The West Indies defeated Australia for the first time by two Tests to one in the series for the unofficial championship of the world. For the most part they were worthy of their new status, although the sharp edge of triumph was frayed by the controversy surrounding the bowling action of Charlie Griffith.
The rich and varied talents at his disposal were skilfully used by the new captain, Garfield Sobers, and after three Tests the West Indies led two victories to nothing.
By all logic, Australia, twice well beaten and seemingly without luck or hope, should have been close to the point of surrender. Logic, however, mercifully remains a total stranger to cricket in the West Indies, and, in the face of form and predictions, Australia made the bold running in the drawn fourth Test, and handsomely won the last on an unpredictable pitch at Port of Spain with three days to spare. Australia's finest hours were in the shadow of defeat.
Two outstanding bowling performances took the West Indies to their position of strength by the end of three Tests. The fast bowling of Hall won the first at Kingston, where the bounce was not always predictable, and the off breaks of Gibbs the third in his native British Guiana. Hall took nine of his 16 wickets in the series at Kingston, and if he was not able to produce such devastation again it was probably the most important single contribution of bowling in the five Tests.
In 10 innings Sobers' highest score was 69, and his 12 wickets cost 41.00 each. His figures belie his considerable influence. Never has there been a more versatile and skilled cricketer at international level. He bowled spin of two types, often used the new ball, and was always conspicuous with his fielding in varying positions.
He was three great players in one, and he seemed to thrive on his extra responsibilities of leadership. As captain he showed an instinctive tactical sense which never let him down. He was a worthy successor to Sir Frank Worrell. No higher praise can be given.
Indifferent running between the wickets was a big factor in the unevenness of the West Indies batting. At the start Kanhai struggled to find his touch, but there was the compensatory brilliance of Butcher, and always the invaluable steadiness of Hunte.
The most consistently successful bowler on either side was Hawke, whose stamina and fast-improving skills admirably served his side at all times. Cowper, the left-handed batsman, also made a striking advance.
Until it rediscovered its poise and strength in the fourth Test when Simpson and Lawry created a world record by becoming the first to score double centuries in the same innings, Australia's batting suffered from poor starts. The middle order often found it difficult to hold fast against the combined assaults of Hall and Griffith.
The one cloud on the West Indies horizon, and which darkened the sunny relations between the two countries, was the argument caused by Griffith's action. Australia's complaints, though never officially voiced, were often directed at Griffith's most dangerous deliveries, his yorker and short pitcher.
Richie Benaud, the former captain of Australia, led the criticisms, but, as in England in 1963, Griffith was accepted by the West Indies umpires. At the end of the tour the simmering bitterness came to boil in articles published under O'Neill's name. They, in turn, provoked an official protest from the President of the Board of Control for cricket in the West Indies.
Throughout, crowds were large and enthusiastic, once again emphasising the hold cricket has in the Caribbean.
First-Class Matches -- Played 10, Won 3, Lost 2, Drawn 5
All Matches -- Played 16, Won 4, Lost 3, Drawn 9
Test Matches -- Played 5, Won 1, Lost 2, Drawn 2
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