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Although this was the fourth time that the West Indians had toured Australia in six seasons since the disbanding of World Series Cricket, it was the first full Test series between the teams in Australia since 1975-76 when West Indies, then, as now, under the captaincy of Clive Lloyd, suffered a crushing five-one defeat.
It was, therefore, cause for considerable satisfaction for Lloyd and those players who had survived the débâcle nine seasons earlier - his vice-captain, Vivian Richards, Gordon Greenidge and Michael Holding - that the roles were reversed this time. Lloyd, in the farewell series of an illustrious career, could enjoy fully the sweeping triumph of his powerful team which won the first three Tests by wide margins, would almost certainly have won the fourth but for a delayed declaration, and had its record tarnished only by defeat in the last. It was Australia who now endured the traumatic effects of a heavy defeat, their captain, Kim Hughes, resigning after two Tests under the pressure of constant criticism, and their selectors using no fewer than nineteen players in the series.
The result was not entirely unexpected. West Indies arrived in Australia with an imposing record - comfortable victors over India in India, a similarly emphatic record over much the same Australian team in the Caribbean and a clean sweep over England in England, all accomplished in the preceding year. In Greenidge and Desmond Haynes they possessed the most consistent pair of opening batsmen in the game; in Richards and Lloyd the two most experienced and commanding middle-order batsmen. Even with such credentials, though, the batting was no more formidable than the fast bowling, spearheaded by Holding, Joel Garner and Malcolm Marshall. It is not often the case that a touring team can be said to have had no single individual failure, but it was so with this West Indian team. There may have been disappointments, notably Greenidge and Haynes, but every member could claim to have played some part in the triumph, which extended to the limited-overs World Series Cup tournament, also involving Sri Lanka, that followed the Tests.
As he had been in the series of three Tests three seasons earlier, the steady and effective Larry Gomes was the leading batsman, but Lloyd himself, Richie Richardson, Jeffrey Dujon and Marshall all played important innings. In each of the first four Tests, West Indies lost their first five wickets for under 200 and yet totalled over 400 three times and over 350 once. It was only in their matches on the Sydney Cricket Ground, where the pitch provided considerable assistance to the spinners, that they twice faltered and lost, to New South Wales and by an innings in the final Test.
If the batting provided West Indies with worthwhile totals, it was the fast bowling which converted these into victory. Marshall and Garner, who put pressure on the batsmen from the start, had 47 wickets between them. In four consecutive innings Marshall took five wickets; he was clearly the Man of the Series with 28 wickets and some important contributions with the bat as well. Injury kept Holding out of the third and fourth Tests, but his influence on the third morning of the first, when eight Australian wickets fell for 45, emphasised his continuing quality. His young Jamaican protégé, Courtney Walsh, in his début series, did a good job as a support bowler, often into the wind.
To complete their all-round excellence, West Indies caught and fielded with spectacular efficiency, particularly close to the wicket. Richardson, in the slips, and Roger Harper, anywhere, set especially high standards.
Against such formidable opposition, and with controversy over their captaincy and team selection, it was little wonder that so few Australians did themselves justice. The left-handed Kepler Wessels overcame a horrid start to the series to top 500 runs, but although in the fourth Test Andrew Hilditch enjoyed a happy return to Test cricket after an absence of five years, no-one else batted consistently. The experienced Geoff Lawson was the only Australian bowler to take more than fifteen wickets, and even he was only occasionally at his best. The clear potential of the nineteen-year-old Craig McDermott, strong and decidedly fast, was one bonus in an otherwise gloomy season for Australia.
Nowhere was the gap between the teams more pronounced than in the field. The West Indians held their catches with as much frequency as the Australians dropped theirs, many of them at critical periods. In the Tests alone Australia let no fewer than 30 slip through their uncertain grasp.
Unfortunately, the series was marred by strained relations between the teams, involving verbal altercations on the field and causing an official protest from the West Indians against one Australian player, Lawson.
For all that, West Indies, managed again by their former fast bowler, the affable Wesley Hall, retained their popularity with Australian crowds and their captain received fond farewells wherever he went. He was awarded the Order of Australia by the Australian government for his services to the game.
Test matches - Played 5: Won 3, Lost 1, Drawn 1.
First-class matches - Played 11: Won 4, Lost 2, Drawn 5.
Wins - Australia (3), Western Australia.
Losses - Australia, New South Wales.
Draws - Australia, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania.
Non first-class matches - Played 19: Won 18, Lost 1.
Wins - Australia (7), Sri Lanka (5), South Australian Country XI, Western Australia Country XI (2), Victorian Country XI, Prime Minister's XI, Australian Capital Territory. Loss - Australia.
Match reports for
Queensland v West Indians at Brisbane, Oct 19-22, 1984