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After an interval of seven years during which West Indies played twenty Test matches without a taste of victory they came to England last summer under Rohan Kanhai and regained the Wisden trophy with convincing wins at The Oval and Lord's between which they fell from grace at Edgbaston where they played for a draw in a display that did no good to the name of cricket.
Considering that earlier in the year the West Indies had failed in the Caribbean against Australia, their sudden resuscitation came as a surprise to many people, but as Henry Blofeld remarked in his review of that tour, which can be found in the latter pages of this edition, the potential of the team was unmistakeable.
There can be no two opinions that the presence of Garfield Sobers was the main cause for West Indies regaining their former glory. Before the party to tour England was considered, Sobers, who because of a troublesome knee injury from which he was recovering following an operation, informed the selectors that he preferred to play the whole summer for Nottinghamshire although he would be available for the three Tests if he was required.
Prior to the Australian visit, Sobers had played 86 times for West Indies, 39 as captain and it seemed that there his Test career had finished. Mishaps to two opening batsmen after the side reached England opened the way for Sobers' recall. In only the second engagement, at Southampton, Camacho, who batted in spectacles, went to hook a short ball from a fellow West Indian, Andy Roberts, and was hit in the face. He underwent an operation for a depressed fracture of the cheek and returned home after The Oval Test. Much was expected from Rowe, who on his Test debut against New Zealand in 1971-72 made 214 and 100 not out, but he had pulled ligaments in his ankle when fielding against Australia and although he had been passed fit he could not stay at the crease much longer than an hour before it became painful.
So Rowe also withdrew from the side which left two batting vacancies. One was filled by persuading Worcestershire to release the left-handed Ron Headley, son of the famous George Headley, and at the same time Sobers was engaged solely for the three Tests. And he was a great success in all three. In five innings he scored 10 and 51; 21 and 74, and 150. He also took three wickets in England's first innings in each of the first two Tests and at Lord's he equalled a Test record by holding six catches in the match. I have seen Sobers tear an attack apart in many of his wonderful batting displays, but for a well-controlled and disciplined exhibition of brilliant strokes coupled with sound defence that 150 at Lord's portrayed the true master. And it must be remembered that his reliable slip fielding was another asset he brought to his side, for they had put down chances galore when facing Australia without him.
It was a leavening of youth and experience that made this team such a formidable combination. Only David Murray, reserve wicket-keeper, Inshan Ali (left-arm wrist spin) and E. T. Willett had not previously visited England. Nine of the original party were county cricketers and in the second Test the whole West Indies eleven were experienced in county cricket, which made one wonder whether they had picked up those things which offend from their English environment. They certainly failed at the time to live up to the carefree and sporting tradition of their predecessors.
Fortunately this was an isolated occasion and that the tour went through so successfully for the most part and with only a single defeat--in the match against a powerful side got together by D. H. Robins--was in no small measure due to the tactful direction of the manager, Mr. Esmond Kentish.
As many as five members of the side each hit one hundred in the three Test matches, a fact which emphasised the strength of the batting which included seven left-handers. Clive Lloyd gave some grand displays and with Fredericks exceeded 1,000 runs for the tour. Many delightful innings were played by Kanhai and Kallicharran, but perhaps the real find of the tour was Julien who obviously had made great strides with both bat and ball since he joined Kent in 1970. Much will surely be heard of him for some years to come.
Yet no one did more in contributing to the downfall of England than Keith Boyce, who came to Essex in 1965. A genuine fast bowler, he surpassed himself in the first Test at The Oval where on his first appearance against England he took eleven wickets for 147--by a fraction the best analysis in Test cricket for the West Indies--and was in dazzling form with the bat while making 72. Small wonder a tired Boyce performed moderately in the second Test a fortnight later, but he was back to his best in the third Test at Lord's where he claimed four victims in each England innings. And here Julien showed his versatility, for when going in number eight he raced to fifty in an hour and altogether hit two sixes and eighteen fours in his 121 out of a stand of 237 in two hours fifty minutes with Sobers.
