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An almost new England side set sail for the Caribbean on December 8, 1959. They returned four months later, having accomplished something unique. By winning the second Test match on the Queen's Park Ground at Trinidad and drawing the other four games, England won a series in the West Indies for the first time in history. It would be idle to suggest that they were the strongest team ever to visit the West Indies, but almost certainly they were one of the most combined and happy parties to undertake any tour. Under the wise management of R.W.V. Robins, the players developed a tremendous spirit and the team-work and determination to avoid defeat carried them through to their triumph.
The cricket played was by no means of the highest standard and several controversial issues arose, but they served only to make the English players more resolute and determined. The contrast between this all-round effort and the individual brilliance of the West Indies was most marked.
When the party left England on the Camito few people gave them much chance of winning the rubber. Most of the players who had served England well over the years had been discarded. Following the failure in Australia the previous winter, the Selection committee made a big clear-out and the gamble succeeded handsomely.
Before turning to the tour in detail, mention must be made of the issue which caused considerable argument. The main points were time-wasting, short-pitched bowling and throwing. They had occupied the minds of the world authorities for some time, but on this tour they developed to such an extent that no longer could the Imperial Cricket Conference afford to ignore them.
Time-wasting had been seen occasionally before, but never to such a concentrated or planned extent as in this series. England must take the biggest share of responsibility, for after winning the second Test they realised that only under exceptional circumstances would they repeat the victory. Therefore they set themselves the objective of ensuring against defeat, and by partly negative cricket and at times overdone time-wasting they succeeded. Field placing reached a fine art on the tour and by bowling to a large extent outside the off-stump to a cleverly placed field the England bowlers, particularly the spinners, managed to contain all the West Indies batsmen, even those who had previously shown their ability to score quickly. Such bowling and fielding tactics were legitimate, even if they did not provide much interest for the spectators. More difficult to defend was the amount of time lost between overs, in crossing for right and left-handed batsmen and the slow rate of overs per hour. There were spells when the over rate dropped to under fourteen an hour. Pre-war anything less than nineteen was considered unusual. West Indies were only a little better in this respect and that, combined with the delays caused by frequent drink intervals with a water cart, towels, etc., brought on to the field, robbed the paying public of a vast amount of cricket in the series. Instructions are quite clear on this point and the umpires have the power, when a bowler takes an unnecessarily long time to bowl an over, to caution him and finally ban him from bowling again in the innings. The umpires made no move to carry this out.
Short-pitched bowling is covered by Law 46, Note 4 (vi). It says: The persistent and systematic bowling of fast short-pitched balls at the batsman is unfair and goes on to say what action should be taken. Throughout the series, particularly from the West Indies fast bowlers, Hall and Watson, there came an abundance of short-pitched bowling with the occasional bouncer thrown in for good measure. An attempt to check them came in the second Test at Trinidad where Hall and Watson were warned once each by the umpires, but thereafter, though they continued and sometimes delivered three or four short balls an over, nothing further was done. By the third Test some of the English batsmen had become so bruised and battered that they wore home-made padded vests to give them more confidence and minimise the effects of the blows on chest, kidneys and back. Even so there were many instances of large bruises which remained with the batsmen for a long time.
There were also painful blows on hands, arms and heads, though admittedly one or two batsmen had themselves to blame when ducking to balls which scarcely rose. On the West Indies side, McMorris suffered a nasty blow on the chest during the third Test, causing him to spit blood and retire hurt, and in the final Test at Trinidad Hunte retired hurt and had two stitches inserted in his forehead when missing a hook off a bouncer. Because batsmen had to be constantly alert for the short-pitched ball and worry about protecting themselves, many strokes were held in check and led partly to the overall slow scoring rate which rarely reached 40 runs an hour.
Illegal throwing by bowlers in the West Indies seemed to be developing to an alarming degree. At least six bowlers, two of them playing regularly in the Tests, had suspect actions, but more important was the fact that nearly 50 per cent of the youngsters in the nets and recreation grounds found they could get the ball to do more off the ground by use of the bent elbow. One leading umpire in West Indies resigned because he intended to call a certain bowler for throwing and knew he would not get the support from his authorities.
