West Indies achieved an historic and satisfying triumph over Australia in their three-match series that formed part of an unusual and revolutionary season for that country in 1979-80. In five previous tours of Australia, West Indies had always been the losers, defeat often so great as to amount to humiliation. This time they were not to be denied, converting their clear superiority over Australia into massive victories in the last two Tests after the first had been drawn.
The result was especially pleasing as this team included nine of those who had endured the 5-1 drubbing four years earlier, captain Lloyd and vice-captain Deryck Murray among them. However, they were well prepared, all but six of the party having been members of the World Series Cricket West Indies squad which had played in Australia over the two previous seasons.
Not only did West Indies retain the Worrell Trophy by securing the Test series; they also confirmed their standing as the game's most efficient limited-overs combination by defeating England in the finals of the limited-overs Benson and Hedges World Series Cup. The large proportion of the major honours - and the prize money - was theirs. Vivian Richards was voted the outstanding player of both the Test and limited-overs series, and Gordon Greenidge the player of the limited-overs finals. The team's winnings amounted to $A86,000.
West Indies' success was based principally on the magnificent batting of Richards and on their quartet of fast bowlers - Robert, Holding, Garner and Croft - who maintained persistent pressure on opposing batsmen and were well supported by safe-handed close-catching. In addition, an intensive physical fitness schedule paid dividends in reducing injuries to a minimum.
Few individuals have so dominated a season as Richards did this one. Statistics help tell some of the story. In the Tests, he scored 140 at Brisbane, 96 at Melbourne, and 76 and 74 at Adelaide. In the World Series Cup, his sequence was 9, 153 not out, 62, 85 not out, 88, 23 and 65. Outside the Tests he batted in only two first-class innings, scoring 79 and 127. He gathered his runs with the command and range of strokes of the truly great batsmen, scoring freely against bowling of every type. That he has suffering at the time from groin and back trouble so acute that he was often forced to limp painfully emphasised the extraordinary nature of his performance.
The batting of his team-mates suffered by comparison. None of them could find consistent form although Lloyd, at the end of a season troubled by injury and self-doubt, contributed a vital and typically belligerent century on the first day of the final Test. Greenidge improved steadily from an uncertain beginning and played two sterling innings in the one-day finals, while Kallicharran chose the very last opportunity to register his only significant score of the series, a century in the second innings of the final Test. In the field, Lloyd always had at his disposal an almost irresistible form of attack, he and his co-selectors adhering rigidly to a policy of pace to the exclusion of spin.
Whereas West Indies possessed a stronger, fitter and better prepared team than they had four years earlier, the Australians were nothing like the force they were then. Greg Chappell, reinstated as captain, and Lillee, slower but shrewder, remained their outstanding individuals. Yet too much depended on these two, and the strain told. Chappell, after batting with all his old authority in the first Test, fell three times in his last four innings to the bouncer. His vice-captain, Hughes, played freely in the second innings at Brisbane and Melbourne, but the only batsman who scored with any consistency was the diminutive Western Australian opener, Laird. In his first Test series. Laird showed determination and courage, passing 50 in four of his six innings.
Perhaps Australia's biggest disappointments were in the lack of support for Lillee, the failure of Marsh's batting, and the lack of an adequate all-rounder. There were well-founded local hopes that, with Lillee and Thomson now joined by Hogg, the pace of the West Indians would be matched ball for ball. Instead, Thomson, troubled by injury, was not half the menace he had been, and Hogg was also reduced by injury, a disheartening blow following his exploits of the previous season against England. It was left to the veteran left-armer Dymock to fill the gap, which he tried nobly to do. Australia might have turned more to spin, but in the event the three spinners used, Bright, Higgs and Mallett, each played in only a single Test against West Indies.
Arranged as it was with the emphasis on the Tests and limited-overs internationals, the tour offered little opportunity for the reserve players, whose cricketing education suffered as a result. It was this aspect of the experimental, triangular international arrangement which caused most concern, although there was a body of opinion that the format of this exceptional season would be the prototype of future international cricket. As to this, only time will tell.
Test matches - Played 3: Won 2, Drawn 1.
First-class matches - Played 7: Won 5, Lost 1, Drawn 1.
Wins - Australia (2), South Australia, Tasmania, Tasmania Invitation XI.
Loss - Western Australia.
Draw - Australia.
Non first-class matches - Played 14: Won 8, Lost 4, Drawn 2. Abandoned 1. Wins - Australia (1), ACT and District, England (4), Queensland Country Xl, Western Australia. Losses - Australia (3), England (1). Draws - Geelong and District, Victoria Country XI.
Match reports for
Match reports for
South Australia v West Indians at Adelaide, Nov 16-18, 1979
Tasmania Invitation XI v West Indians at Devonport, Nov 23-25, 1979
Western Australia v West Indians at Perth, Jan 5-7, 1980
9th Match: England v West Indies at Melbourne, Jan 12, 1980