November 2006

Kim's game of his life

When West Indies went to Australia in 1981 they had not lost in 15 Tests. Australia had just lost against Pakistan, albeit a dead rubber, by an innings. On an MCG pitch so lively it was deadly West Indies had Holding, Garner, Roberts and Croft. Australia


When West Indies went to Australia in 1981 they had not lost in 15 Tests. Australia had just lost against Pakistan, albeit a dead rubber, by an innings. On an MCG pitch so lively it was deadly West Indies had Holding, Garner, Roberts and Croft. Australia had Kim Hughes



Fearsome foursome: Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Colin Croft and Joel Garner foreshortened for relief © Getty Images

Terry Alderman (Australian bowler): It was a shocking wicket. If you get a bouncer halfway down the wicket, on a normal wicket you duck under it but on that MCG wicket you weren't sure whether it was going to fl y over your head or cannon into you. I ducked into a Joel Garner bouncer and copped it on the back of my head.

Andy Roberts (West Indies bowler): It was not a very good pitch and it stayed that way till the end.

Kim Hughes (Australian batsman): It hadn't been a good wicket for a number of years because it had very dangerous bounce. It was variable and, when you are facing fast bowlers of that stature, it is the worst surface to bat on because you're not too sure if it's going to be up or down. Add to that the wetness on the first day and it was quite a task.

When Hughes came in, Australia were 8 for 3. Greg Chappell was out first ball, his fourth successive duck since the Test defeat by Pakistan.

Roberts: Kim batted very well and played a lot of shots, unlike the other batsmen. He played all of them - he hooked, he cut, he pulled and never gave up. He took up the challenge and it paid off for him. It was a great innings. You don't find one batsman playing that sort of innings on more than one occasion. That was just his day. The nature of the pitch demanded an innings where he had to counter-attack.

Hughes: I realised pretty quickly that to hang around and defend was going to be a waste of time because the wicket was such that sooner or later something was going to happen. So I thought what I could do was try to play as many shots as possible. Hopefully that way the bowlers would forget about bowling at the stumps and try and bowl a bit more at me. Running down the wicket and hitting Joel past cover, hooking Roberts for a boundary, hitting a few square-drives off Holding - those were some of the special shots that gave me a lot of pleasure. Sometimes I got carried away. For instance, after that hook shot, I tried hooking another. The ball just came in a couple of yards quicker and Roberts gave me a look that seemed to say, "Don't get too clever." I was lucky not to get hit in the head.

Alderman: He went after them. He was ruthless and devastating and at his fl amboyant best. We really needed somebody to take on the West Indies. That was the secret: if you fought fire with fire against them, they could crumble just like any other bowling attack.

Gus Logie (West Indies 12th man): Kim Hughes's innings was a magnificent one. He was cutting, driving and pulling against one of the best bowling attacks. It was a lesson in courage and self-belief. I was 21 and that was my first Test series, though I didn't play; I was a substitute in the match. It was a very competitive series. It was the first time I saw, up close and personal, the likes of Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson.

There were no restrictions on bouncers, protective helmets were in their infancy and West Indies' attack consisted of nothing but pace, brilliantly intimidating pace.

In all the years I played them they never said a word but that day they appreciated how difficult it was against them and respected my courage

Kim Hughes

Hughes: Bodyline was never four quick bowlers all day, it was Larwood from one end for a period of time. The West Indies pace quartet was relentless. You couldn't even get into double figures without respite. They bowled in such a way as to create fear and the best way to do that was to bowl at the head. That was the greatest fear: not losing your wicket but getting hit in the head. That was the greatest bowling attack that has ever been. Michael Holding was a Rolls-Royce - genuinely quick and such a nice action. Then you had big Joel, who was six-foot-nine, and he had that lethal yorker. And then there was Andy Roberts, who was as close as I've seen to Dennis Lillee with his mental attitude - a quality bowler with a very well-disguised bouncer, and he could vary his pace, bowl cutters. To me, though, Colin Croft was the hardest to face, with his awkward action where he would come from a wide angle and make the ball come in or go away. I found I could get to Joel a bit as his medium pace was easy for me to handle, so I could step out and hit him at times.