For the first time in West Indies-England matches a panel of umpires was formed for the Tests and those selected were generally of a good standard. Unfortunately they were reluctant to carry out their duties on the controversial points mentioned. Like umpires in other parts of the world, they needed assurance that they would get the fullest backing and it was not forthcoming. Authorities everywhere must take the blame for the decline in cricketing ethics and the breaking of laws. In the majority of cases they know what is happening but shut their eyes, particularly if it suits them to do so. To agree on curbing all law-breaking and to insist that umpires carry out their instructions is an essential for the good of cricket.
All this should not be taken as indicating that bad feeling existed between the two sides. Indeed relations off the field were most friendly. On it there was a certain grimness, and at times a little pique, usually at the short-pitched bowling or occasionally with a disagreement at an umpire's decision, through this was not too bad.
The first major match of the tour, against Barbados, brought the only defeat to the English side and in a way did good for them. They were made to realise quite early that touring West Indies and meeting pitches almost entirely favourable to batsmen meant hard work, a readjustment of tactics compared with England and the importance of tight bowling to a well-planned field. The first Test brought only eighteen wickets in the six days, while 1,116 runs were scored, and it was obvious then that with two good batting sides and the bowling moderate it was going to be difficult for either side to get the other out twice on such pitches.
The unexpected came in the second Test at Port of Spain where the West Indies' batting failed completely in the first innings and England won comfortably. The match will always be remembered for the riot which occurred on the third day. The causes were not easy to pin down, but were probably due to a combination of circumstances: overcrowding on an extremely hot day, drinking and gambling, and disappointment over the West Indies' batting collapse, inflamed by one or two batsmen who showed obvious resentment with the umpiring decisions. Finally, when Charran Singh, a local boy playing in his first Test, was given run out, a decision with which he himself agreed, the trouble started. Hundreds of bottles flew from one section of the crowd, followed by all sorts of debris, while from the opposite side the spectators encroached on to the field. The handful of police were helpless to check the uproar and eventually the riot squad and the fire brigade quelled the trouble.
All the right-minded people in Trinidad were thoroughly ashamed of the affair started by a few hooligans and that night the Governor and other leading officials of the island broadcast their feelings on the matter. For a short while there was talk of the match and perhaps the tour being discontinued, but Robins gave an assurance that England intended carrying on and no further trouble occurred for the rest of the tour, though once or twice tension again mounted and the riot remained a talking-point to the end. About an hour and a quarter was lost at the end of the third day and the time was made up by an early start on the remaining three days.
At Jamaica West Indies placed themselves in a wonderful position to draw level, but threw it away by poor tactics and the fourth and fifth Tests were almost obvious draws from the first on the lifeless pitches provided, though West Indies made one gallant effort to save the series by a determined performance on the fifth afternoon of the final Test.
The luck evened itself out. England, for only the second time, won the toss in all five Tests, the previous occasion being by The Hon. F. S. Jackson against Australia in 1905. This naturally gave them a big advantage, but against that had to be set the illness of May and the difficulties which befell Statham. May, just recovered from an internal operation, declared himself fit to captain the side. Before the second Test arrived the would reopened, but despite extreme discomfort he kept the facts secret until finally the information became known and on advice he flew home for treatment, missing the last two Tests. While his courage had to be admired, May was probably unwise to continue for so long under such a handicap and the strain undoubtedly told on him. It probably accounted for his decision not to permit a runner for the injured Kanhai in the third Test, although the laws were specific on the point. May was not alone to blame for the error, as Alexander, the West Indies captain, and one of the umpires were unaware that an opposing captain could not refuse the services of a runner for a player incapacitated during the course of a match. The illness also resulted in May's disappointing form with the bat, though he hit one century against Jamaica which must have taken a lot out of him. As captain he never lost his grip on the state of the game and the men under him responded well. Cowdrey followed his example of careful planning with the avoidance of all risks when taking over for the last two Tests. Statham missed the first and last Tests, one through injury and the other when, following the news of his son's serious illness, he flew home.
In recent years the batting had often let down England. On this occasion it rarely did and with Statham at number eleven getting some useful scores in the Tests the side had no tail at all. Cowdrey and Dexter were the best batsmen and good support came from Pullar, Barrington, Subba Row, Smith and Parks, who joined the side on the return of May and played an important part in the fifth Test. Parks had been coaching in Trinidad during the early part of the tour and the authorities there helped England by cancelling his contract.
