Almanac Cricket – Boxing Day memories: The best Test innings by an Australian (other than Bradman): Kim Hughes v West Indies, Melbourne, 1981/82

The best Test innings by an Australian (other than Bradman): Kim Hughes – 100 not out, vs West Indies, Melbourne, 1981/82


By James Grapsas


In assessing the quality of a Test innings, I place great weight on the degree of difficulty faced by the batsman. The key factors are the quality of the opposition attack, the nature of the game situation when the player was at the crease and any challenges in the conditions. With this in mind, Kim Hughes’ unbeaten 100 against the West Indies at the MCG in the 1981/82 Boxing Day Test is the knock I rate as the best by an Australian player in a Test match. Other than by Bradman, of course.


The West Indian attack that graced the MCG on that Saturday was a fast and fearsome combination: Michael Holding, Andy Roberts, Joel Garner and Colin Croft. In what was the first Test of the series, Australia were in strife at 3-8 after 52 minutes. Greg Chappell had been dismissed for a first ball duck, his fourth consecutive duck at international level, when Hughes arrived at the crease. Hughes combined graft with bold strokeplay, but the score was a sickly 5-59 when Dirk Wellham, the last of the recognised batsmen, departed nearly an hour into the afternoon session.


Hughes produced an innings of exceptional quality, highlighted by courageous, counter-attacking shots. His execution of the pull and cut shots was outstanding. He took the fight right up to the mighty West Indian quicks. Helped by partnerships of 56 and 34 with Western Australian teammates Rod Marsh and Bruce Yardley, respectively, Hughes helped Australia inch over the 150 mark early in the evening session. Hughes was on 71 when number 11 batsman Terry Alderman came in with the score on 9-155. Hughes lifted the intensity further and Alderman played his part, sticking around for 56 minutes. Hughes reached his hundred with an exhilarating square cut off Garner for four. Alderman was out a short time later for 10, which ended the Australian innings on 198. Hughes skilfully farmed the strike, with Alderman facing only 26 deliveries. Hughes’ unbeaten 100, scored from 200 balls and including 11 fours, was more than half the Australian total. No other batsman passed 21.


The enormity of Hughes’ contribution is brought into focus by the other scores made in the match. From the other 39 individual innings in that Test, only three half-centuries were scored: Larry Gomes made 55 in the West Indies’ first innings and 64 and 66 were scored by Bruce Laird and Allan Border, respectively, in the Aussies’ second dig.


In addition to the pressure situation in which he batted, Hughes also rose above an ordinary MCG pitch. In the early-1980s, the MCG wicket was notorious for inconsistent pace and bounce – not the best conditions for facing a rapid and menacing West Indies fast bowling battery. In the two previous MCG Tests, the wicket had become a minefield on the fourth and fifth days and Australia had suffered embarrassing defeats. In February 1981, Australia had been rolled by India for 83, chasing a mild total of 143. Less than two weeks before the Boxing Day engagement with the West Indies, Pakistan had rolled the Australians for 125 and consigned the home side to an innings defeat. The MCG pitch was canned and, after Australia’s eventual 58 run win against the West Indies, the Melbourne Cricket Club announced that the centre square would be dug up at the end of the 1981/82 season and re-laid over the next three years.


It should also be remembered that Hughes entered the 1981/82 season under significant pressure. His captaincy had been heavily criticised by the media in the wake of Australia losing the 1981 Ashes series. With Greg Chappell available for national selection as the 1981/82 home season loomed, Hughes had to hand the leadership duties back to Chappell. ‘Botham’s Ashes’ was also an unsuccessful period for Hughes with the bat. Aside from a quality 89 on a tricky wicket in the first innings of the famous Headingley Test, Hughes failed to pass 50 in the series (300 runs at 25.00). On a personal level, Hughes’ father-in-law was critically ill and the Hughes family were told shortly before the Test that he did not have long to live. Hughes’ father-in-law passed away about a week after the innings.


