With two runs to go, Courtney Walsh got Craig McDermott caught behind to give West Indies an unforgettable win
With two runs to go, Courtney Walsh got Craig McDermott caught behind to give West Indies an unforgettable win
Ian Bishop, Craig McDermott, Justin Langer and Tim May look back at the thrilling Australia-West Indies Test from 30 years ago
Between 1980 and 1995, the great West Indies sides under Clive Lloyd, Viv Richards and Richie Richardson dominated world cricket, playing 29 Test series without a single loss. Australia, and their long-time captain Allan Border, bore the brunt of West Indies' ruthlessness, losing five consecutive Frank Worrell Trophies contested in that time and drawing just one.
But in the summer of 1992-93, Australia went within one run of ending that extraordinary streak in one of the great series of the time. West Indies escaped with a draw in the first Test in Brisbane before Shane Warne spun them out in Melbourne, taking 7 for 52 to give Australia a 1-0 lead. Brian Lara stole the show in Sydney, making 277 in a rain-affected draw, before both teams headed to Adelaide for the fourth Test.
Ian Bishop, West Indies fast bowler: I had never played in a West Indies team that had lost a series. That was still early in my career. There was so much riding on it because of the history of what those great players had done before. Losing a series was like anathema still at that point.
Tim May, Australia offspinner: Someone pointed out that I hadn't played Test cricket for four years - which was all news to me. I remember feeling sorry for Greg Matthews. In Sydney, Brian Lara made 277. Moey was bowling and the conditions were wet and they would have been bowling with a wet ball. But I suppose I felt happy that I was playing a Test match again in Australia, and in particular, Adelaide Oval. I felt comfortable playing cricket there.
"It was just the ideal offspinner's pitch. There was bounce, there was a beautiful breeze. Perfect for the curve away. If I didn't take 5 for 9 then, I never would have"
West Indies won the toss and elected to bat but were bowled out inside 68 overs for 252. Brian Lara top-scored with 52 while Merv Hughes picked up 5 for 64.
May: I can remember there was a bit of juice in the wicket and Merv was hitting the right spots and just being aggressive. It wasn't a bad day to be bowling fast, I must admit. And he bowled well that day.
Bishop: We felt that we simply underachieved in the first innings. But there was always something in the surface as a fast bowler - whether it was up-and-down bounce, whether it was enough bounce.
In reply, Australia lost opener Mark Taylor in Bishop's first over, the second of the innings. Justin Langer walked out at No. 3 to face his first ball in Test cricket.
Bishop: We didn't know much about him. It was just this rookie coming in, and if you're a rookie coming in, then we have to test you out.
Justin Langer, Australia batter: My very first ball, I got hit in the back of the helmet. And the irony was, I had not picked up a cricket bat for two weeks because the last game before that - they didn't call it concussion, but I got hit really badly in the Sheffield Shield game before by Tony Dodemaide. So I'd had some time away from the game.
Bishop: I mean, I'm not happy to have hit Justin. He's a good friend of mine now. But it was just part of the game.
Craig McDermott, Australia fast bowler: Bishop was fast. He had to have been 150kph every day of the week. Bishop was hard work.
Justin Langer had a fiery debut, getting hit on the head by West Indies' bowlers (and also his own captain, Allan Border) but still making a fighting half-century in the chase
Clive Mason / © Getty Images
Justin Langer had a fiery debut, getting hit on the head by West Indies' bowlers (and also his own captain, Allan Border) but still making a fighting half-century in the chase Clive Mason / © Getty Images
Langer: When you look on YouTube, I actually got the boxer's [wobbly] knees [after getting hit]. Now, in this modern day, I'd be [substituted] out of the game. But it was just the way it was. You got on with it.
May: I wasn't too concerned about him even though it was his first game. I think in the end he made 20 [in the first innings]. But Justin was very much the same from his first Test all the way through his 100th. He just grits it out. He's a tough bugger.
Bad light stopped play on day one with Australia 2 for 1 after 6.5 overs. Day two was marred by rain with close to four hours lost. Australia finished the day on 100 for 3 with Steve Waugh 35 not out and Border on 18, in the face of some hostile bowling from the West Indies pace quartet of Bishop, Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh and Kenny Benjamin. David Boon had been forced to retire hurt after Ambrose hit him flush on the elbow.
