Fifth Test Match

England v West Indies

Norman Preston

Toss: England.

West Indies won with a day to spare and therefore carried off the rubber and the Wisden Trophy by a margin of three victories to one.

There was no question that they were the superior side in all phases given decent weather and a firm pitch, but at the end of three days in this match honours were even. Indeed, England held a first innings lead of 29 and West Indies, batting last, found themselves wanting 253 to win on Saturday evening when they knocked off five without loss.

Trueman was England's key man. His three first innings wickets had given him 34 for the series, a new record for a bowler in an England--West Indies rubber, but he damaged his left ankle on Saturday morning. The injury, diagnosed as a bruised bone, did not respond to treatment over the week-end and as Trueman sent down only one over in the West Indies second innings they found little to trouble them and coasted home comfortably to the delight of hordes of exuberant supporters who filled the Oval all four days.

Those who were present will never forget the fantastic final scene. Early in the day the gates had been closed with 25,350 present. About two-thirds of the attendance were West Indies people now resident in London. They were jubilant, excited and well-behaved, but as Hunte and Butcher got nearer to the target so those in the front crept nearer to the boundary. Then on the stroke of twenty-five minutes past five, Butcher made the winning hit off Statham -- an on drive -- and the ball was never seen again as the hundreds of coloured supporters invaded the field running towards the pavilion. There they stayed for some time cheering their heroes as each appeared on the balcony.

When Dexter won the toss for the second time in the series, the West Indies players were despondent. They feared their chance had gone. England, who had to call in Edrich to replace Stewart who went down with gastro-enteritis, rather surprisingly left out Titmus, but judging from the lack of success which attended Gibbs the selectors were proved right. West Indies preferred Rodriguez as the opening partner for Hunte and so the other ten played in all five Tests, a rare happening.

The match was a great triumph for Hunte, the West Indies vice-captain, who played two grand innings of 80 and 108 not out, and also for Griffith, who took nine wickets. Kanhai and Sobers, too, shone with the bat and Murray, the wicket-keeper, by taking three catches in each innings finished with 24 victims in the series, a record for an official Test rubber.

Worrell, by his calm and astute leadership, held his men together and inspired them to give of their best. The game was also memorable for the action of Buller, the umpire, in taking a firm stand over the problem of dangerous and short pitch intimidatory bouncers delivered by Hall and Griffith.

Early on the first day after Edrich had been struck by Hall and the same bowler, in his sixth over, sent down two successive bouncers at Bolus, Buller walked over to Worrell and said, "We don't want this sort of bowling to get out of hand otherwise I will have to speak to the bowler."

Later, just before the close of play, Buller warned Griffith direct about his short pitched bowling in accordance with the procedure laid down in Law 46 (Fair and Unfair Play) and he also told Worrell that he had spoken to the bowler, saying "Look this can't go on. You will have to stop it skipper." Griffith then remarked, "I am allowed two every over," and Buller replied, "No. You are not allowed any."

Happily, Worrell abided with Buller's action and after play he closed the incident, saying: "As far as I am concerned the umpires are the sole judges of fair and unfair play."

England's opening pair, Bolus and Edrich, showed great courage in withstanding the initial assault by Hall and Griffith. They stayed together for an hour and a half before Bolus, trying to drive Sobers, was taken by Murray.

Edrich went almost the same way in Sobers' next over, and with Dexter and Barrington failing to take charge West Indies captured the first four wickets for 115 runs. Then came a fighting stand of 101 by the two Yorkshiremen, Close and Sharpe, so that England seemed to have recovered at five o'clock when their total reached 216 for 4.

Then Griffith took the new ball and in nine overs went clean through the rest of the side. This spell gave him five wickets for 27 and in the innings he took six for 71, following his success in the previous Test at Headingley where his match figures were nine for 81.

West Indies began their reply next day and though Rodriguez failed England seemed to be in dire straits shortly after tea when the total stood at 184 for three wickets. Then in quick succession two of the West Indies best batsmen, Butcher and Sobers, were run out and the score changed to 198 for five.

Butcher was extremely unlucky. He was backing up when Sobers produced a magnificent straight drive, Lock, the bowler, stuck out a hand, touching the ball which hit the stumps with Butcher out of his ground. A superb return by Close from deep backward point which broke the wicket accounted for Sobers when he was taking a sharp single for a cut by Solomon.

Thereupon Trueman and Statham took the new ball and proceeded to remove Worrell, Murray and Hall. Consequently, West Indies finished the day still wanting 45 for the lead with two wickets left. Hunte, who was third to leave at 152, when he tried to cut, played steadily for his 80 which included seven fours. He was batting three and quarter hours.

During the morning session Close kept wicket most efficiently as Parks was lame from a blow on the left foot by a yorker from Hall the previous evening. An X-ray revealed no serious trouble.

On the third morning (Saturday) Trueman in the gully held Solomon, who had occupied ninety-eight minutes for 16, and then removed Gibbs' leg stump so that England claimed a slight advantage at the half-way state.

The fortunes of the two teams continued to hang on a slender shred. The well-prepared pitch showed no traces of wear and another exciting day's cricket ensued. The exuberant West Indies supporters who thronged the terraces danced with joy, twirled their coloured parosols and flung their cushions high in the air every time an England wicket fell.

England, in keeping with the uncertainty they had shown throughout the summer, again lost their first four wickets cheaply before recovering when Sharpe took part in two stands of 52 with Dexter and Parks.

Sharpe could be criticised for not moving his feet to get to the pitch of the ball but, unlike several of his colleagues, he did keep his bat straight and again he was top scorer for England being last out when he touched a bouncer. He drove splendidly during his stay of three and a quarter hours and hit ten fours.

Barrington enjoyed one glorious over immediately after lunch when he hooked the short stuff from Griffith for 15, but Worrell tendered some fatherly advice to Griffith who then concentrated on a fuller length; no-one could complain in this innings of an excessive barrage of bumpers.

The bowling honours really went to Sobers. He entered the attack with only 18 scored and maintained his left-arm medium fast attack almost through the day. He rarely delivered a bad ball and sent down 33 overs at a cost of only 77 runs for three wickets. Moreover, he suffered from missed catches; otherwise he would have established a unique Test double of 4,000 runs and 100 wickets. He still wants two wickets.

Dexter had a life off him when only 6, Murray intercepting a ball which was going first to Gibbs at slip and Rodriguez at second slip failed to hold an easy chance when Sharpe was 32 and the total 130.

After the tense struggle of the first three days, the complete mastery of the West Indies in the final innings came as a surprise, but with Trueman unable to bowl they were able to pursue a steady course, avoiding unnecessary risks.

Rodriguez helped Hunte to give the innings a solid foundation by seeing the opening stand to 78 and then came the dashing Kanhai. He gave the crowd the type of cricket they wanted and in seventy minutes scored 77 out of a very fine partnership of 113 with Hunte. Finally Butcher contributed 31 to the last unbroken stand of 64. Hunte was the hero. He took out his bat for 108, having defied England for five hours.

The full attendance for the four days came to 97,350 and the receipts amounted to £42,688.

© John Wisden & Co