On May 3, 1995, the great wall crashed at last. After 15 years and 29 series, world cricket's longest-lasting dynasty was overthrown by the relentless, underestimated Australians - the most distinguished run of triumphant success gone with the Windies. The last time West Indies lost a series was in March 1980, when Clive Lloyd's tourists lost to Geoff Howarth's New Zealanders. Since then, they had won 20 and drawn nine (including two one-off Tests). Against Australia, the West Indians had won seven and drawn one since their defeat in 1975-76. It was 1972-73 when the last visiting team, Ian Chappell's Australians, had won a series in the Caribbean.
Mark Taylor led Australia to victory by 2-1, despite losing all four tosses. They had other problems: two leading pace bowlers, Craig McDermott and Damien Fleming, missed the series after injuries; only two batsmen - the Waugh twins - averaged over 26; the Australians had been thumped 4-1 in the one-day games; and during the First Test, Australian coach Bob Simpson developed a blood clot in his left leg and was admitted to hospital.
Against all expectations, ball dominated bat in the Tests, despite under-strength or outdated attacks. The Australian bowlers who had been belted to all parts of the Caribbean in the one-day series somehow restricted West Indies to three totals below 200 and a best of 265 in six completed innings. The cricket was like arm-wrestling, with white knuckles tilted back and forth until the strain told, the weaker man snapped and his arm was crunched into the table. It was strike-or-be-struck-down from the opening minutes of the series, when West Indies lost three batsmen for six, to the final wicket on the fourth afternoon of the last match. Two tests were completed within three days and the winning margins were all landslides - ten wickets, nine wickets and an innings and 53 runs.
How did Australia do it? All discussion must start and finish with Steve Waugh, whose 429 runs at 107.25 represented the most courageous, passionate and decisive batting of his life. With his low-risk, keep-the-ball-along-the-ground game, Waugh scored 189 more than the next Australian - his brother, Mark - and 121 more than West Indies' most prolific batsman, Brain Lara. But his tour was laced with drama from the first day of the First Test, when he claimed a catch off Lara which, seemingly unbeknown to him, had touched the ground as he tumbled. As an unsavoury consequence, he was heckled every time he came to the crease, branded a cheat by local crowds, publicly chastised by Viv Richards and subjected to intimidatory phone calls in the small hours. In Trinidad, he had a verbal clash with Curtly Ambrose, who had to be restrained by captain Richie Richardson. During the final Test, he woke up to discover a security guard in search of some unsanctioned souvenirs. Weary but undeterred, he went in next morning to conjure one of the best innings by an Australian in decades, batting nearly ten hours for a maiden Test double-century. Every media critic in Australia had, at some stage, branded Steve Waugh gun-shy against short-pitched bowling. Yet at Kingston, he took more than six blows on the hands, arms and body; over the series, he absorbed more than 500 rib-rattlers by ducking or offering a straight defensive bat, sometimes with both feet six inches off the ground. Nineteen Australian wickets fell to the hook, but he refused to play the stroke, arguing it was too risky.
The only other batsman to enjoy much success for Australia was Waugh's brother, Mark, who shared with him in the glorious stand of 231 that decided the series. It sapped West Indian spirits so quickly that they had not put on 100 when Winston Benjamin was spotted in tears. The Waugh twins are opposites in many respects. Steve is the calculating percentage player, the student of cricket history, and Mark the free-spirited gambler, the risk-taker who breezes through life without a harsh thought. But at Sabina Park, where Mark was as tough as his brother, they became a perfect union. They acknowledged their twin centuries without histrionics, declining any show of brotherly emotion for the cameras.
No other Australian reached an aggregate of 200, though David Boon ticked off some more landmarks: at St John's, he reached 7,000 Test runs, overtaking Bradman's 6,996; at Port-of-Spain, he became the second Australian (after Allan Border) to play in 100 Tests; and finally, at Kingston, he pulled one run ahead of Greg Chappell, to finish on 7,111, more than any Australian apart from Border.
