of the first day's total of 343 for five wickets, he being fifth out to the new ball at 283 when he fell to a grand catch at short fine leg.

The cavalier treatment of the England bowlers began with the very first ball which Jones pitched short and Hunte square cut for four with a handsome stroke. Yet in Jones's second over Hunte, when seven and the total 10, was dropped by Higgs on the leg boundary; Higgs appeared to sight the ball very late against the distant background of dark coated spectators.

At times, Jones, Brown and Higgs made the ball fly awkwardly but the West Indies batsmen were adept in punishing anything a shade loose. England began well when Higgs disposed of McMorris and Kanhai (yorked middle stump) in six deliveries but Butcher, Nurse and Sobers helped Hunte in stands of 74, 99 and 68.

In the last two hours Sobers set the seal on the day's play with a devastating exhibition during which he helped himself to 83 while the score rose by 128. Holford arrived for the last hour while Sobers, his elder cousin, collared the bowling, Holford's share of an unbroken stand of 60 amounting to six.

Fielding blunders cost England dearly. Sobers, for all his brilliance, was let off four times; the first when 63, Brown misjudging a high catch from Higgs at long-on. Next morning the West Indies captain offered three more chances when in the nineties and altogether he stayed four hours and eight minutes for his 161, which contained one 6 and twenty-six 4's, being ninth out at 482 just before the innings, which lasted eight hours and ten minutes, closed for 484.

The respect Titmus commanded and the spin he acquired in taking five for 83 in thirty-five overs helped to undermine the confidence of the England batsmen who realised the pitch had already turned in favour of the spin bowling.

England began their reply at half past two on Friday and at once disaster overtook them, Milburn, on his first Test appearance, being run out for a duck. He pushed Hall straight to Gibbs at cover, went for a single, only to be sent back by Russell, but Gibbs had time to sprint across and break the wicket.

Although Russell stayed for ninety minutes, England never recovered from that early reverse and when Smith was fifth to leave Gibbs had already cast his net, his figures reading 9-6-3-3.

Parks and Allen batted sensibly for an hour while adding 58, but the end of the second day found England 163 for eight, needing 122 to save the follow on.

Consequently, just before noon on Saturday, England faced the task of getting 317 to avoid an innings defeat, a feat they did not achieve though they put up a better show at the second attempt.

The two big boys, Milburn and Cowdrey, were the mainstays. Milburn redeemed his duck with a powerful display of big hitting. Dropped three times, he enjoyed plenty of good luck on this sporting pitch and moreover he provided plenty of entertainment for the big crowd.

This time Sobers, against the wind, opened the bowling while Griffith and Hall attacked in turn from the Stretford end. Milburn hooked Hall for 6 and he reached 94 when he hooked Gibbs for 6. Then he slashed across the line of the ball and was bowled, having made his runs out of 166 in two and a half hours. He also hit twelve 4's.

Thereafter, Cowdrey alone proved equal to dealing with Sobers, Gibbs and Holford who were able to make the ball lift and turn in disconcerting fashion. By watchful defence and clean hitting, Cowdrey (nine 4's), stayed for two hours and ten minutes. When heavy clouds threatened rain, Brown remained an hour, making 6 in a stand of 50 with Cowdrey.

With the light indifferent, Sobers stuck to his spinners, who finished the match by a quarter to six. Sobers was the central figure in his side's success. He followed his 161 with skilful leadership, and long spells of bowling in three different forms which earned his three wickets, and he held five catches, four of them in the leg trap.

During the match Griffith was no-balled nine times for overstepping the crease. In turn, each umpire scrutinised his action from square leg, sometimes crossing to point. Hall, with a run of 35 yards, which he covered in 17 paces, was erratic in length and direction, most of his deliveries going down the leg side.

The total attendance for the three days was 61,127; receipts £26,500.

© John Wisden & Co