England 1 West Indies 3

West Indies in England 1950

Norman Preston

In the summer of 1950 West Indies cricket firmly established itself. Actually it was the twenty-second year since they were given Test status in 1928, but whereas some cricket bodies take a long time to grow up, there was no question that the representatives of the Caribbean reached maturity on their seventh visit to the cradle of cricket.

Those of us who saw them overwhelm G. O. Allen's M.C.C. team on their own fields in the early months of 1948 were prepared for surprises, but I do not think any of us expected they would go from one triumph to another and outplay England in three of the four Tests.

Certainly their path to success took a vastly different course to anything envisaged. It was anticipated that if the West Indies gained the ascendancy it would be achieved through their pace bowlers, Johnson, Jones and Pierre. As it was, these three took no more than 91 wickets in the 31 first-class matches, while two 20-year-old slow bowlers, Ramadhin and Valentine, who were unknown in first-class cricket even in the West Indies at the beginning of the year, shared 258 wickets.

Although brilliant individual performances were numerous, splendid team work took West Indies through their happy tour. The party of sixteen cricketers was not burdened with specialists. Half of them were really capable all-rounders, so that Goddard, the captain, was seldom if ever perplexed if a mishap robbed him of the services of a player during a match. One must remember that the cricketers of West Indies, like those of Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and India, are one-day-a-week club players. Only rarely do they take part in four or five-day representative games, and their play here introduced the fresh air of club cricket. They were extremely adaptable to prevailing conditions; the only things that really troubled them were the rain and bitterly cold weather at the beginning of the tour. The climate throughout the summer was variable and quite unlike the long hot spell that the New Zealanders enjoyed in 1949.

The tour provided a precedent in the fact that for the first time, Australians of 1948 excepted, five days were allocated to each of four Tests. After the experience of the previous summer, when the four three-day matches with New Zealand were all drawn, this decision, viewed from all angles, proved wise. All the Tests were brought to a definite conclusion, and West Indies, after losing the first on a sporting pitch at Manchester, won the remaining three. England could point out that they were never at full strength. Denis Compton played in only the last Test, both Washbrook and Bailey missed two, and Hutton, Simpson and Evans each withdrew from one; but, considering the resources that should be at England's command, these defections could not be advanced as any excuse. I am sure Goddard and his men would have preferred to have met England at full strength.

While the rubber remained undecided until the last Test, the finest hour for West Indies came when they won at Lord's and so gained their first Test victory in England. Apart from Australia, only South Africa--in twenty-six meetings--had lowered England's colours when on tour, and that was at Lord's in 1935. Now West Indies have won three times in England, and can rightly claim on results alone to be second to Australia, whom they visit in 1951-52.

The secret of this remarkable success was that the team were equipped for all occasions. They came with a properly balanced side, and while they were able to assess their strength to some degree following their experiences at home against M.C.C. in 1948 and their visit to India in 1948-49, their selectors must be given full credit for their admirable judgement in picking such men as Ramadhin, Valentine, Marshall and Trestrail. I understand that Goddard himself was the main sponsor, and there can be no question that the flourishing state of cricket in the Caribbean to-day is partly due to his shrewdness and leadership.

A heavy responsibility falls on any touring captain, and Goddard with his strong personality showed ability to control his men both on and off the field. All of them had the utmost faith in him. In his earlier days Goddard was a prolific left-handed batsman--in 1944 he took part in a world record fourth-wicket stand of 502 with Worrell--but his team of 1950 was so strong in batting that he rarely went in earlier than number eight. Nor did he undertake very much bowling, but when Worrell was incapacitated in the last Test at Kennington Oval, Goddard made himself very unpleasant to the batsmen with his medium-paced off-breaks. Besides his skill as a captain, Goddard will be remembered for the grand example he set as a fielder at short-leg or silly mid-off. He was not infallible, otherwise West Indies would probably have won all four Tests. When half the England side were out at Manchester in the first Test for 88, West Indies enjoyed a tremendous advantage which slipped away as Bailey and Evans put on 161. Many people thought Goddard persisted too long with Ramadhin and Valentine when a change in attack might have unsettled the two Englishmen. As it was, England went on to make 312, and the West Indies in turn were baffled by the slow bowling of Hollies and Berry.

Immediately after the match the losers considered seriously making an official protest about the lack of preparation of the pitch, but they did not adopt this course; instead, at the Imperial Cricket Conference, which took place during the following Test at Lord's, they raised the question generally as to whether anything should be done regarding giving instructions to groundsmen at all Test centres.

When the West Indies arrived there was suspicion that they might prove deficient in batting on damp surfaces and weak in slow bowling. They had left behind W. Ferguson, whose mixed right-arm spin had caused G. O. Allen's men so much trouble. It was thought that Ramadhin and Valentine, two novices, would be used as fill-ups for the less important engagements and that probably Worrell would be called as a left-arm slow bowler in the bigger matches, but before the end of May Ramadhin and Valentine made their presence felt and they became vital components of the Test machine.