Meticulous planning was a key feature in Australia's success with the ball. Knowing they lacked the artillery to blast West Indies out, especially after McDermott tore his ankle ligaments falling off a sea wall in Georgetown, they attempted to suffocate them. The Australians had game plans for each batsman and a collective one of intimidation for the tail. They noted that Lara's initial movement was back, so they baited him with full and wide balls. To Richardson, they angled the ball in, to stop him playing his famous off-side thrash; to Carl Hooper, they kept in tight, for they felt he was vulnerable under pressure. Quietly spoken Glenn McGrath made a personal commitment to bounce the West Indian tail and ensured that, of the last three, only Walsh reached double figures. McGrath also took 17 wickets, with hauls of five at Bridgetown and six at Port-of-Spain. He was well-supported by seamers Paul Reiffel, with 15, and Brendon Julian, called up to replace Fleming.
For once, Australia did not have to saddle up Shane Warne as a stock and shock bowler rolled into one. In fact, he was neither. Averaging barely 34 overs a Test, he took 15 wickets at 27.06; unlike the cement-footed batsmen of England and South Africa, the West Indians viciously attacked his bad balls... and some of his good ones.
The home captain, Richardson, resumed control after several months recovering from mental fatigue. It was a greater challenge than expected, for many of the team's key components had changed character. Lara, an emerging star when Richardson left the fray, had become a world leader and Ambrose, the long-time pace champion, seemed to be in decline. There was no Desmond Haynes to fortify the top order - he was embroiled in a legal dispute with the West Indian board - and the rich well of fast bowling had run dry.
West Indies lost because they could not give adequate support to the redoubtable Courtney Walsh, their outstanding bowler with 20 wickets at 21.55, and because their batsmen, apart from Lara, underachieved. Richardson scored nearly half his runs in one innings, his century in Jamaica, and Jimmy Adams was the only other batsman to average over 30. Opener Stuart Williams always looked like falling early and middle-order men Hooper - a colossus in the one-day games - and Keith Arthurton managed only one Test fifty between them. Australia always sensed it was a case of Lara out, all out.
Ambrose gave one great match-winning snarl in Trinidad, where he took nine of his 13 wickets. But that was on a pitch branded substandard by both sides, a seamer's heaven with grass an inch long. The tourists felt his pace, curtailed by a shoulder injury, had dropped substantially from his zenith in Australia two years before and he lacked the tricks to adapt to a more canny role. They also considered the West Indian bowling one dimensional; the home side dished up so many short-pitched balls that Taylor wrote to the International Cricket Council claiming that the law on intimidatory bowling simply was not working.
Despite the humiliation of the historic series defeat, Richardson labelled Taylor's team - unchanged throughout the four Tests - the weakest Australian side I have played only minutes after surrendering the Frank Worrell Trophy. This caused a lot of anger and seemed out of tune with the facts.
AUSTRALIAN TOURING PARTY
M. A. Taylor (New South Wales) (captain), I. A. Healy (Queensland) (vice-captain), G. S. Blewett (South Australia), D. C. Boon (Tasmania), D. W. Fleming (Victoria), J. L. Langer (Western Australia), C. J. McDermott (Queensland), G. D. McGrath (New South Wales), T. B. A. May (South Australia), R. T. Ponting (Tasmania), P. R. Reiffel (Victoria), M. J. Slater (New South Wales), S. K. Warne (Victoria), M. E. Waugh (New South Wales), S. R. Waugh (New South Wales).
B. P. Julian (Western Australia) and C. G. Rackemann (Queensland) joined the tour as replacements for the injured Fleming and McDermott.
Manager: J. Edwards. Coach: R. B. Simpson.
AUSTRALIAN TOUR RESULTS
Test matches -- Played 4: Won 2, Lost 1, Drawn 1.
First-class matches - Played 7: Won 3, Lost 1, Drawn 3.
Wins - West Indies (2), Guyana.
Loss - West Indies.
Draws - West Indies, West Indies Board President's XI, West Indies Board XI.
One-day internationals - Played 5: Won 1, Lost 4.
Other non-first-class match - Won v Barbados XI.