Because of the shortage of top-class opening batsmen in England, Cowdrey again undertook that role, the previous occasion being against Australia in 1956. Not even when doing extremely well in the second half of the tour did he like the position, but he played several very valuable innings and showed class in everything he did. Sometimes he batted with grim determination, scoring only when absolutely safe; on other occasions he showed his full range of classical strokes and completely dominated the bowling. He and Pullar were a splendid opening pair and hardly ever did they fail to see off the new ball when Hall and Watson were in their most fiery mood. Pullar did not hit a Test century but was splendidly consistent and not once on the tour was he dismissed for less than double figures. Cowdrey achieved the rare performance for an English batsman of completing 1,000 runs in first-class matches during a West Indies tour. He headed the overall batting averages but came second to Dexter in the Tests.
Tall, upright and commanding, Dexter played the short-pitched bowling better than anyone else and thoroughly justified the faith of the selectors in choosing him, despite some earlier disappointments. His firm clean hitting was a delight to watch and he and Allen could be said to have made the greatest advance on the tour. Barrington began with a century in each of the first two Tests, but as the tour progressed he took more knocks than most from the bowlers. Nobody relished the short-pitched bowling, but Barrington showed his dislike more than most and as a result became a special target. Nevertheless, he fought bravely, particularly in the last Test. Subba Row joined the Test side when May left and immediately made his mark with a century despite a chipped bone in a knuckle. In the lesser matches he rarely failed. Subba Row took over as vice-captain when Cowdrey became leader.
M.J.K. Smith was the enigma of the side. Quite often he was dismissed early and the West Indies' bowlers came to realise that he was susceptible to the well-pitched-up ball, either yorker or half volley, as soon as he went in. If able to settle down he became extremely difficult to dislodge and he varied his game with long defensive spells and sudden bursts of free scoring. Trinidad was his favourite ground for he hit a century there in the second Test and missed another by only four in the fifty. Allen, the youngest member of the party, gave several valuable displays with the bat, but the other all-rounder and off-spinner, Illingworth, did not do as well as expected, being worried by spin bowling, especially from Ramadhin.
The bowling depended to a large extent on Trueman and Statham for wickets. Trueman took more wicket in Tests than any other England bowler to tour West Indies and he showed fine control and aggressiveness throughout. His ability to produce a swinging yorker almost at will provided the West Indies batsmen with many uncomfortable moments. Trueman gave the enthusiastic crowds plenty of amusement, particularly in the not so serious games and he became extremely popular wherever he went. When Statham flew home near the end Trueman took over as senior professional.
Statham bowled beautifully at times, but rarely had much luck. Perhaps more than any other bowler in the series, he beat the bat, no mean feat on such pitches, without reward. The third fast bowler, Moss, did not have a happy tour, finding it difficult to take wickets even against the more moderate batsmen. His pace was not really fast enough for the conditions nor could he move the ball much. Still, he kept going and when replacing Statham in the final Test did valuable work in dismissing Kanhai and Sobers in the course of one over.
The spinners had a heartbreaking task, but Allen could look back with satisfaction on his first tour. The least experienced of all when he left England, Allen developed into the leading slow bowler in the party and his accuracy and ability to bowl to his field were most impressive. Illingworth had less success but his figures, though disappointing, did not reveal his true value and he was really an important part of the overall plan. Even though lacking penetration he could be relied upon to seal one end and there were times when he bowled with unerring accuracy for long spells while the fast bowlers were getting their much-needed rests. For England's defensive tactics to succeed it was essential that Allen and Illingworth gave very little away and that they certainly accomplished. Dexter could never get going as a bowler, but Barrington, with his leg-breaks, did better than expected. Considering how little he had bowled in important cricket before making the tour, he showed surprising accuracy and he, too, could keep the game tight which, for a bowler of his type, was no mean feat.
Greenhough went out as the number one leg-spinner but his length and direction were too erratic and he did not play in any of the Tests. At the same time, had England been one down early in the series Greenhough would probably have been included for after Trueman and Statham he was the bowler most likely to take a wicket without having to wait for a batsman's loss of concentration. Greenhough played in only six first-class matches yet took twenty-one wickets, more than anyone else except Trueman and Allen.