May: When Boonie got hit, I thought, oh dear. He was obviously in a bit of pain. Initially, they thought he might have broken his arm or elbow or something like that.
Langer: [Boon] said to me, Test cricket will never ever, ever, ever get harder than this. I thought he was just being nice to me. But it's true. I'd never played tougher Test cricket than that first match.
The rain cleared on day three and Ambrose ran riot, ripping through Australia's middle order to take 6 for 74 and bowl Australia out for 213. Hughes top-scored with 43 and Boon bravely returned to finish on 39 not out.
Bishop: Curtly was just otherworldly. He was a phenomenal athlete at his prime. I remember just standing at fine leg and watching him run in and thinking, good god, what a machine. Just the repetition of him hitting that good length, short of a good length. I think he picked up Steve Waugh three or four times in that series, almost every time he bowled to him [six in total], and Steve was an excellent player. He just had no answer to Curtly. And I think the general Australian group found it very difficult with the bounce, good-enough pace, his unrelenting accuracy, and his ability to nip the ball in and get it to straighten as well. You could stand at mid-on or fine leg and think "Not too much is going to come my way" just because of the sheer control he had.
"The realisation of what West Indies cricket and a tour to Australia meant kicked in in trying to defend that 180-odd"
Langer: [Facing] Ambrose was like batting in a fishnet because you can't score runs off him. He was a flipping nightmare.
McDermott: Curtly just hit that back of a length every single cherry. Beautiful athlete. Ambrose and Walsh just got bounce out of nowhere. And because of the way they bowled, they used to get that sort of legcutter going. The ball would straighten, it wouldn't necessarily deck, it just straightened a bit off the seam with their angle from out wide, and it was difficult for the right-handers with blokes getting caught off the shoulder of the bat.
May and McDermott were Ambrose's final two victims to wrap up the innings.
May: I was given caught-behind off Curtly. I never hit it. It got my shoulder. In fact, it planted a big red stain on my shirt as it went past. I was upset because I actually felt in good nick. I actually felt like I could make runs. Talking about a one-run margin, I could have made another 40. It cost us badly.
May got his revenge later that day. He took a career-best 5 for 9 as West Indies crumbled to be all out for 146. Richardson made 72, but no other batter passed 25.
May: It was just the ideal offspinner's pitch. There was bounce, there was a beautiful breeze. Perfect for the curve away and the ball was so easy to grip. If I didn't take 5 for 9 then, I never would have.
Bishop: I was amazed because we had a few guys who, at that time, would certainly have been amongst the better players of spin going around. I remember thinking, "Gee, this guy's really bowling well."
McDermott: He bowled us back into the game. I rated him really highly as a bowler. He was a tremendous offspinner.
Langer: I forgot that Warnie played in that game. That's a tribute to Tim May, because if I remembered May's performance and don't remember Warnie was playing that game, I don't know how that happened but that never happens. If Tim May overshadowed Shane Warne in that Test, that's saying a lot about the impact he had.
Curtly Ambrose took ten wickets in Adelaide and finished the tour as the Player of the Series with 33 at 16.42 from five Tests
Steven Siewert / © Fairfax Media/Getty Images
Curtly Ambrose took ten wickets in Adelaide and finished the tour as the Player of the Series with 33 at 16.42 from five Tests Steven Siewert / © Fairfax Media/Getty Images
May: I just felt like every ball was going where it was supposed to. Every ball was going to dip and every ball was going to spin and bounce. And it did. It's just one of those days where everything sort of aligned. But in terms of satisfaction, six overs, five wickets, that's good, but you're not going to do that every day. You get far more out of it if you bowl 30 overs and took 5 for 40.
Australia were set 186 to win the match and claim a historic series win with one Test still to play, in Perth. But West Indies rallied as they always did and reduced Australia to 102 for 8. Ambrose was superb again, claiming four more wickets to bag ten for the match. Langer had survived a barrage and was joined by May with 84 runs still required.
Bishop: That's where you realise Justin's toughness after being hit in the first innings. At times I would have bowled short at him again and he would have countered that.
Langer: I'd been hit on the helmet four times, I'd been hit on the body.
McDermott: JL is a gutsy little feller and he hung in there.
May's highest Test score prior to that innings was 24.
May: I felt really confident when I was out there. I haven't looked up who I played beforehand or whatever in terms of Shield cricket, but I must have had some sort of form coming into it because I just felt comfortable. And I didn't mind facing fast bowling. No one really likes it but I didn't mind it.
