Third Test Match


Geoffrey Wheeler

Toss: West Indies.

This match will assuredly be known in cricket history as The Bomb Scare Test. There was drama on the Saturday afternoon when 28,000 people were ordered to leave the ground following a telephone warning that a bomb had been planted. The call proved to be a hoax but no chances could be taken with the safety of players and spectators because an IRA bomb campaign was in full swing in London at the time.

The incident caused the loss of eighty-five minutes playing time and it was agreed that half an hour would be added to the day's play after further extra time provided for on Monday and Tuesday. But the triumphant West Indies had no need of it and they won with a day and a half to spare. They swept aside a demoralised England side whose margin of defeat had been exceeded once only, at Brisbane on the 1946-47 tour of Australia.

As Illingworth said afterwards "We were outbatted, outbowled and outfielded. There are no excuses." It was a sad end to the Illingworth era, for England's cricketers, with a few doughty exceptions, played without spirit or fight on a pitch of pace and bounce which was a credit to the Lord's groundsman, Jim Fairbrother. Kanhai, Sobers and the exuberant Julien played major innings for West Indies, whose total was their highest in England, while the pace bowlers again provided the sustained aggression which proved too much for the majority of the English batsmen.

The crowd behaviour was once more unsatisfactory. Despite the lessons of The Oval the ground authorities decided to allow spectators to sit on the grass. As West Indies gained the upper hand the unruly elements became more and more uncontrollable and when Boycott was leaving the field on the Saturday evening he was buffeted by a group of them. As a result the crowd were confined to the stands on the Monday, a Bank Holiday, when soon after lunch thousands of West Indians were dancing around the outfield to celebrate victory after a match that was embarrassingly one-sided.

England's hopes of squaring the series had all but disappeared by the end of the first day, which was dominated by Kanhai in magnificent form and ended with the tourists at 335 for four. England brought in Willis for Old and the young fast bowler who performed with great heart and enthusiasm proved one of the few successes.

West Indies made over 100 runs in each session after Fredericks, the "slow coach" of Edgbaston, had sent them away with a rapid, no-nonsense innings of 51. Kanhai, who passed 6,000 runs in Test cricket during his knock, engaged in a partnership of 138 in even time with Lloyd and reached his fifth century against England in three and a half hours. At the end of the day he and Sobers belaboured the attack for 79 and Kanhai, who was 156 not out after batting five and a half hours, received a standing ovation.

He was soon disposed of next morning, and there was a quiet period while Sobers played within himself and Foster struggled against some accurate fast bowling. But England's relief was short-lived for on Foster's dismissal young Julien came in to confirm his high promise by making his maiden century in a Test match. His first two scoring strokes went to the boundary before he was missed on the long-leg boundary by Fletcher off Greig. Thereafter Julien gave the bowlers little encouragement, striking the ball cleanly, powerfully and in mainly orthodox fashion to all parts of the ground in a thrilling display. In the last fifty-three minutes before lunch he and Sobers added 81, Julien's share being 47. Sobers moved gracefully to his twenty-sixth Test hundred for his country and the partnership was worth 155 in under two hours, a seventh wicket record for West Indies against England before a stomach upset caused Sobers to retire temporarily.

Julien went on at a fine pace reaching his hundred in two and a half hours from 127 balls. At this point some spectators could restrain themselves no longer and the first serious pitch invasion of the match took place. Sobers returned to take his score to 150 including nineteen fours in four and three-quarter hours before Kanhai called off the onslaught on the weary England bowlers.

England were soon in trouble. Boycott, trying to hook a rising ball outside the off-stump, was caught at first slip and although Amiss and Fletcher frequently pierced the attacking field in the closing overs England finished in the unhappy position of having three wickets down for 88.

On a fine Saturday the ground was packed to capacity. Although Amiss was soon accounted for, England made a useful recovery as the confident Fletcher and a rather fortunate Greig added 79 for the fifth wicket. The loss of Fletcher and Illingworth to successive balls just before lunch sent the innings into its final decline. The successful bowler, Gibbs, had them both smartly taken by Sobers crouched at close backward short-leg, the two best of his six catches in the match which equalled the Test record for a fieldsman.

Half an hour after the interval, as Willis came out to join Arnold, the secretary of MCC announced over the loudspeakers that the ground would have to be cleared. For some time the players stayed in the middle surrounded by curious spectators. Eventually the West Indies went back to their hotel in Maida Vale and the England players to a tent behind the pavilion while police searched the empty stands. Thousands stayed on the playing area, refusing to leave.

When play resumed at 4.30 only a few thousand spectators had failed to return to watch cricket in an unreal atmosphere. The England innings closed at 233 and they followed-on 419 behind. Eighty-five minutes remained when Boycott and Amiss went out and with the West Indies fast bowlers showing reaction from their earlier efforts the batsmen did well enough for sixty-five minutes. Then Boyce, called upon for a final burst from the pavilion end, removed most remaining doubts about the eventual outcome by taking three wickets for six runs in 3.5 overs. His victims were Amiss, Knott and Boycott.

The Yorkshireman fell into an obvious trap in the final over by hooking a short ball direct to Kallicharran on the square leg boundary. It was a stroke of remarkably ill judgement by a player of such class and experience, but it emphasised the depths to which the England batting had sunk during the series.

A fine innings in a lost cause by Fletcher kept the game going until shortly before three o'clock on Monday. As in his first innings he showed how to deal with the fast, short-pitched ball and played well enough to deserve a century. Underwood, his last partner, stayed while 47 were added but Fletcher was still 14 short of three figures when Gibbs ended the match by bowling Underwood.

The Prudential-Wisden awards of £150 went to G. S. Sobers and R. G. D. Willis. Special prizes of £100 for the series went to C. H. Lloyd and K. W. R. Fletcher and the £300 award for the Player of the Series was won by K. D. Boyce. Attendance: 95,530. Receipts: £87,304.

© John Wisden & Co