Though there may have been little between the sides in batting and bowling, England, without question, were superior in all-round fielding. No one had to be hidden and several players excelled in more than one position. Dexter developed into a fine cover-point, covering a lot of ground and always moving into the ball fast and confidently. Others who rose even above the general high standard were Cowdrey, Barrington, Allen and Trueman. Of the three who kept wicket Andrew, following a shaky start, due probably to a virus infection which developed on the ship, performed splendidly, but because of the desire to include a wicket-keeper-batsman he received few chances. In fact, he took part in only four first-class matches and played but one innings as a batsman. He must have felt somewhat frustrated at the small amount of cricket which came his way, but he set a wonderful example by his cheerfulness and willingness to accept the situation. He typified the excellent team spirit which existed in the side. Swetman began well, but fell away, particularly with the bat. Parks who kept in two matches did all that was necessary behind the stumps and his fine batting helped to strengthen the side considerably.
Alexander was certainly the best wicket-keeper of all and he equalled the world record by dismissing 23 batsman in the series. J.H. Waite for South Africa against New Zealand in 1953-54 also claimed 23 victims but Alexander's 22 catches were more than any other wicket-keeper in a series. Some of his catches were brilliant, particularly when standing back. Hunte, either at cover or short-leg, Sobers, close to the bat, and Kanhai were other five West Indies fieldsmen, but generally the ground work and catching disappointed.
In Sobers, West Indies possessed the outstanding batsman of the series. He scored 709 runs in the Tests, averaging over 101, beating G. Headley's 703 in 1929-30, previously the highest for West Indies against England. In addition, Sobers made 154 for Barbados. His only failure came in the second Test and by only eight runs he missed the distinction of scoring a century on each of the four Test grounds. Perhaps a little vulnerable when starting his innings, Sobers, once allowed to settle, was completely in control and the Englishmen seemed resigned to big innings from him. They managed to prevent him scoring very quickly but rarely looked like getting him out.
The other batsmen did not support Sobers as well as expected. Worrell and Kanhai played one big innings apiece; Hunte, a fine free-scoring opening batsman, was consistent but his top score was only 72. In an effort to increase the scoring rate, the West Indies selectors recalled Walcott from Test retirement but the move did not succeed as well as hoped.
Like England, West Indies relied to a large extent on their fast bowlers and in Hall they had a tremendously hard worker with a lovely action, genuine speed and remarkable stamina. He was always the biggest threat to England. Watson, awkward because of his bent-elbow action which made him faster than his run-up suggested, gave useful support, but was dangerous only when bowling short. Ramadhin headed the averages yet he never caused the same problems as previously and the recognised batsmen played him fairly comfortably even though they could rarely attack him with safety.
Record crowds turned up practically everywhere and the West Indies Board of Control made a handsome profit. At the same time it seemed a doubtful policy to allow groundsmen to produce pitches which virtually made it certain that the matches would last the full six days. Most of them failed to provide any sort of fair fight between bat and ball. Though described as turf, the pitches scarcely had a blade of grass on them, although grass cuttings were rolled into the soil to bind it. By giving the roller a twisting, circular movement groundsmen provided the surfaces with such a high polish that sometimes the reflections of batsmen could easily be seen.
Finally, a special word for the excellent work accomplished by R.W.V. Robins as manager. By a combination of firmness, tact and enthusiasm he played an important part in a tour which could easily have been difficult, but in fact, from most angles, was highly successful.
Matches--Played 13, Won 4, Lost 1, Drawn 8
Matches--Played 5, Won 1, Drawn 4
|E. R. Dexter||5||9||1||526||136*||65.75|
|M. C. Cowdrey||5||10||1||491||119||54.55|
|K. F. Barrington||5||9||0||420||128||46.66|
| G. Pullar||5||10||1||385||66||42.77|
|R. Subba Row||2||4||0||162||100||40.50|
|M. J. K. Smith||5||9||0||308||108||34.22|
|D. A. Allen||5||9||4||171||55||34.20|
|P. B. H. May||3||5||0||83||45||16.60|
| J. B. Statham||3||4||1||46||20*||15.33|
|F. S. Trueman||5||8||2||86||37||14.33|
|A. E. Moss||2||2||0||5||4||2.50|
Also batted: J. M. Parks 43, 101*.
*Signifies not out.
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