Bishop: He was always that guy that played very straight with the bat, got behind the line of the ball. Guys who played straight lines, I will always have admiration for.
"They just bounced the s*** out of us for as long as they possibly could"
May: I was 0 not out last ball before tea and Ian had been peppering me short. Then the last ball before tea he put one on a reasonable length outside off and I think I made up my mind, I'm going to cover-drive this no matter where it is. I just thought we're not going to make them [the runs] if I don't play any shots here. And I hit it right in the screws and that gave me a lot of confidence. I just thought, "Yep, I'm as on as I can possibly be."
Langer and May frustrated West Indies in a partnership of 42 after tea on the fourth day. Langer reached his maiden Test half-century while May made his highest Test score.
May: I think we might have said we should get the runs without the second new ball being due. The bowlers were getting a little bit tired and frustrated. We tried to not look at the scoreboard and just play good decent cricket.
Langer fell for 54, caught behind trying to pull Bishop through midwicket.
Bishop: The one that he got dismissed with was in no way, shape or form intended to be something to pull at. I just remember that moment of it going through to Junior Murray and I suppose the encouragement and the relief because had Langer stayed there, things could have been so much different. He was the one carrying the load at that time.
Craig McDermott walked out at No. 11 with 42 runs to win.
Bishop: I thought we'd won it. That was it. I think we all thought, Justin's gone, we're going to do this with 40-odd more required.
May: Billy [McDermott] was wonderful that day. He'd been targeted by the West Indies bowlers. They may say they didn't target him but he certainly seemed to get his fair share of bouncers for a No. 11. And he's been hit a couple of times, and obviously, batting 11 you're not as equipped as a top-order batter to handle that sort of stuff. So his confidence wouldn't have been that high.
It was a rare Test where Tim May (left) overshadowed Shane Warne with the ball, taking a career-best 5 for 9 in West Indies' second innings
© Getty Images
It was a rare Test where Tim May (left) overshadowed Shane Warne with the ball, taking a career-best 5 for 9 in West Indies' second innings © Getty Images
McDermott: I bowled super well in the West Indies [in 1990-91, where he took 24 wickets at 23.5]. Every innings I went out to bat in the West Indies, they did not try and get me out, they just tried to break my f*****g arm. There was no love lost between us.
Bishop: McDermott was the one that surprised me because I've never thought of Billy as the bravest guy with the bat. With ball in hand, yes, but not with the bat, and he just stuck it out.
May and McDermott built a partnership and the atmosphere at the ground changed.
McDermott: I remember the ground being empty when I went out the bat, and by the time we were nearing the end, there was, I don't know, how many people in the ground, but there was a lot compared to what was there originally. People were spilling out of the city.
May: I just said, "Come on, let's see how we go here. Again, you don't look at the scoreboard. They'll try to get a wicket and they'll bowl a bad ball every now and again. We've just got to make the most of it." And things went along to script pretty well.
McDermott: They just bounced the s*** out of us for as long as they possibly could. And we nicked and nudged them and played a few half-decent shots.
Bishop: With each delivery and each run, these guys kept squeezing and squeezing and I was just standing there thinking, really? And then with 10-15 runs to go, you start thinking, "Geez, we're going to lose a Test series here", which I haven't experienced before. All of those emotions were very real then.
May: They were always a very quiet team out there. They don't say anything to you. They don't sledge you. If they were panicking, they hid it pretty well.
"Curtly was just otherworldly. He was a phenomenal athlete at his prime. I remember just standing at fine leg and watching him run in and thinking, good god, what a machine"
With two runs to win McDermott worked Walsh into the leg side and Desmond Haynes made a vital save at short leg, lunging to his left.
McDermott: If that ricocheted, we would have been home. [It] just dropped straight down and it was no run.
Bishop: I wasn't sure what to make of it because it was still a possibility that we wouldn't get across the line. But the celebration around Desmond's stop there, looking at it now, you can see how vital it was. At the time I was still a little bit numb, wondering if that would have really brought us the outcome we wanted. But it was brilliant. I look back now and I laugh.
May: That was unfortunate for us. But we had a bit of fortune there before. I don't know if it was Courtney or someone bowling from the river end - he bowled a full toss to Billy that I reckon hit him on middle and off and he missed it and it was given not out. I'd like to see that on the replay again, because I think I'd already started to walk off.
