Cricket: I was there as Slasher took on Windies in best Test at Adelaide Oval

By Peter Schumacher

I was at the Fourth Test match between Australia and the West Indies at Adelaide from 27 January to 1 February 1961 for 4 of the 5 days, and on that memorable fifth day I was present in the outer  in the general vicinity of where the Chappell Stands are now located. This game was the best game ever played at the Adelaide Oval, although the one could argue that the Second Ashes Test played 1 – 5 December 2006, in which Australia had had an unlikely win with Warne at his best of the fifth day, was right up there.

Before continuing this post, I want acknowledge that my reminiscences have been brought into focus as it were by references to a book called With the West Indies in Australia 1960-61 by that great ABC commentator of the time A.G. (Johnnie) Moyes (Angus and Robertson). This publication provided a wealth of information on all aspects of the tour. I want to quote directly from Moyes’s preface: “I shall never cease to be thankful for the inspiration which caused me to go to Perth to meet the West Indies cricketers. In other tours it had been a case of joining the touring team at Adelaide but this time there was an irresistible urge to be with the men from the Caribbean right from the start; some conviction which I cannot explain that it would be so worthwhile… It was good to meet men like Gerry Gomez, Frank Worrell, Alf Valentine and Sonny Ramadhin who had been in Australia nine years earlier; to get to know Conrad Hunte, Cammie Smith, Gar Sobers, Wesley Hall … And when the matches began what a joy it was to see them in action, Sobers, Kanhai, Hunte, Worrell, Hall and others of the elect. Their lovely batsmen took my mind back over the years to the days of Bradman and McCabe, and past that to the times when Trumper, Macartney, Hill and others were lighting up our playing fields with their brilliance.”

What high praise this was. I am so fortunate that I was just old enough to at least start to appreciate what was arguably the greatest Test series ever held in this country, one which rescued Test Cricket at the time, and another like it is needed yesterday.

I want to make a point here: touring teams in those days were given plenty of time to assess Australian conditions as they played games in all of the mainland states before the first Test, always played in Brisbane. Now international sides are expected to hit the ground running at Test match level and we can say the latest sad example of how this cannot work with the Windies being put to the sword within three days at Brisbane.  Having said that, the current side boasts no players with the ability and charisma of any of those mentioned previously

To put the times into context, John F. Kennedy had that January been inaugurated as the 35th President of The United States.  Decimal currency in Australia was still five years away. I was a young kid aged 14 who by the good offices of a family friend, Fred Thiele (pronounced “Teerlee”), a really nice bloke who took me and my sister to Adelaide Test matches in the late fifties and early sixties. Fred was a parishioner of my dad, a Lutheran pastor in the Adelaide Hills town of Birdwood, who though mad keen on sports himself rarely had the opportunity to go to the “big smoke”. Well, Adelaide was very much the big smoke to us; Sydney was an alien place and Melbourne had terrible beer or at least that is what Dad reckoned and we always trusted his judgement and word implicitly. Brisbane was in Queensland and that was a different country. I wondered what the people from there were really like. Happily I found out as I married a lovely Beenleigh girl a decade later.

I digress. The first Test match I went to was the Fourth Test in January 1959 between Australia and England with Richie Benaud and Peter May being the respective captains. How I remember the bearing of these two fine players and also even then as a twelve year old the beauty of the Adelaide Oval. In fact, because I knew no other, I presumed that all grounds had that atmosphere, that ambience. What a rude shock then was the next big ground I went to in 1969, The Gabba. Then it had Moreton Bay Figs as the botanical fixtures and the dog track circling the playing area. It was ghastly, unlike now when I reckon it is just about the best ground to view either cricket or the AFL. The other thing was that in those days there were 8 ball overs and 200 runs in a day was OK, or at least it was to me. It was just fantastic in those pre-TV days for us to see all of the great names in the flesh.

So back to day one, 27 January 1961. It is interesting that the big talk these days is climate change. I guess that one has to accept this as a fact though some deniers won’t have it. I remember South Australian summers always being stinking hot, and this day was no exception, the maximum reached 105.7 that day in the real money. Thus the first drinks were taken after 45 minutes. Worrell had won the toss and so Australia was in the field. Conrad Hunte took strike to Des Hoare, a Western Australian in his first test. Frank Misson, who I remember used to be seen sprawled across the pitch attempting and usually getting catches, took an absolute ripper to get rid of Worrell, who basically succumbed at 71 because he was stuffed because of the heat. Misson took an even better one in that sprawled position to get rid of Nurse.  At the end of the first day the Windies were 7 for 348. That’s NOT your miserable 200 in a day’s play! I remember the crowd’s roar when Benaud bowled Sobers for 1 and also the way that Kanhai, who made 117, carted our bowlers, even Benaud, all over the place. In fact he hit Benaud’s first ball, a full toss, nearly out of the ground where the Victor Richardson Gates are now situated.