This superb knock was the seventh of Hughes’ nine Test centuries. Only two of Hughes’ Test hundreds were scored overseas: an even 100 against India at Chennai during the six Test series marathon in 1979 and his brilliant 117 in the 1980 Centenary Test at Lord’s. His home Test batting average was 5.50 runs higher than his average away:


* Home Tests – 36 Tests, 2,739 runs at 39.70, HS 213, 7 x 100s, 12 x 50s, 6 x 0s.

* Away Tests – 34 Tests, 1,676 runs at 34.20, HS 117, 2 x 100s, 10 x 50s, 4 x 0s.


After his Boxing Day masterpiece, Hughes performed very well in the home series against England in 1982/83 (469 runs at 67.00) and Pakistan in 1983/84 (375 runs at 62.50). Hughes had a wretched run against the West Indies in 1984, which were the last nine Tests of his career. This tumultuous period, during which Hughes resigned the Test captaincy in November 1984, produced a modest 296 runs from 18 innings with a highest score of only 37. During this hardship, Hughes’ Test batting average fell from 41.19 to its final figure of 37.41. Cricket devotees should not allow Hughes’ troubles in 1984/85 and his eventual leadership of the South African rebel tours to obscure his gutsy and skilful performance in the face of adversity on Boxing Day 1981.



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  1. Peter Flynn says

    At the back of the SACA Members stand with MW Howard, we were lucky enough to talk briefly to KJ Hughes about this innings.

    First a charming fellow who gave a minute of his time.

    Second he opened with:

    “Geez the wicket was a bit up and down wasn’t it?”

    He made us feel like we played in the game.

    Great stuff.

    Certainly one of the finest innings ever played by an Australian.

    AR Border in Port-of-Spain and WB Phillips in Bridgetown also need noting.

  2. Peter Warrington says

    yep, awesome innings on a superb day, that 4-10 etched into folklore as well. the funny story is Hughes remembering Croft charging up to him, and Hughes feeling like he was going to deck him, such was Croft’s demeanour. he got a “well played, mon” from one of the toughest and meanest of all time.

    Kim also took a cracker to end a Dujon sublime cameo. Lillee got 7. Holding got a couple of buckets. Hughes got a broken toe and bowled by a grubber in the second dig. Roo Yardley trundled on in that Indian summer. a great, great, low-scoring test

    Kim’s knock the following test, broken toe and all, when he and AB almost won the series was nearly as good, but Garner’s 5th day intervention and a skittish bowling performance cost us the trophy.

    in terms of overseas averages, Kim copped 6 tests against Pakistan in quick succession. a couple brilliant 80s to start (one ina collapse) and then famine.

    certainly the blight against his career as captain is that he couldn’t get an overseas ton as skipper after India 79-80, or even one as a batsman after Lords 1980.

    Ian chappell rates this the best knock, too.

    One of my faves is Clarke’s 151 in that bizarre game in SA. He was head and shoulders above everyone, coming in at 3-40 and scoring 151out of the next 240. Steyn, Philander, Morkel, Kallis – and 96 and 47 were the next two TEAM totals on the wicket. an absolute masterpiece. Unseen by most of his critics.

  3. Shane John Backx says

    I proudly sat in Bay 13 this day and for every ball of the test. Incidently this was the last test where you were allowed to take your own beer into the ground, they banned it soon after. Legally that is. Of course illegally was another matter…..

  4. Slater’s 123 out of 184 against the To and Froms on a SCG turner is rarely talked about.

    OK not the greatest bowling attacks but his use of the feet was Gene Kelly like.

  5. Shane John Backx says

    Ian Chappells 156 out of 329 all out at Perth against Roberts Holding Julien Boyce and Gibbs in 75-76 stands out too. Gets forgotten a lot.

  6. Peter Warrington says

    remember listening to Phillips going for it on the radio. he gave them the treatment. very Yardley 77-8.

    Chappelli’s was a gem. 329 seemed OK, until Roy got going.

    I remember Slats again from the radio and had always played it down as a dead rubber /batting to declare effort. But we were only 110 ahead on the first dig, and Mark Waugh was the only other double figured scorer. Incredible!

