New Zealand 1 West Indies 3

West Indies in New Zealand, 1955-56

West Indies, making their first full-scale tour of New Zealand, won the Test series by three games to one, but it is problematical whether victor or vanquished had more reason for satisfaction at the outcome. From the West Indies viewpoint the tour could not be said to have succeeded in its main purpose, which was to prepare young players for sterner Test struggles in the future.

It was with this aim in mind that the West Indies selectors included only three professionals in Atkinson's team. Ramadhin and Valentine provided the experience in attack and from the batting trio of Weekes, Worrell and Walcott the choice fell on the first-named.

How heavily the side leaned upon these three and on Atkinson himself is evident from the averages. Without them the series would almost certainly have been lost. Despite one or two good individual performances, the only member of the younger school who enjoyed a reasonably successful tour was Smith, and his chief value was as an off-spin bowler. The disappointing form of the young batsmen placed a tremendous burden on Weekes, overshadowed by Walcott in recent series as his country's leading batsman. Weekes rose magnificently to the demands made upon him, hitting six hundreds in his ten innings in first-class games. His first five innings were all centuries, two of them in Tests, and he followed with another in the Third Test.

The New Zealanders contributed to this extraordinary record by dropping him early in the slips more than once in the Tests, but no praise was too high for his electrifying strokeplay which delighted the New Zealand crowds as much as it depressed their representatives on the field. His dismissals for 5 and 31 (out of an innings total of 77), were vital factors in New Zealand's historic victory in the Fourth Test. The only other member of the touring team to hit a hundred was Pairaudeau, who scored 104 against Wellington. It was in the same game that Miller made the only century against the West Indies. Apart from Weekes, the most consistent West Indies batting in the Tests came from Atkinson and Goddard, who accompanied the team as player-manager.

The bowling presented a healthier picture. Ramadhin and Valentine received valuable assistance from Smith on pitches responsive to spin; Atkinson's steady medium-pace brought him considerable success in the last two Tests and Dewdney added to his stature as a promising new-ball bowler.

New Zealand, who when the series began had played forty-one Tests without winning one, certainly could not have fostered any real hope of holding even this weakened West Indies team in the rubber. Thus the losses suffered in the first three Tests, though disappointingly heavy, came as no surprise to a public inured to defeat and faded into insignificance when Reid led his team to victory in the final match at Auckland. That was the moment for which New Zealanders had waited twenty-six years and was a fitting culmination of a concentrated programme involving three series and twelve Tests in the space of five months. Much credit belonged to Reid, who succeeded Cave as captain after the First Test and by his example instilled a new sense of purpose and confidence into a side of moderate talents.

His 84 in the first innings at Auckland not only laid the foundation of success, but proved to be the highest individual score for his country in the series. Nevertheless, many problems remain for the New Zealanders, particularly in batting. Sutcliffe, for so long their chief hope, was clearly stale in the first two Tests and on medical advice missed the others. Several batsmen were tried, the most successful being Beck, a young left-hander with unlimited patience, and Taylor, who played once against England in 1947 and later spent several seasons with Warwickshire.

A specially valuable acquisition, both as batsman and wicket keeper, was Guillen, the former West Indies Test player. The touring side raised no objection to Guillen playing in Tests against them, but the question was raised in the New Zealand Press as to whether the rules of the Imperial Cricket Conference had not been infringed by his inclusion. These stipulate that a player must reside in his adopted country for four years before representing it in Test cricket. Reports from Wellington stated that Guillen did not take up permanent residence in New Zealand until December 1952, just over three years before he won his New Zealand cap in the Second Test of the series.


Matches--Played 4, Won 3, Lost 1

Match reports for

1st Test: New Zealand v West Indies at Dunedin, Feb 3-6, 1956
Report | Scorecard

2nd Test: New Zealand v West Indies at Christchurch, Feb 18-21, 1956
Report | Scorecard

3rd Test: New Zealand v West Indies at Wellington, Mar 3-7, 1956
Report | Scorecard

4th Test: New Zealand v West Indies at Auckland, Mar 9-13, 1956
Report | Scorecard

© John Wisden & Co