Just as in the past there have been notable pairs of bowlers like Barnes and Foster, Hirst and Rhodes, Gregory and McDonald, Constantine and Martindale, Larwood and Voce, this West Indies couple became the talk of the cricket world. A glance at the bowling figures will show the devastation they caused, besides the amount of work they endured. In the Tests, Valentine (left-arm) took 33 wickets and Ramadhin (right-arm) 26, and next on the West Indies side came Goddard and Worrell with six apiece. Full descriptions of the styles of these two youngsters will be found in their biographies in the Five Cricketers of the Year, among whom are two of their colleagues, Worrell and Weekes.

In the Tests, West Indies called on only twelve men. Not wishing to weaken the batting, Goddard used only one recognised opening bowler for each of the four matches, Johnson playing at Old Trafford and Trent Bridge and Jones at Lord's and The Oval. Gomez was chosen to share the new ball at Old Trafford, although Walcott also took over this duty in the second innings when Johnson was injured. For the other three matches Worrell began the bowling, delivering the ball left-arm round the wicket at quite a fastish pace. In fact Worrell shared in England's downfall at Trent Bridge, where the first four wickets fell for 25, and he proved nasty to face on the damp turf at Kennington Oval.

No matter how good was the bowling and the general efficiency of the team in the field, it was the batting which drew the crowds. In previous tours one or two men like Challenor, Roach and Headley shouldered the main responsibility, but now there was a richness of talent. Indeed, so great was their scoring power that as many as ten of their thirty-one first-class matches were won in an innings. Even on bad pitches they were usually superior to their opponents and, moreover, were always a pleasure to watch.

Nine men divided their thirty-seven three-figure innings, and the three players from the tiny island of Barbados, Worrell, Weekes and Walcott, stood out in a class on their own. For beauty of stroke no one in the history of the game can have excelled Worrell. A fairly tall, lean figure, there was something like a dreamy casualness about the way he flicked the ball with nonchalant ease: but how it sped to the boundary! Worrell's master-piece was his 261 in the Third Test at Trent Bridge, where he and Weekes surpassed anything previously accomplished for West Indies in Test cricket by adding 283 for the third wicket.

Weekes, shorter and stockier than Worrell, imparted more force into his strokes. Quick on his feet, he would go back on his right foot and cut mercilessly, and was equally sure when running in to drive. Five of his seven three-figure innings reached 200, including 304 not out against Cambridge University. After these two, English bowlers faced another gigantic problem when Walcott arrived at number five. Standing well over six feet and massively built, Walcott was a sheet anchor when things went wrong. His 168 not out was the turning-point of the Lord's Test. Walcott, too, specialised with the square cut and drive, and of the three he looked the best on wet wickets, for his defence was so sound. Primarily a batsman, Walcott was also first choice as wicket-keeper, a job he does not undertake for Barbados but one he cheerfully accomplished during the M.C.C. tour of 1948 and also when the team went to India. There was some criticism before the side left Trinidad because a specialist wicket-keeper was not found, but Walcott left no room for complaint and his work behind the stumps showed a big advance compared with 1948.

If the batting of Worrell, Weekes and Walcott--they hit twenty centuries between them--provided the main delight, credit must be given to the opening pair, Stollmeyer and Rae, for the way they so often took the edge off the attack. The main policy of the run-making revolved around Rae. A tall left-hander, extremely safe in defence, Rae provided the solidity. His task was to stay. He never allowed himself to take the slightest risk until the innings was shaping satisfactorily, but woe betide the bowler who faltered in length or thought he would entice him by sending down a loose one. Then Rae would release a colossal on-drive or pull. His value was clearly shown by the fact that two of his four hundreds were hit in Tests, the first at Lord's and the other at The Oval.

Stollmeyer, the vice-captain, and Gomez came with experience of the 1939 tour behind them. An elegant player, Stollmeyer left no doubt about his class during two splendid innings in the Old Trafford Test. Gomez was compelled to undertake much bowling, and consequently his batting suffered until late in the season. With the Test team settled, Marshall and Trestrail were rather restricted for opportunities, but showed themselves capable batsmen who should do well in the future.

Among the eight men who made over 1,000 runs was Christiani. Batting number seven, he found few chances to do himself justice, but he distinguished himself against Middlesex at almost the end of the tour when he hit a century in each innings at Lord's, a feat previously achieved for a West Indies team at headquarters only by Headley. Christiani, who like Pierre wore glasses, also rendered the side useful service as reserve wicket-keeper.

