So effectively, at times irresistibly, did Vivian Richards's West Indian side play in the first three Test matches in Australia that by the New Year they had already retained the Frank Worrell Trophy. For the Second and Third Tests, at Perth and Melbourne, they found conditions ideally suited to their four-pronged fast attack.
Confident of giving a good account of themselves when the First Test match started, Australia soon found the bowling of Malcolm Marshall, Courtney Walsh, Curtly Ambrose and Patrick Patterson more than they had bargained for. By the end of the Third Test they had not only lost the series; their batsmen, by then, were in a state of nervous disorder. Almost three weeks of one-day cricket followed, during which the regulations protected Australia's batsmen from the surfeit of punishingly short bowling which had so disconcerted them. But for rain in the last of the one-day finals in Sydney (for which Australia and West Indies qualified ahead of the third side, Pakistan), Australia would very likely have won the World Series Cup.
When, after that, the Fourth Test match in Sydney was played not on a grassy pitch but on a slow and grassless one, on which the ball turned from the start, the West Indian attack was a different proposition. With the series already won West Indies may have relaxed, if not intentionally. Certainly there was a remarkable change of fortune. Australia not only won in Sydney, they had the better of the Fifth Test as well. By the end of the tour, therefore, there was less to choose between the two sides than there had seemed to be when the Third Test finished.
Having gone to Australia straight from a one-day tournament in Sharjah, the West Indians made a slow start to their tour, losing twice to Western Australia before running into form. As in England, earlier in 1988, Ambrose's bowling was a telling factor, his lift when he dug the ball in - and sometimes when he didn't - being extremely difficult for batsmen to counter. This was especially so in the Melbourne Test, when bowlers of less height and pace than Ambrose benefited from a pitch of uneven bounce, and where, for Australia, batting became largely a matter of evasion. There were clear and ugly echoes in Melbourne over Christmas of the bodyline tour of 1932-33. So deliberately intimidating was much of the bowling, not only by the West Indians, that it was as though Law 42 (8) had never been written.
Ambrose's advance compensated for something of a decline in Marshall's effectiveness, although at Melbourne Marshall became the ninth bowler to take 300 Test wickets. Patterson bowled very fast at times, and with Walsh using his experience to good effect there was no place in the West Indian Test side for Ian Bishop, a young fast bowler of fine promise from Trinidad, or Winston Benjamin. West Indian spin was negligible, Roger Harper having mislaid his bowling action, and with it his confidence.
Of the West Indian batsmen, Desmond Haynes, recipient of the International Cricketer of the Year award at the end of the tour, had his best series since being hailed as a great talent in the 1970s. He adapted his game well to the needs of the moment, and was always popular in what was sometimes an ill-natured tour. Gordon Greenidge had to wait until his last innings of the series before reaching his first Test hundred in Australia, thirteen years after he had first gone there. Nevertheless he remained a prized scalp and made, with Haynes, a formidable opening partnership.
Although Richards hit the highest score for West Indies in the Test series (146 at Perth), besides sweeping them to victory in the last of the one-day finals, he was less consistently commanding than he can be, more through a lack of patience than any apparent loss of ability. His reluctance to knuckle down cost West Indies dear at Sydney. At Adelaide, in the last Test, he set out to make amends, and did so. As a captain, he established a working relationship with the media, though on the field he could be tactically dour and personally high-handed.
Richie Richardson justified his exalted position in the batting order; Carl Hooper, another of the younger batsmen, lacked the concentration to go with his abundant ability, a return of 170 runs from nine Test innings, batting at No. 4, being disappointing. The left-handed Keith Arthurton was given very few chances. Gus Logie fielded brilliantly, whether at short leg or further from the wicket; but except at Perth his contribution with the bat was greater in the outer matches than in the Tests.
Too often on the tour the umpiring lacked credibility. The interpretation of the one-day rules, in so far as they related to short-pitched bowling and the calling of wides, was erratic, while in the Tests both sides found cause to question decisions that went against them, sometimes with an unashamed disregard for the convention that the umpire's word shall be final. Both captains, supported by Clive Lloyd, manager of West Indies, acknowledged the problems of standing in a series in which the umpires were given little help by the players. The no-ball Law, based on the position of the front foot in the delivery stride, rather than the back foot as used to be the case, was a constant irritant. In the Test series alone, West Indies bowled nearly 250 no-balls. It was generally thought that the old back-foot Law was preferable, giving the umpire, as it did, more time to see what happens after the ball is delivered, and the batsman a better chance, because the call comes sooner, of taking advantage of the bowler's infringement.
For any recalcitrance by his team when they disagreed with a decision, Mr Lloyd was more inclined to blame the incompetence of the umpiring than to admonish his players. Unwise though it was of the Australia Cricket Board to appoint to the last two Test matches three umpires out of four with virtually no Test experience between them, it came as no surprise to hear, after the tour was over, that the Australian Board had decided to forward in full, to their West Indian counterparts, the umpires' sharply critical report of the conduct of the West Indian captain and his players during the last Test match. "The executive is very concerned at the matters raised by umpires McConnell and Evans concerning the conduct of a number of the West Indian team, including their captain," said Mr Malcolm Gray, chairman of the Australian Board.
Because of bowling their overs so slowly, the West Indians were docked something in the region of £10,000 - or 80 per cent of their Test winnings. Richards countered by saying that winning was more important to him and his side than money. In this, too, he was imperviously supported by his manager, who had reacted strongly earlier in the tour to criticism of the rate at which West Indies were bowling their overs. The rate called for - amounting to a minimum of 90 overs a day - was calculated upon fifteen overs an hour. On the second day of the last Test match in Adelaide, loopholes in the regulations obliged the two sides to finish play when only 76 overs had been bowled, although both might have considered it in their interest to continue.
The World Series Cup, with its extravagant presentation and concessions to instant gratification, continued to create problems of crowd behaviour. Comprising fifteen one-day internationals between Australia, Pakistan and West Indies, it was watched by nearly half a million people; the 24 days of Test cricket attracted approximately 325,000.
Test matches - Played 5: Won 3, Lost 1, Drawn 1.
First-class matches - Played 11: Won 4, Lost 2, Drawn 5.
Wins - Australia (3), South Australia.
Losses - Australia, Western Australia.
Draws - Australia, New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria.
One-day internationals - Played 11: Won 7, Lost 4. Wins - Australia (4), Pakistan (3).
Losses - Australia (3), Pakistan.
Other non first-class match - Lost to Western Australia.
Match reports for
Queensland v West Indians at Brisbane, Jan 20-23, 1989