Fifth Test Match

West Indies v England

The final Test was well and deservedly won by England on the strength of two outstanding personal performances -- by Greig, who, bowling almost entirely in his new style as an off-spinner took thirteen wickets for 156, and by Boycott who in each innings played more convincingly that at any time since the first Test on the same ground.

The toss at Port-of-Spain, where the pitch was more benevolent towards bowlers than anywhere else in the West Indies, was always important and it became more so this time with a sixth day added to the match. Denness won it and then saw the advantage dissipated as his side were bowled out for 267.

Of that total Boycott, his form not right but his determination as steadfast as ever, made 99 in six hours, twenty-five minutes. He should have been run out by half the length of the pitch when he had made 9, but Kanhai, who had scrambled towards fine leg from a close-in position, threw badly to the bowler's end. Everything that happened in the rest of England's innings emphasised the importance of that miss.

Only Amiss of the other batsmen made a worthwhile contribution and his 44 was the effort of a man in whom tiredness was at last beginning to show. Boycott's innings was completely defensive -- he once went fifty minutes without scoring -- and it ended when he was caught left-handed by Murray diving far down the leg side, still one run short of his first century on the ground where he had scored 93 in the first Test.

The value of this innings was emphasised by subsequent happenings as England's last six wickets fell for 63 in ninety minutes.

The uneasiness of that position increased as the West Indies moved steadily towards that total. Fredericks and Rowe put on 110 for the first wicket and at lunch time on the third day the West Indies score stood at 208 for two, Rowe 90, Lloyd 40.

Oddly, it was a position from which England began to prosper. In the space of twenty balls Greig took the wickets of Lloyd, Sobers, Kanhai and Murray for six runs so that instead of being in a commanding position when they took the lead, the West Indies had only four wickets left.

The chances of that being converted into a healthy credit balance disappeared when Rowe, who had withheld his strokes to bat with the same sort of caution as Boycott, was ninth out, caught off a full toss for 123. He batted over seven hours, the West Indies totalled 305 and Greig, in a spell of bowling that will rank among the best in Test history, took in the day eight for 33 in 19.1 overs.

Having been saved from annihilation, England batted doggedly, if not with much conviction, in their second innings. Again they dropped into danger as Amiss and Denness were dismissed for 44, but Fletcher stayed with Boycott in a stand of 101 for the third wicket before deterioration set in again. The next three wickets fell for seven runs, Julien claiming two for nine in nine overs.

Boycott achieved his much wanted century after six and three-quarter hours and was then bowled by Gibbs in a manner that caused much controversy. He played forward to Gibbs and then stayed at the crease although the bail lay on the ground. Umpire Sang Hue from the bowler's end checked with his colleague at square-leg before giving him out. Apparently the ball had turned so much that his view of the stumps had been blocked by Boycott's front pad and he checked to make sure that it had hit the wicket.

Fortunately for England, Knott, who seemed to be less troubled than any batsman except Boycott, continued his successful run so that by the time he was lbw to Sobers for 44, the West Indies had been set a target of 226 to win. They started the last day 30 for none which meant that the chances of a West Indies win, an England win or a draw (the match had been constantly interrupted by rain) were all about even. Greig, significantly, had opened the England bowling with off-spinners.

Perhaps in the end the most decisive factor in the result was the tension that built up during the day. The England players withstood it better than those of West Indies, among whom some of the most experienced seemed to be the most vulnerable.

The opening pair were the key players for they were the ones so clearly in form. Nothing much disturbed them until at 63 Rowe played back casually to Birkenshaw and was l.b.w. Two balls later Kallicharran was caught off bat and pad off Greig at first slip, thus finishing a series in which he had batted with extravagance, with a pair. Immediately there followed an incident which may well have cost the West Indies the match.

Fredericks, who had been playing with great calmness and with an unerring judgement of stroke, played a ball from Birkenshaw past Boycott at square leg, ran a single and then surprisingly turned for a second run. Lloyd let him get as far as the middle of the pitch and then ran past him so that Fredericks watched himself being run out by several yards. In nine balls the West Indies had lost three wickets for two runs and the game had changed its complexion.

Greig again took charge for England, dismissing Kanhai and Lloyd, both of whom were clear victims of tension. Then the match swung again as Sobers, playing even in these circumstances with a charm that marked his pedigree, put on 50 for the sixth wicket with Murray, another player of good temperament. Sobers suddenly hit over a ball from Underwood and was bowled, Murray was caught driving at Greig and at 166 for eight West Indies seemed doomed.

Even then they came close to winning, for Inshan Ali, batting with a composure not apparent in some of his betters, was not dismissed until only 29 were needed and Denness in desperation had taken the new ball. Soon the innings ended and England had squared the series in a memorable match that never lacked interest and excitement even if it were sometimes short of quality.

Greig's eight wickets in an innings and thirteen wickets in the match were the best respective performances for England since Jim Laker's nine for 37 and nineteen in the match against Australia at Manchester in 1956. Greig also surpassed Trevor Bailey's seven for 34 at Kingston in 1954 as the best figures for England against West Indies.

© John Wisden & Co