One thing I really remember about day two was that Les Favell failed. As a dinky die South Aussie I was so looking forward to this man making a real impact but, no, he mishit a Worrell long hop from his glove and Alexander (what a great wicketkeeper-batsman he was) behind the stumps did the rest. The disappointment of the crowd was palpable.

In general it is no wonder that Benaud has always had a phenomenal reputation. He took five wickets in the West Indies’ first innings and then made 77 in Australia’s first innings. He was second top score. The thing was that he played to win too, not content to bat for a draw.

I missed day three and Lance Gibb’s hat trick but basically the Windies had attained a first innings lead of 27 but with Kanhai again leading the batting they were one for 150 and seemingly miles ahead.

The Australian side went into day four having to make an impact if they were going to be in any position to win the match. Benaud led from the front bowling the first over but he and Kline made no impact as Kanhai again seemed to be invincible and Hunte, on 79, only got out after a great piece of fielding from Misson, who ran him out with a long under arm throw. I thought that at last Australia would start to do something and Benaud added to this belief when he trapped Kanhai LBW for 115. From square leg this seemed to be a fair enough decision to me and those around me seemed to think so, too. The excitement and crowd cockiness grew when the Windies were suddenly 5 for 275, a big overall lead, but not invincible.  Worrell and Alexander soon put paid to that emotion as they carted Benaud, Hoare and Kline all over the paddock and soon the score was 350, the last 50 coming in 32 minutes. This was just exhilarating to watch and you forgot the fact that the Australians were being creamed; you just thought, “How good is this”?

Worrell declared at 432 for 6 and by stumps on day four after 35 minutes batting Australia was 3 for 31, including Favell, who failed again, having teased us by hooking Hall for a four and we thought at last he is going to show us how good he really is. Again we all groaned when he tickled the next Hall delivery through to Alexander.

We now come to day five. From a partisan point of view I wondered if it would be worthwhile being at the cricket but Mr Thiele reminded me that I would never again get a chance to see these West Indian cricketers in action. Besides, we had O’Neill, Burge and Benaud still to come in. Can’t say that the fifth day crowd was that great though.

Burge and O’Neill, the not out batsmen, began well enough. Again in contrast to what might have been the norm previously they went for their shots and   for a while a sort of comfort zone started to evolve, with 13 runs even being taken from one Wes Hall over. We loved this; how long could they keep going? One thing was that unlike these days they were not particularly crowded. But then, but then, Burge mishit an attempted cut shot off a lifting ball from Valentine and Alexander had him. Like now, these dismissals take place so quickly and your mind is in turmoil as you try to consider how, why, when, and we have to have had it now. O’Neill was out, too, hitting one back to Sobers; why didn’t he hit it harder?

Enter Slasher. Bloody near exit Slasher, too, as he was very close to being caught at leg slip first ball.

Benaud went the same way as O’Neill: caught and bowled Sobers, for 17. It was a procession now. Grout hung around for 42, of course by now it was about occupation, not runs. He was given out LBW at that score. One barracker echoed the sentiment of all of us on Grout’s dismissal: “Tootaloo kangaroo”. From square leg we presumed that this was a correct call. At tea Australia was seven for 203, with only Hoare, Misson and Kline left.

So we get to the last session. Misson and Hoare didn’t last long so it was up to Kline and Mackay. With more than an hour before the scheduled close of play, it seemed the game was over. Mackay played forward to Worrell, Sobers took the catch and the West Indies were walking off the field. But Slasher wasn’t, there was an appeal which Umpire Egar turned down. How surreal this was. Hall came on with his long run and ferocious deliveries. Only now they didn’t seem to trouble the batsmen. Still, only one ball away from the inevitable conclusion. Overs came and went, back to Valentine and Gibbs, still the batsmen hung on. Overs – 8 balls remember – were being bowled at two-minute pace. The field was close now, with nine fieldsmen right around the bat when Kline was facing. Still both batsmen blocked. We cheered every block, particularly from Slasher. Who would have thought that he would ever be cheered for his batting style?

