West Indies 1 England 1

M.C.C. in West Indies, 1973-74

For England to have drawn the series in West Indies was a surprise, a pleasant one, but not an altogether just one. The West Indies had first innings leads in excess of two hundred in each of the first three Tests, yet were defied in the end by dogged and courageous batting performances by England's players who seemed repentant for their earlier failings, and the extreme docility of the pitches which consistently refused to give the bowlers the help they were entitled to on the fifth day.

In the second Test at Kingston, Amiss with 262 not out was England's hero; at Bridgetown in the third it was Fletcher, 129 not out.

There had been no escape for England in the first Test, which West Indies won by seven wickets although Boycott and Amiss put on 209 for the first wicket in the second innings only to see the rest of the batsmen follow their first innings inclinations.

At Georgetown in the fourth Test England at last started to play together. Then, before rain washed out the match, they looked like a team, whereas before they sometimes looked as if they had only just been introduced. In their worst moments they had been sustained by individual performances.

So the sides came together for the return match at Port-of-Spain with England gathering confidence and the West Indies probably a little spent and disillusioned from their earlier efforts. The match was to be played over six days on a slow, turning pitch which was to England's advantage.

Not only is that the kind of cricket they have come to understand best in recent years, but it also meant that the spin bowlers would be able to play their full part. And what with injuries to Old and Hendrick which restricted selection, it was the slower bowlers throughout the tour who had been the more impressive.

As it was, the match was one of batting collapses by both sides with the pressure Greig, as an off-spinner, was able to keep on the batsmen as he took thirteen wickets for 156 in the match. It is one of the ironies of the game that Underwood whose role in pinning the West Indies batsmen to defence was only a shade less important, took only one. Both bowled well, yet the rewards were disproportionate.

The final performance by Greig set the accolade on his tour. He emerged from it as a giant among all-rounders with Test figures of 430 runs -- second only to Amiss -- and 24 wickets, 15 more than the next English bowler. His fielding too, was seldom less than brilliant, whether close to the bat or in defensive positions, and always his driving influence on the side was apparent. Indeed, it was even more apparent when he was not present!

Not surprisingly his success gave rise to conjecture about his future as England's captain, especially as Denness's performances, both as captain and as player, were less convincing. Yet there remained about Greig the doubt caused by his explosiveness when the desire to succeed seemed to overwhelm his judgement. He was very good at creating pressure in others, but he was not always so good at controlling it in himself.

Undoubtedly Greig could end up as England's captain, but there were moments on this tour when it would have been embarrassing had he been England's current leader.

The Kallicharran incident was the most important and the most publicised of these. Briefly it occurred when Greig, within the laws if not the spirit of the game, fielded the ball off the last ball of the day during the first Test and ran out Kallicharran who, in the ill-advised belief that play was over, had left the bowler's crease on his way to the pavilion as Knott pulled up the stumps before the ball was dead.

There was never any suggestion that Greig's action had been anything but spontaneous. Malice was not one of the ingredients. Whatever the causes, the effect was devastating.

After a long meeting between members of the West Indies Board of Control and representatives of M.C.C., it was agreed as a compromise that the appeal should be withdrawn -- thus taking the onus off the umpires -- and that Kallicharran should be allowed to resume his innings.

It is unlikely that his move was supportable in law and it brought derision from those who believe that the law is rigid and sacrosanct. Yet the issue in Port-of-Spain seemed clear enough. Either Kallicharran batted again or else the tour went on under the threat of crowd violence and a probable premature end.

In a shrinking sport from which South Africa had already been excluded, could England risk alienating West Indies, possibly the most attractive cricketing combination in the world, over one incident of doubtful virtue? The answer was obviously no.

So the cricket went on and Greig, one of the game's extroverts, by turns charmed and enraged the crowds. But whatever he did, he did it 100 per cent in England's cause. He should inspire the side for years to come.

Thus Greig as vice-captain gained more kudos than did Denness, the captain. The latter was handicapped by his inexperience in cricket at this level, both as a tactician and as a player.

Organisation and planning seemed to be lacking from much of England's efforts in the first half of the tour. It was not until the fourth Test that the West Indies battery of left-handed batsmen was adequately countered.

Nor were Denness's performances with the bat big enough or consistent enough to entitle him to hold the number three place in a Test side. His highest score was 67 and he twice more got into the forties. Indeed his record showed exactly the same weaknesses that had been apparent when he was in India.

In that series he had established himself at the crease in every innings, yet his top score was 76. How the success of his side in beating, if only in one match, a West Indies team who had earlier destroyed Illingworth's side, was to affect his future as captain was one of the questions still to be answered when the party left for home.

The genuine successes of the tour were confined to the older members of the party. The younger ones were disappointing. Amiss, no doubt to his own modest surprise, was a greater power than Boycott, who, after batting well in the first Test, did not again play with conviction until the last one.