    (Greg Chappell always rated his Centenary Test 40 in 4 hours as being one of his best.)

  7. Kim Hughes ton @ the G versus the Windies was a great knock. He made some sterling tons. THe debut ton V England @ the Gabba in late 1978 was one to savour . The Lords test of 1980, follwed by arolicking 84 in the second dig were of the highest order.

    For a chap who promised so much it was so sad to see it end in tears; literally He is probably the ultimate victim of the WSC/ACB scsim.


  8. I was there. Agree. Especially when you see what happened at the other end. Final morning of that Test was riveting. A remarkable silence at the ground.

  9. Great remising there, James. I agree that it was one of the greatest innings – Bradman included!
    Who can forget the 6 Hughes hit into the members stand at Lord’s off Chris Old? One of the great shots in Test cricket.

  10. Cameron Hooke says

    I was also there.

    It was the most remarkable day of cricket I’ve ever attended. Not only was Hughes awesome, as you’ve described very much on his own in the Australian total, but the changeover late in the day with Lillee getting three (including the Master Blaster (was it the final ball of the day?)) plus another – I forget.

    We were standing on the old G seats screaming when the players had the temerity to waljk off just because the day’s play had finished.

    As John knows I can be a bit focussed on the AFL; but what a game that was.

  11. Shane John Backx says

    I cant help thinking that KJH should never have been made captain in the first place, his career wouldve so much longer and better for it, allowing him to concentrating on batting.

  12. Peter Warrington says

    isn’t that the great conundrum. they could have made Marsh captain in 75-6, and GS never would have, so 81 and 82 wouldn’t have happened. they could have made Invers skipper instead of Simmo, and Hughes wouldn’t have had the opportunity for those 7 tests. they could have made Hookes captain in the early 80s, he could captain even if his batting was marginal. they could have made Henry captain, he had a great tactical bent, but he was a bowler.

    the really sad passage – there are many – in the Ryan book is some close friends, like Wayne Clark, trying to get him to stand down in 83-4, and “go be the next Viv Richards”. he might never have gone to SA.

    but his advisors got it into his head that he could and should be captain. as a kid, and the dream lingered. even though he never captained at any level, and Invers reckoned there were 5-6 better captains in the WA side alone.

    he was a pawn in his own game. and Chappells x 2 and Lillee and Marsh and Hookes all at fault.

    only AB seems blameless, loyal to the end and then accepting the great weight. maybe they should have made him skipper of a full-strength team (Hughes and Chappell batting for him) and he might have been Graeme Smith, rather than the dour defender of Australian honour?

    as it happens, Hughes was an OK captain, certainly I don’t think he was any worse than GS Chappell.

  13. craig dodson says

    I think you have just about nailed it Jimmy.. I think Greg Chappell once described Hughes as not a great batsman, rather a batsman who played great innings. I recently saw some footage of him batting in the SA rebel tours.. brilliant stroke player at his best. Best wishes to you and the family for xmas.

  14. Great article James this was one of the truly remarkable innings in cricket history and undoubtably up there with any other innings in test history what isn’t widely known about this test match is when the
    West Indies resumed at 4-10 there was a direct hit on a quick single remarkably the aussies didn’t appeal,Gomes would have correctly been given out and the Windies would have been,5-10
    ( PJF Flipper will be wrapped that you have given his innings in Bridgetown a mention) )
    Sabers 254 at the g for the rest of the world comes to mind,Greg Chappell ton at Lords in 72
    Richards 329 v Western Australia for South Australia ars others which readily come to mind

  15. KD Walters, second ashes test 1974-75 is another classic knock. Similarly AB scoring 100 & 98 in the same test V a rampaging Windies attack in the Caribbean in 1984.

    Very different knocks the ones i mentioned, but all classics in their own way.


  16. I was there. Great innings with the pitch in such a state. Was that the same day Lillee took 3 wickets just before stumps? Left after the first wicket trying to avoid the crowd, never leave anything early any more.!

  17. I agree; probably the best innings I’ve seen.

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