For many Australians, not to have a beer in their hands at six o’clock in the evening was almost as historic as the tie itself! Cricket writer, Jack Fingleton
The greatest test of all time. Don Bradman
By Roger Childs
It was December 1960, and there were only about 4000 people at the Brisbane Cricket Ground to witness the climax of the first test between Australia and the West Indies. However, hundreds of thousand listened to the last hour of play on their radios. History was about to be made, as West Indian speedster Wes Hall took the ball to bowl the last over. Australia needed six runs to win with three wickets in hand.
The match was the first in what would become a great five match series between two of the best teams of the last sixty years. There were several players in each side who would still rank amongst the best to represent their country.
The Australian eleven included
~ Bobbie Simpson: an outstanding opening batsman and a later captain
~ Alan Davidson: one of the great pace bowlers of the time and a handy batsman
~ Wally Grout: arguably Australia’s greatest ever wicket keeper
~ Neil Harvey: an excellent, hard hitting middle order batsman.
In the West Indies team there were
~ Garfield Sobers: one of the greatest all rounder of all time, a stylish, fast scoring batsman and a bowler who could deliver everything from zippy medium pace to slow off breaks
~ Frank Worrell: the legendary captain who was one of the great batsman of the era
~ Wes Hall: one of the fastest and most feared bowlers of the time and, as a batsman, capable of scoring quick runs at the bottom of the order
~ Sonny Ramadhin and Alf Valentine: the spin twins who bowled slowly but with great accuracy and skill.
Not surprisingly, these two great sides would enthrall the Australian cricketing public and followers around the world, over the summer of 1960-61.
Setting up a thrilling finish
The West Indies made 453 in the first innings, with a superb 132 in 174 minutes from Sobers and fifties to Worrell ( pictured alongside), Hall, Joe Solomon and Gerry Alexander. Australia replied with 505 which included a magnificent 181 from the stylish and hard hitting Norman O’Neill and 92 from Simpson.
The visitors could only manage 284 in their second knock, with Davidson bowling brilliantly to take 6 for 87. So Australia had just 233 to score for first blood in the series, but at 92/6 were in big trouble. However Davidson joined captain Benaud, and the pair put on 134 before he was run out by a brilliant throw from Joe Solomon. However, as Wes Hall started the last over, a victory for the home team looked like a formality: just six runs needed off eight balls, no sweat.
The incredible climax: Hall’s dramatic over
First ball: Keeper Grout was hit in the groin, however Benaud raced through to take the strike as the keeper limped to the other end. Five to get or three wickets.
Second ball: Hall disobeyed his captain’s instructions and bowled a bouncer: Benaud couldn’t get his bat out of the way and Alexander took the catch. Five to get or two wickets.
Third ball: Fast bowler, Ian Meckiff, middled the ball: no run.
Fourth ball: Hall bowled wide down the leg side and Grout raced through. Alexander gathered the ball, threw to Hall who aimed at the stumps at his end to run Meckiff out, but missed. Four to get and four balls left.
Fifth ball: Grout spooned the ball in the air and Rohan Kanhai was perfectly positioned to take the catch. But Hall in his exuberance charged across and jumped above Kanhai and dropped the ball! Grout had scored an unlikely single. Australia needed three runs off three balls. The West Indies needed two wickets.
Sixth ball: Hall bowled very fast, but Meckiff connected with a big swing on the leg side. Was this the winning boundary? The crowd, commentators and press gallery all shouted their delight that an Australian victory had been achieved. The batsmen ran two, then turned for the winning third run.
Meanwhile on the boundary Conrad Hunte gathered the ball, then threw from eighty metres away flat and hard to Alexander over the stumps. The keeper didn’t have to move except to take off the bails. Grout had dived to make his ground, but was beaten by one of the great throws in the history of the game. The scores were now level. Two balls to go, Australia needed one run to win, the West Indies needed one wicket for a tie.
Seventh ball: Australia’s last man in, Lindsay Kline, faced the charging Hall. He hit the ball to leg and took off while Meckiff raced to the batsman’s end. From ten metres away, side on, Joe Solomon swooped on the ball and threw the stumps down. Meckiff was run out.
An unbelievable finish
It had to be seen to be believed and, of a truth, those few who saw it could barely believe what they saw was true. It all seemed fantastically impossible… Jack Fingleton
What they has seen, and hundreds of thousands had listened to, was the first tie in the 83 year history of test cricket.