Fourth Test

AUSTRALIA v WEST INDIES 1992-93

Toss: West Indies. Test debut: J. L. Langer.

Adelaide 1992-93 took its place as one of the greatest of all Test matches when Craig McDermott failed to get out of the way of a lifter from Courtney Walsh and gloved a catch to give West Indies victory by one run, the narrowest victory anyone has achieved in 116 years of Test cricket.

But it had been a game of fluctuating fortunes throughout. When Australia, needing 186 to win, lost their eighth second-innings wicket for 102, it appeared to have made its decisive shift. But then the 22-year-old debutant Justin Langer, who came in only when Martyn was injured at pre-match practice, added 42 with the No. 10 Tim May, who was playing his first Test in four years. After that May and the last ma McDermott put on another 40 to get Australia within two of their target.

The unfolding drama lifted the TV cricket ratings in Australia to a new record. And, with the Adelaide Oval within walking distance of the city centre, new spectators rushed to the ground. Finally, a short ball from Walsh, pitched on off stump, lifted to brush McDermott's hand on its way through to Murray. Umpire Hair upheld the appeal. The West Indians on the field celebrated emotionally. The crowd who had been singing Waltzing Matilda as Australia inched towards their goal were stunned into silence.

The Australian captain Border did not dispute Hair's decision, though he said that, like the result, it was a very close one. "What can you say - one run? I was very confident of getting 186 at the start of the day." His opposite number Richardson said: "I knew Walshy would get a wicket with that very ball. I never lost hope." Both leaders paid tribute to the man who made the result possible: Ambrose consolidated his reputation as the world's leading fast bowler with ten wickets in the match and a burst of three wickets in 19 balls after lunch to dismiss Steve Waugh, Border and Hughes. "I have never seen a bowler like him," said Richardson.

The pitch had been kept covered against unusually wet weather and was much fresher than is normal in Adelaide. But it was not only fast bowlers who prospered. The off-spinner May delighted his home crowd on his return to Test cricket by taking five wickets for five runs in 32 balls as the West Indians' second innings folded. West Indies first-innings 252 was the highest total of the match, and that was disappointing after Haynes and Simmons had provided a comfortable start of 84. Hughes was rewarded for his persistence with five wickets but Australia had a foretaste of difficulties ahead as they lost Taylor in the second over and a stunning blow from Bishop split Langer's helmet shortly before the close.

Boon, hit on the forearm, was forced to retire hurt early on the rain-shortened second day. Returning when five wickets were down, he was left unbeaten as Australia conceded a lead of 39 on a remarkable third day which saw 17 wickets fall for 259 runs. An incisive opening spell by McDermott reduced West Indies to 65 for four and, after Richardson and Hooper added 59, the last six wickets collapsed for 22 in nine overs of spin, largely due to careless batting. May did most of the damage and took five of the wickets but the most crucial one belonged to Warne: Richardson for 72, having passed 5,000 Test runs.

On the fourth day, Australia started their quest for the victory that would have given them the Frank Worrell Trophy. They lost both openers cheaply and when four wickets fell for ten runs in the first half hour after lunch - three of them to Ambrose - it appeared certain that West Indies would square the series. Langer's determined resistance and his partnerships with Warne and May lifted Australian hopes, before May, batting with an injured hand, and McDermott brought them so close.

Man of the Match:C. E. L. Ambrose. Attendance: 57,573.

Close of play: First day, Australia 2-1 (D. C. Boon 1*, J. L. Langer 0*); Second day, Australia 100-3 (S. R. Waugh 35*, A. R. Border 18*); Third day, West Indies 146.

© John Wisden & Co