One minute to six Hall was brought back. He couldn’t make an impact yet the tension created by each long run in was nearly unbearable. The match stopped when there was a crowd invasion, which I saw as being totally unfortunate and stupid; it occurred after Hall had dropped the ball on his run in for what was supposed to be the last ball of the day.

Back to the top of his run in … the crowd was hushed, Mackay was determined not to be out caught, and he took this final delivery on his body because the direction was not there to be an LBW.  The West Indies had won everywhere except the last two hours and I was there to see it.

West Indies 1st innings

R

M

4s

6s

CC Hunte lbw b Hoare 6 14 1 0
CW Smith c & b Benaud 28 80 3 0
RB Kanhai c Simpson b Benaud 117 149 14 2
GS Sobers b Benaud 1 8 0 0
FMM Worrell* c Misson b Hoare 71 174 10 0
SM Nurse c & b Misson 49 121 3 0
JS Solomon c & b Benaud 22 61 0 0
FCM Alexander not out 63 148 5 0
LR Gibbs b Misson 18 63 1 0
WW Hall c Hoare b Benaud 5 53 0 0
AL Valentine lbw b Misson 0 7 0 0
Extras (b 3, lb 3, w 5, nb 2) 13
Total (all out; 88.5 overs) 393 (3.32 runs per 6 balls)
Fall of wickets1-12 (Hunte), 2-83 (Smith), 3-91 (Sobers), 4-198 (Kanhai), 5-271 (Worrell), 6-288 (Nurse), 7-316 (Solomon), 8-375 (Gibbs), 9-392 (Hall), 10-393 (Valentine)
Bowling

O

M

R

W

Econ

DE Hoare 16 0 68 2 3.18
FM Misson 17.5 2 79 3 3.36
KD Mackay 2 0 11 0 4.12
R Benaud 27 5 96 5 2.66
LF Kline 21 3 109 0 3.89
RB Simpson 5 0 17 0 2.55
Australia 1st innings

R

M

4s

6s

CC McDonald c Hunte b Gibbs 71 169 4 0
LE Favell c †Alexander b Worrell 1 9 0 0
NC O’Neill c †Alexander b Sobers 11 55 0 0
RB Simpson c †Alexander b Hall 85 208 4 0
PJP Burge b Sobers 45 92 5 0
R Benaud* c Solomon b Gibbs 77 213 7 0
KD Mackay lbw b Gibbs 29 85 2 0
ATW Grout c Sobers b Gibbs 0 1 0 0
FM Misson b Gibbs 0 1 0 0
DE Hoare b Sobers 35 104 2 0
LF Kline not out 0 2 0 0
Extras (b 2, lb 3, nb 7) 12
Total (all out; 109.6 overs) 366 (2.50 runs per 6 balls)
Fall of wickets1-9 (Favell), 2-45 (O’Neill), 3-119 (McDonald), 4-213 (Burge), 5-221 (Simpson), 6-281 (Mackay), 7-281 (Grout), 8-281 (Misson), 9-366 (Hoare), 10-366 (Benaud)
Bowling

O

M

R

W

Econ

WW Hall 22 3 85 1 2.89
FMM Worrell 7 0 34 1 3.64
GS Sobers 24 3 64 3 2.00
LR Gibbs 35.6 4 97 5 2.03
AL Valentine 21 4 74 0 2.64
West Indies 2nd innings

R

M

4s

6s

CC Hunte run out 79 220 6 0
CW Smith c Hoare b Mackay 46 61 10 0
RB Kanhai lbw b Benaud 115 222 12 0
GS Sobers run out 20 79 1 0
FMM Worrell* c Burge b Mackay 53 136 8 0
SM Nurse c Simpson b Benaud 5 13 1 0
FCM Alexander not out 87 148 10 0
JS Solomon not out 16 40 1 0
Extras (b 2, lb 6, w 2, nb 1) 11
Total (6 wickets dec; 92 overs) 432 (3.52 runs per 6 balls)
Did not bat LR Gibbs, WW Hall, AL Valentine
Fall of wickets1-66 (Smith), 2-229 (Hunte), 3-263 (Kanhai), 4-270 (Sobers), 5-275 (Nurse), 6-388 (Worrell)
Bowling

O

M

R

W

Econ

DE Hoare 13 0 88 0 5.07
FM Misson 28 3 106 0 2.83
KD Mackay 12 0 72 2 4.50
R Benaud 27 3 107 2 2.97
LF Kline 12 2 48 0 3.00
Australia 2nd innings (target: 460 runs)