Roberts: I didn't look at our bowling as bodyline. Since the wicket wasn't well prepared, a lot of balls that bounced weren't necessarily bouncers. And look at the height of our bowlers - when you've these tall bowlers coming at you, the ball is obviously going to bounce more. For them to say there was a barrage of bouncers was actually fear.

While Hughes fought fire with fire at one end wickets tumbled at the other. The next top score in Australia's first innings was 21. At 155 for 9, Hughes was joined by Alderman, who had a Test batting average of six.

Alderman: When I went out, Kim was on 70 or so and looking for his hundred. So I told him, "I might not be hanging around too long with the way this wicket is and the way they're bowling, so you better get after them."

Hughes: When he walked in, I wished Terry good luck. I almost said to myself that he was gonna need it, because he wasn't the greatest batsman. But he gutsed it out - got in behind them, missed some, hit some and had his share of luck. He didn't fl inch, even if he took a few on the body. We were 150-odd when Terry came in and we put on about 40. That lifted everybody's confidence and we finished on a good note. My fatherin- law was very ill at the time and he died within about a week of that innings. I knew he was watching. So the hundred was a special one. Joel bowled one wide of the off stump and I cut it to the point boundary to get to the three-figure mark. It was Boxing Day and the crowds were emotionally involved - a couple of hundred jumped the fence to storm the ground. Immediately after my hundred Terry got out. Croft came running towards me and I thought, "He's not gonna hit me now, is he?" He said, "Well played, maan, well played." In all the years I played against West Indies they never said a word. On that day they appreciated how difficult it was to bat against the four of them and they respected my courage. It was not only my best innings but the greatest day of Test cricket seen at the MCG. Most importantly, we won the Test.



"The crowd were really involved and were chanting and the occasion was ripe for Dennis to do what only he could" © Getty Images

Alderman: When you think of the pressure that Kim was under, batting with the tail, and with his father-in-law in bad shape - taking all those factors into account, it was just one of those outstanding individual efforts.

Hughes had made exactly 100 not out off 200 balls out of 198 all out. Could Australia's own speed merchant Dennis Lillee make use of the dodgy track?

Hughes: We had an hour or thereabouts to go on that first day after we were all out. Our bowlers were all fired up with our fightback. The crowd were really involved and were chanting and the occasion was ripe for Dennis to do what only he could. Terry got the breakthrough. Then Dennis got Desmond Haynes caught and the night-watchman Croft lbw. The crowd went ballistic. Viv Richards walked out but he got an inside edge on to the stumps off the last ball of the day. Fifty-thousand hands went up in unison. That was probably the only time they were beaten in a match where the conditions suited their bowlers.

Logie: When Richards walked in late in the day, after Hughes's heroic innings, there was this reverberating chant of "Lillee, Lillee, Lillee," and the next three words were "Kill, kill, kill". Lillee bowled his heart out and had us against the ropes. We were stranded at 10 for 4, from which we never recovered.

West Indies actually secured a tiny first-innings lead but it was a personal triumph for Lillee who became the leading Test wickettaker of all time, passing Lance Gibbs' total of 309. West Indies were set 220 to win and fell 58 short, Lillee completing a 10-wicket haul. During the match the Melbourne club announced the relaying of the square over the next three years.

Roberts: We lost the Test match mainly because of umpiring errors - Allan Border got caught at short leg [in the second innings] and it wasn't given. He went on to make 60-odd and that played a crucial part in Australia taking the Test away.

Logie: One interesting thing was, we had not brought the Frank Worrell Trophy to Australia with us, since we couldn't find it. We were wondering what we would hand over if we lost the series. But after the fantastic Test in Melbourne we managed to draw the second and win in Adelaide to draw the series.

Nagraj Gollapudi is Assistant Editor of Cricinfo Magazine