Tests: West Indies 2 Australia 1, ODIs: West Indies 1 Australia 4

The Australians in the West Indies, 1990-91

Australia's sixth tour of the West Indies began with exalted expectations of an epic contest between arguably the two strongest teams in the game. That in the event such hopes were unrealised was due to several factors. First of all, unseasonal rain - combined in Jamaica with inefficient covering of the square - reduced the First and Third Tests by at least a day and a half each, leaving them as the only two draws of the series. And secondly, in reasserting their long-held paramouncy in Test cricket, West Indies won the Second and Fourth Tests by irrefutable margins, so deciding the rubber before the final match in Antigua, where Australia gained belated consolation with their first Test victory in the Caribbean since April 1978. However, West Indies' victory in the Second Test was somewhat devalued by the bizarre and incorrect run-out decision against the Australian batsman, Dean Jones, following a no-ball.

Above all else, what should have been a compelling advertisement for cricket was ruined by the obvious acrimony between the teams. This manifested itself time and again in verbal altercations on the field, and the rancour was accentuated by the television cameras which, for the first time, were transmitting live, ball-by-ball coverage back to Australia from the Caribbean. After the final Test, the umpires were moved to report to the West Indies Board on the abusive language used in the middle by certain players, and even the two Boards became involved in a succession of verbal exchanges, conducted through press releases, after comments by the West Indies captain, Vivian Richards, which were critical of the Australian team coach, Bob Simpson, himself a former Test captain.

At the final presentation ceremony, the president of the West Indies Board, Clyde Walcott, a great player in his time, referred to the soured relations, and it seemed appropriate that the Frank Worrell Trophy was nowhere to be found. It transpired that it had been lost since the West Indians' tour of Australia in 1984-85. Given that it was inaugurated to honour the late West Indies captain of the unforgettable 1960-61 series in Australia, its presence in such circumstances would have been incongruous.

West Indies owed their retention of the Frank Worrell Trophy to their experience, their self-confidence and their positive approach. They also revealed a strong sense of pride, for after the 4-1 defeat in the one-day internationals, their first such reversal at home, there was concerted pressure from the press and public to change several of the great, but aging, players, whose records were on the wane. The selectors refused to be panicked and struck to the same eleven throughout the five Tests, a policy thoroughly vindicated by the outcome.

The West Indians' spirit was repeatedly in evidence as they fought their way out of seemingly impossible positions time and again. On the first day of the series they were 75 for six, with one of their three injured batsmen in hospital and Nos. 7 and 9 together, yet they still recovered to reach 264. When Australia appeared to be heading for a huge lead on the third day, West Indies captured their last five wickets for 14 runs. In the Second Test, Australia batted through the first day and a half for a respectable 348 but were beaten by ten wickets with ample time to spare; in the truncated Third Test, they were through the top order, only to be thwarted by West Indies' eighth-wicket pair. At Bridgetown, Australia despatched West Indies for their lowest total in a home Test for eighteen years in the first innings, and proceeded to lose by the humiliating margin of 343 runs. Such West Indian resilience undermined Australia's spirit, although when West Indies dropped their guard and seemed to relax in the final Test, Australia seized their chance.

The main difference between the teams was in attitude. The Australians consistently erred on the side of caution; the West Indians, especially in adversity, chose the option of counter-attack. The contrast was best seen in the Second Test, which was the turning-point in the series. After Australia had taken 116.4 overs to total 348 on a true pitch and a fast, small outfield, Desmond Haynes and Richie Richardson promptly seized the initiative with a partnership of 297 in 70 overs. Richardson's 182, an exhilarating exhibition of strokeplay, was enough on its own to earn him the Man of the Series award, without account being taken of his second-innings century in the First Test and his scintillating 99 in the Fourth. Australia's reticence was also clear in the decision to load their batting in the Third and Fourth Tests, limiting the attack to three specialist bowlers, even though they were behind in the series.

There were other distinctions as well. While West Indies could rely on each of their four fast bowlers - so that the absence of Ian Bishop, with a stress fracture of the lower vertebrae, was scarcely felt - Australia's main bowler, Craig McDermott, lacked consistent support. Fast, straight and aggressive, with a telling yorker complemented by a superbly disguised slower ball, McDermott took 24 wickets at 23.50 and rarely had a bad spell. But Merv Hughes, interspersing the good with the bad, paid dearly for his inconsistency, his nineteen wickets costing 31 apiece, while the lack of form, fitness and, more pertinently, confidence which limited the tall left-hander, Bruce Reid, to five wickets in two Tests, proved a crucial handicap for Australia. There was another significant difference, too, between the fast bowlers - their batting. In 24 combined innings, the Australians contributed 62 runs; in 27, the West Indian bowlers at the end of the order totalled 322. It usually meant a swift final collapse on the one hand, and an essential late rally on the other.

The batting of both teams was spasmodic and disappointing. Haynes and Richardson carried West Indies, even though Gordon Greenidge regained his old touch with a masterful double-century in the Fourth Test. The middle order remained unreliable, with the result that Jeffrey Dujon, who enjoyed a fine series in front of and behind the stumps, had to mount recoveries in partnership with Curtly Ambrose in the First and Third Tests. For Australia, only the elegant Mark Waugh, who on his first tour looked a class cricketer through and through, and the solid left-handed opener, Mark Taylor, did themselves justice. Allan Border and Dean Jones passed 50 only once each in nine Test innings, and Geoff Marsh fell away badly after scoring heavily in the one-day internationals.

The series was almost certainly the last at home for several of those cricketers who had featured prominently in West Indies' prolonged dominance of the international game. If Richards had the disappointment of a miserable time with the bat, concluded with scores of 0 and 2 in the final Test in his native Antigua, this was counter-balanced by the knowledge that he remained the only West Indian captain not to lose a rubber. By the time the countries meet again in a full series in Australia in 1992-93, the personnel in the teams is likely to have changed, and it is to be hoped that the relationship between the players will have changed also.


AUSTRALIAN TOUR RESULTS

Test matches- Played 5: Won 1, Lost 2, Drawn 2.

First-class matches- Played 10: Won 2, Lost 2, Drawn 6.

Wins- West Indies, Jamaica.

Losses- West Indies (2).

Draws- West Indies (2), WICBC President's XI, Trinidad & Tobago, West Indies Under-23 XI, West Indies Cricket Board of Control XI.

One-day internationals- Played 5: Won 4, Lost 1.

Other non first-class matches- Played 4: Won 4. Wins- Trinidad & Tobago, Bermuda (3).

Match reports for

1st ODI: West Indies v Australia at Kingston, Feb 26, 1991
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1st Test: West Indies v Australia at Kingston, Mar 1-6, 1991
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2nd ODI: West Indies v Australia at Port of Spain, Mar 9, 1991
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3rd ODI: West Indies v Australia at Port of Spain, Mar 10, 1991
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4th ODI: West Indies v Australia at Bridgetown, Mar 13, 1991
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5th ODI: West Indies v Australia at Georgetown, Mar 20, 1991
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2nd Test: West Indies v Australia at Georgetown, Mar 23-28, 1991
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3rd Test: West Indies v Australia at Port of Spain, Apr 5-10, 1991
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4th Test: West Indies v Australia at Bridgetown, Apr 19-24, 1991
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5th Test: West Indies v Australia at St John's, Apr 27-May 1, 1991
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© John Wisden & Co