Amiss, who had scored two centuries and 99 in his previous three Tests outside England -- in Pakistan -- this time scored 663 runs, with three centuries, at an average of 82.87.

Throughout he played with such confidence that it was impossible to realise that an allegedly flawed temperament had once restricted his appearances for England. His power in the drive and the shot to mid wicket off his legs will stay in the memory even of spectators in the West Indies where they are used to seeing the ball struck willingly.

The batting of Knott which had seemed to be in decline, revived to such an extent that he played an important part in the last three Tests, when he had four scores of over forty and one of 33 not out.

It was his batting probably that decided the selectors' vote in his favour at a time when Taylor was challenging strongly on wicket-keeping grounds. It remains a tragedy that a player of Taylor's class should play not one Test match and only three first-class games in three months.

Of the other batsmen Fletcher, who missed one Test through illness, played with great determination and skill in Barbados, but seldom looked a dominating player. Jameson played in two Tests and batted with great spirit in the other matches, but the brutal truth is that Test cricket is above his talent -- not that that ever affected his cheerfulness.

The saddest figure on the tour was Hayes, the young man who after scoring a century in his first Test, began this campaign with the prospect of establishing himself as one of the side's resident middle order batsmen. In the event he scored 60 runs in seven innings, and it can only be hoped that such a wound in a player of such evident skill will not take too long healing.

It is fairly usual in modern times for England to return from abroad recounting tales of unreliability among the batsmen. The bowlers have generally been the dominant players. It was not true this time and in the long run that many cause more concern than any other feature of the cricket.

If Greig had not struck such a golden vein with his new brand of off-spinners and off-cutters it is hard to know who would have got the West Indies side out.

The quicker bowlers, so often a force for England, were a failure, a fact not altogether explained by the deadly slowness of the pitches.

Willis, whose extra pace was expected to be important, played in three Tests and took only five wickets. Arnold, a destroyer in England, claimed two wickets in three Test matches, while Hendrick did not play in one at all. Old looked the best of the quick bowlers, yet only five batsmen fell to him in four matches.

The spinners were no more successful in terms of wickets taken, yet they generally looked more controlled, except when Pocock tried to bring too much variety to his bowling. He, too, often forsakes consistency for experiment.

Birkenshaw was steadier, although his batting proved him over-rated as an all-rounder against quick bowling, and Underwood was the perfect stock bowler, miserly and durable.

In the final reckoning, England were allowed to come back on the batting collapses of West Indies, so often reckoned their strongest arm. Rowe, who made two single centuries and a triple hundred in Barbados, established himself as an exciting international player. His poise, his timing and his range of strokes all marked him as the latest in the line of outstanding West Indian batsmen. Fredericks, his opening partner, also played with great coolness and with an unfailing ability to hit the bad ball fiercely.

Yet the reason for the batting collapses was apparent in the final averages. Kanhai, Lloyd and Sobers, players who have savaged the world's best bowlers, had averages in the twenties. Their influence had waned and instead Kallicharran had joined Rowe among the new elite.

In bowling, the West Indies effort was more widely spread than that of England. Julien, Sobers, Boyce and Gibbs all made telling contributions and each of them was capable of making a dangerous breakthrough.

The regret was that the quicker bowlers so often relied upon the bouncer to achieve it -- although no more often than in past tours. Nevertheless, there were times when the number of bouncers amounted to intimidation.

If the groundsmen in the West Indies would concentrate on preparing pitches that took some of the hopelessness out of bowling, such methods would not be necessary.

M.C.C. TOUR RESULTS

Test Matches -- Played 5: Won 1, Lost 1, Drawn 3.

First-class Matches -- Played 11: Won 1, Lost 2, Drawn 8.

All Matches -- Played 16: Won 3, Lost 3, Drawn 10.

Wins -- West Indies, Guyana 2nd XI (2 days), Bermuda (not first-class).

Losses -- West Indies, Barbados, Combined Islands (1 day).

Draws -- West Indies (3), President's XI, Trinidad, Jamaica, Leeward Islands, Guyana, Windward Islands (not first-class), Somerset C.C. (1 day).

Match reports for

1st Test: West Indies v England at Port of Spain, Feb 2-7, 1974
Report | Scorecard

2nd Test: West Indies v England at Kingston, Feb 16-21, 1974
Report | Scorecard

3rd Test: West Indies v England at Bridgetown, Mar 6-11, 1974
Report | Scorecard

4th Test: West Indies v England at Georgetown, Mar 22-27, 1974
Report | Scorecard

5th Test: West Indies v England at Port of Spain, Mar 30-Apr 5, 1974
Report | Scorecard

© John Wisden & Co