Two balls later Walsh charged in and delivered a short ball. McDermott turned his back as he tried to withdraw his bat, gloves and helmet and it flew through to the wicketkeeper, Murray. McDermott was given out caught behind, and West Indies had won by one run.
McDermott: To this day, I swear that it nicked the bottom of my grill and went through to Junior Murray. Courtney Walsh was halfway off the field with all of them before Darrell Hair had stuck his finger up.
Bishop: We thought he hit it, honestly. I can't remember how long afterwards there was some footage of the ball coming off the grill or something like that. But at that point, I'm telling you, we were 100% certain that it was bat or glove and not helmet.
May: Billy, when he played the shot, basically turned his back. I can't see his bat, all I can see is his back. There was a noise, the umpire gave it out. I'm walking off and it's quite a bit of disappointment and people not thinking straight, people going crazy. Now Craig could well have misheard me. But after about 15 steps, I did say to Craig, "Did you hit that?" From my vantage point, being six inches away from him, I'm pretty sure I heard a "Yep."
We go into the change rooms and sit down and there really wasn't a word spoken. The game was prior to a federal election and John Hewson was the Liberal candidate campaigning to become prime minister. Someone thought it was a good idea to have him come into the rooms at that stage, and John broke the ice in terms of talking. He looked at Craig and just said, "Well Craig, did you hit it?" And I think that's when Craig said no. That's when I became confused. It was 30 years ago. I've had two children and four grandchildren since then. I could have messed up my memory somewhere along the line.
No. 11 Craig McDermott added 40 runs with Tim May for the last wicket, but fell to a Walsh bouncer when Australia needed two to win. Did the ball hit his helmet? The jury's still out on that
© Fairfax Media/Getty Images
No. 11 Craig McDermott added 40 runs with Tim May for the last wicket, but fell to a Walsh bouncer when Australia needed two to win. Did the ball hit his helmet? The jury's still out on that © Fairfax Media/Getty Images
Langer: When he walked in the change room, the boys all said, "Did you hit it?" and he said, "Yeah, it came off my glove." And then about half an hour in, the boys all said, "Maybe it came off your helmet", and he said, "Oh yeah, maybe it came off my helmet."
Bishop: People go on to YouTube now and you can still sort of debate it. But just imagine, there wasn't the use of technology, and how difficult a decision that would be in any generation of officiating. So it is what it is.
Langer: When the wicket fell, AB [Border] threw a ball in frustration [in the dressing room] and it came down and hit me in the back of the head again. I just remember feeling so bad for AB.
May: AB was bitterly disappointed, as we all were. But for AB just because of the history of it all. He'd played years and years against West Indies and they beat us good. They just whipped us for a long period of time and AB survived that era and this was his chance to finally get a series win against the West Indies.
McDermott: I went in there and threw my helmet and broke it.
Bishop: I just remember the reaction on the field. I hugged someone. I can't remember if it was Walshy. It was just like a huge period of exhalation on the field itself. I can't remember if I fell to my knees or something at one point, but it spoke a lot about how significant we felt that victory was. I don't think we went overboard because there was still another Test match to go.
McDermott: It was pretty devastating. Then we went to Perth and got our backside wiped in under three days.
Langer: I think Ambrose got 7 for 1 [in a spell]… 7 for 1! That's why the West Indies were so hard to beat. The only thing Allan Border didn't do was beat West Indies in a Frank Worrell series. That says a lot. They were so good. They were the best.
West Indies won the final Test in Perth by an innings and 25 runs. Ambrose took 7 for 25 in the first innings and finished as Player of the Series.
Bishop: I think if we'd lost that [Adelaide] game, from my perspective, I would perhaps find it hard to forgive myself that, as well as Tim played with Craig McDermott, we couldn't undo them. It's not a burden that we carried, for a young player like myself coming in, but it was a realisation of what that great legacy was and that we have a responsibility to try to carry that on. And that's why that thought flashed through my mind at different points during that game of losing a series and kind of soiling all the good work that those gentlemen had built. Courtney, more than anyone else in the bowling group, had been through that phase earlier than we did. I think that spurred on guys like Curtly and Courtney, and me as well. Although they back their skill, that realisation of what West Indies cricket and a tour to Australia meant kicked in in trying to defend that 180-odd, so it brings out the greatness in those guys.
Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo
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