R

M

4s

6s

CC McDonald run out 2 20 0 0
LE Favell c †Alexander b Hall 4 12 1 0
NC O’Neill c & b Sobers 65 179 8 0
RB Simpson c †Alexander b Hall 3 18 0 0
PJP Burge c †Alexander b Valentine 49 99 5 0
R Benaud* c & b Sobers 17 61 2 0
KD Mackay not out 62 223 6 0
ATW Grout lbw b Worrell 42 76 5 0
FM Misson c Solomon b Worrell 1 14 0 0
DE Hoare b Worrell 0 3 0 0
LF Kline not out 15 109 2 0
Extras (b 9, lb 1, nb 3) 13
Total (9 wickets; 120 overs) 273 (1.70 runs per 6 balls)
Fall of wickets1-6 (Favell), 2-7 (McDonald), 3-31 (Simpson), 4-113 (Burge), 5-129 (O’Neill), 6-144 (Benaud), 7-203 (Grout), 8-207 (Misson), 9-207 (Hoare)
Bowling

O

M

R

W

Econ

WW Hall 13 4 61 2 3.51
FMM Worrell 17 9 27 3 1.19
GS Sobers 39 11 87 2 1.67
LR Gibbs 28 13 44 0 1.17
AL Valentine 20 7 40 1 1.50
JS Solomon 3 2 1 0 0.25
Match details
Balls per over 8
Toss West Indies, who chose to bat
Series 5-match series level 1-1
Test debut DE Hoare (Australia)
Umpires CJ Egar and C Hoy
Close of play
27 Jan day 1 – West Indies 1st innings 348/7 (FCM Alexander 38*, LR Gibbs 3*)
28 Jan day 2 – Australia 1st innings 221/4 (RB Simpson 85*, R Benaud 1*)
29 Jan rest day
30 Jan day 3 – West Indies 2nd innings 150/1 (CC Hunte 44*, RB Kanhai 59*)
31 Jan day 4 – Australia 2nd innings 31/3 (NC O’Neill 21*)
1 Feb day 5 – Australia 2nd innings 273/9 (120 ov) – end of match

About Peter Schumacher

Wannabe footy commentator and writer, used to be a wannabe footballer

Comments

  1. Peter Flynn says:

    Outstanding read Peter.

    I’ve seen the last ball on Cricket in the 60’s.

    Slasher just chests it and continues chewing his gum. Superb foot-soldier.

    Apparently Kline had a net prior to going in and was bowled on several occasions.
    He attracted much mirth (and little faith) from the member’s that viewed his net.

    It was Des Hoare’s first and only Test.

  2. John Butler says:

    Great to get an eyewitness account of this legendary test Peter.

    As a young chap, I read the Courage Book of Test Cricket assiduously. The descriptions of this series always shone like gold in the imagination.

  3. Peter Flynn says:

    Peter,

    Again great that you were there.

    I was lucky enough recently to see footage of the nerve-jangling conclusion.
    Hall has three attempts at bowling the final ball.

    The first time Hall runs in and doesn’t release. He then slams the ball into the turf.

    He runs in again and this time bowls a no ball. The crowd invades the ground. Slasher remains calm.

    On the 3rd attempt, Slasher raises both arms as if he is shouldering arms to a ball outside off stump. It is however directed straight at his body. He duly chests the ball and calmly walks toward the pavilion.

    Brilliant.

  4. Peter Schumacher says:

    Hi Peter,

    Thanks for that, I must confess that I got the sequence of events messed up, as I scribed, my memory was that the “dropped” ball was supposed to be the last delivery. I remember the crowd invasion of course but not the no ball. At least that explains in part why the crowd invasion took place.

    Must say that the Second Test just finished wasn’t too foul either except that as usual my predictions were wildly inaccurate in that at lunch time on day 5 I was certain that Benn would go straight through the rest of the Australian line up.

  5. Peter Flynn says:

    Peter,

    I reckon the 68/69 Adelaide test had a gripping conclusion as well.

    Sheahan and Connolly holding the Windies at bay (9 for 300ish at stumps).

    Australia had a big first innings lead and then the Windies made 600 in the 2nd dig.

  6. Tony Roberts says:

    The May-McDermott Adelaide Test against Curtly and Courtney in 1992/93 was hard to forget. At short leg, Desmond Haynes’ ribs saved the West Indies from defeat when C McD pulled Walsh. Two balls later: out (arguable caught behind decision issued by a newish umpire, D Hair).

    I saw India’s recovery from 4/85 against Australia’s 551 in 2003/04, to eventually win late on day 5 after Australia collapsed – to Agit Agakar! Recovery led by (who else?) Dravid and VVS.

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