At various times the two fast bowlers, Johnson and Pierre, were unfit, and when one recalls the feats of L. N. Constantine, Martindale and Griffiths, it must be stated that only in this phase of the game did the team lack the venom of some of their predecessors. There was much promise about the varied spin of Williams, a leg-break and googly bowler who stayed in England in order to go to Durham University.

An essential part of any successful cricket team is fielding. Years ago the Universities and some counties would not consider a man if he was a bad fielder. The West Indies have always set a high standard--one remembers the feats of Constantine--and Goddard's side did not fail in this respect. Weekes brought back memories of Hammond by the way he accepted catches at slip or short-leg. Goddard's men were popular wherever they went and deservedly they took home a handsome profit of £30,000 which will stand West Indies cricket in good stead for some time to come. Receipts from the Tests realised £94,000, the four matches being watched by 372,000 people.

The party was completed by Mr. J. M. Kidney, who came for the third time as manager. He was assisted by the Rev. Palmer Barnes. W. Ferguson, the Australian, was scorer and baggage man.--N. P.

WEST INDIES RESULTS

Test Matches.--Played 4, Won 3, Lost 1.

First-Class Matches.--Played 31, Won 17, Lost 3, Drawn 11.

All Matches.--Played 38, Won 19, Lost 3, Drawn 16.

Wins.-- England (3), Lancashire (2), Yorkshire (2), Glamorgan, Somerset, Nottinghamshire, Sussex, Leicestershire, Surrey, Gloucestershire, Essex, Kent, Minor Counties, Northumberland, Cumberland and Westmorland.

Draws.-- Worcestershire, Surrey, Cambridge University, Oxford University, Hampshire, Northamptonshire, Derbyshire, Glamorgan, Middlesex, South of England, H. D. G. Leveson Gower's Xl, Durham, L. Constantine's Xl, Col. L. C. Stevens' XII, Indian Gymkhana, Club Cricket Conference.

Losses.-- England, M.C.C., Warwickshire.


Match reports for

Tour Match: Worcestershire v West Indians at Worcester, May 6-9, 1950
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Tour Match: Yorkshire v West Indians at Bradford, May 10-11, 1950
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Tour Match: Surrey v West Indians at The Oval, May 13-16, 1950
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Tour Match: Cambridge University v West Indians at Cambridge, May 17-19, 1950
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Tour Match: Marylebone Cricket Club v West Indians at Lord's, May 20-23, 1950
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Tour Match: Oxford University v West Indians at Oxford, May 24-26, 1950
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Tour Match: Glamorgan v West Indians at Cardiff, May 27-30, 1950
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Tour Match: Somerset v West Indians at Taunton, May 31-Jun 2, 1950
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Tour Match: Lancashire v West Indians at Manchester, Jun 3-6, 1950
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1st Test: England v West Indies at Manchester, Jun 8-12, 1950
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Tour Match: Nottinghamshire v West Indians at Nottingham, Jun 17-20, 1950
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Tour Match: Sussex v West Indians at Hove, Jun 21-23, 1950
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2nd Test: England v West Indies at Lord's, Jun 24-29, 1950
Report | Scorecard

Tour Match: Hampshire v West Indians at Southampton, Jul 1-4, 1950
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Tour Match: Lancashire v West Indians at Liverpool, Jul 5-7, 1950
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Tour Match: Northamptonshire v West Indians at Northampton, Jul 8-11, 1950
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Tour Match: Leicestershire v West Indians at Leicester, Jul 12-14, 1950
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Tour Match: Derbyshire v West Indians at Chesterfield, Jul 15-18, 1950
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3rd Test: England v West Indies at Nottingham, Jul 20-25, 1950
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Tour Match: Durham v West Indians at Sunderland, Jul 26-27, 1950
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Tour Match: Yorkshire v West Indians at Sheffield, Jul 29-Aug 1, 1950
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Tour Match: Surrey v West Indians at The Oval, Aug 2-4, 1950
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Tour Match: Glamorgan v West Indians at Swansea, Aug 5-8, 1950
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Tour Match: Warwickshire v West Indians at Birmingham, Aug 9-11, 1950
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4th Test: England v West Indies at The Oval, Aug 12-16, 1950
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Tour Match: Gloucestershire v West Indians at Cheltenham, Aug 19-21, 1950
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Tour Match: Essex v West Indians at Southend-on-Sea, Aug 23-25, 1950
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Tour Match: Middlesex v West Indians at Lord's, Aug 26-29, 1950
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Tour Match: Kent v West Indians at Canterbury, Aug 30-Sep 1, 1950
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Tour Match: South v West Indians at Hastings, Sep 2-5, 1950
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Tour Match: Minor Counties v West Indians at Lakenham, Sep 6-8, 1950
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Tour Match: HDG Leveson-Gower's XI v West Indians at Scarborough, Sep 9-12, 1950
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© John Wisden & Co
 
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