Holder, tall and strong, was another aggressive attacker who played an important part, and though Gibbs in his last season for Warwickshire took only nine wickets in the Tests his skill and guile remained undiminished. It was a pity that room could not be found for Inshan Ali in the last two Tests, but this side was bursting with talent and the West Indies selectors preferred to follow the modern trend of relying mainly on seam bowling.
Foster, who finished second in the tour batting, average 63.69, had to stand down for Headley, who did not approach his Worcestershire form for the first two Tests. There was much agitation in Jamaica against Foster's omission and he rightly appeared in the third Test, but made only nine in the West Indies record total of 652 for eight declared.
England's defeat at Lord's by an innings and 226 runs was the heaviest reverse suffered at home and was surpassed in English cricket only by the drubbing in Brisbane in 1946-47 when Australia won by an innings and 332 runs.
The side contained two excellent wicket-keepers, Deryck Murray of much experience, and David Murray, who at twenty was by a few days the youngest member of the party and unrelated to his namesake. This latter Murray also gave indications of developing into a fine batsman. Few touring teams have matched Kanhai's side in the field. They held their catches and saved many runs by their acceleration in getting to the ball, notably Clive Lloyd and little Alvin Kallicharran.
Wisden in conjunction with the Prudential Assurance Company marked the series by awarding £1,400 in prize money for individual performances and £1,400 to the Test and County Cricket Board. Boyce won the £300 award for the player of the series and special prizes of £100 apiece went to Lloyd ( West Indies) and Fletcher ( England). Awards of £150 apiece at the end of each Test went to Boyce and Hayes at the Oval; Fredericks and Arnold at Edgbaston and Sobers and Willis at Lord's. The judges were Esmond Kentish, John Arlott and the Editor of Wisden.
And finally, thinking of money, the receipts of £87,305 taken at Lord's in four days were a record, beating £82,819 taken at Lord's in the previous summer when England met Australia.
Test Matches--Played 3: Won 2, Drawn 1.
All First-Class Matches--Played 18: Won 7, Lost 1, Drawn 10.
Wins-- England (2), Hampshire, Nottinghamshire, Glamorgan, Combined Services, Derbyshire.
Loss--Derrick Robins' XI.
Draws-- England (1), Essex, Middlesex, Sussex, Kent, Young England, Minor Counties, Gloucestershire, Yorkshire, T. N. Pearce's XI.
Non First-Class Matches (one-day)--Played 5: Won 3, Lost 1, Drawn 1.
Wins: England, T. N. Pearce's XI, Glamorgan.
Draw: Yorkshire League XI.
Match reports for
Tour Match: Essex v West Indians at Chelmsford, Jun 20-22, 1973
Tour Match: Hampshire v West Indians at Southampton, Jun 23-26, 1973
Tour Match: DH Robins' XI v West Indians at Eastbourne, Jun 27-29, 1973
Tour Match: Nottinghamshire v West Indians at Nottingham, Jun 30-Jul 3, 1973
Tour Match: Middlesex v West Indians at Lord's, Jul 4-6, 1973
Tour Match: Glamorgan v West Indians at Swansea, Jul 7-10, 1973
Tour Match: Glamorgan v West Indians at Swansea, Jul 8, 1973
Tour Match: Sussex v West Indians at Hove, Jul 14-17, 1973
Tour Match: Kent v West Indians at Canterbury, Jul 18-20, 1973
Tour Match: Young England v West Indians at Manchester, Jul 21-24, 1973
Tour Match: Minor Counties v West Indians at Torquay, Aug 1-3, 1973
Tour Match: Gloucestershire v West Indians at Cheltenham, Aug 4-7, 1973
Tour Match: Yorkshire v West Indians at Scarborough, Aug 18-21, 1973
Tour Match: Derbyshire v West Indians at Chesterfield, Aug 29-31, 1973
Tour Match: TN Pearce's XI v West Indians at Scarborough, Sep 1-4, 1973
Tour Match: TN Pearce's XI v West Indians at Scarborough, Sep 2, 1973