After Croft-Goodall and Holding-Stumps, West Indies were undefeated in 13 tests. They won back to back rain-affected away test series against England and Pakistan. This was followed by a comfortable 2-0 win against England at home where Holding bowled that fabled over. An over so famous that Michael Holding has devoted an entire page to it on his website. They had arrived down under undefeated in 15 test matches and as holders of the Frank Worrell Trophy. 

Kim Hughes' all time great century and sensational spells from Terry and DK reduced the visitors to 10/4 at the end of day 1 of the boxing day test of 1981. West Indies eked out a lead but Australia were favourites once they set a target of 220 on a shockingly under-prepared pitch. They gave the Caribbeans their first defeat in 16 tests. In the second test, Australia batted out 102 overs against Holding, Clarke, Garner and Croft in the fourth innings to save the Sydney test. The annual tri-series matches were played in the meantime which the West Indies duly won. 

The West Indies had apparently lost the Frank Worrell Trophy back home. The trophy that was named in honour of West Indies' first black captain since the legendarily exciting 1960-61 series between the two sides. Australia were in possession of the trophy for nearly 13 years out of the 21 years the cup was in existence. West Indies were holders since 1978 having won at home and became only the second team to defeat Australia in Australia two years earlier. If Australia could avoid defeat in Adelaide the silverware would return to them but only in name. Quite the embarrassment for the West Indies board.

Andy Roberts had joined the tour to only play in the ODIs but injuries meant he had to play the 1st test. He skipped the 2nd test and returned to the playing XI for the 3rd and final test. Murray was injured and Dujon, who had played as a specialist batsman for the 1st two tests, took the gloves. Bacchus returned. Sylvester Clarke was the other casualty. Australia made just one change: Pascoe for Alderman. Clive Lloyd called correctly and sent the home team in. 


Roberts and Holding quickly reduced Australia to 17/4 vindicating their aging captain's decision to field. Greg Chappell, 3 ducks in his last six innings, found form and with the typically gritty Border led the recovery. The two added 105 runs for the 5th wicket and a returning Holding whispered death to the partnership. Marsh, who had become the most capped Australian player in the test, added 50 with the future Captain Grumpy before retiring hurt. Croft became the 3rd bowler to get on the scoresheet when he bowled Yardley. Australia ended the day on 204/6, Border still unconquered on 78.


Roberts took the first two wickets to fall including the prize wicket of AB for the addition of just 5 runs to the overnight score. Marsh returned to bat and almost immediately returned to the pavilion. Pascoe and Thommo threw the bat around adding 28 priceless runs before Holding ended the stand to complete his Michelle. The final score was 238. Lillee went out after bowling just 4.5 overs. Thomson removed Greenidge which brought the master blaster. He went at a rate of knots scoring 42 off just 48 balls before succumbing to Yardley. Bacchus fell for a duck and the visitors were reeling at 92/4. According to Wisden, most dismissals were results of careless strokes. Larry Gomes, who scored 6 of his 9 100s against Australia, added 102 with his captain, the old warhorse. Lloyd fell after a well made 50 to give Thomson his 3rd wicket. The nightwatchman Croft became victim number 4 soon. West Indies ended at an identical 204/6 at stumps.


Gomes added back to back 80+ partnerships with Dujon and Roberts. Dujon scored his 5th consecutive score above 40 and finally converted his 5th 40 into his 1st test 50. Scored off just 65 balls. Roberts continued in the same vein. His 42 coming off 58 deliveries. Gomes being his steady self through out duly completing his 2nd 100 of the series and remained unbeaten. West Indies ended their innings 151 ahead. Australia lost two early wickets but Border, again, and Laird batted with determination the rest of the day. At stumps, Australia were 100/2, 51 runs in arrears.


Border and Laird continued their resolute stand and added a further 101 runs. Their 166 run stand lasted nearly four hours. Laird became Croft's 125th and final test wicket, falling 22 shy of a well deserved 100. He never scored one in his test career. Border shared another vital 66 run stand with MCG hero Hughes and completed his 9th test century along the way. Roberts broke the stand with Australia ahead by 116 runs and 6 wickets intact. Marsh came ahead of Chappell and the lead swelled to 190 without further loss. Their captain still to bat, Australia were favourites to regain the Frank Worrell trophy having lost it in 1978. All it needed was survival for more than 1 session on the final day.


My center is giving way, my right is in retreat; situation excellent. I shall attack.
- General Ferdinand Foch
Garner must have probably read "Reputations, Ten Years After" by B. H. Liddell Hart after the fourth day's play. After taking 7 wickets in the 1st 3 innings of the series, he had bowled 29 wicketless overs. The rotten streak was broken when he nailed Dyson early in Australia's 2nd innings. West Indies in retreat; situation excellent and Big Bird attacked! He took 4/5 in 9 overs and Holding took the other 2. Australia managed a paltry 24 runs for the last 6 wickets. West Indies were set a target of 239 in four and a half hours.

Scoring 239 in four and half hours is a tough ask even today with the fat bats, shorter boundaries, white ball tactics. The task was harder against a bowling lineup that read Lillee, Thomson, Pascoe, Yardley. Lillee once again left after bowling just 4 overs giving West Indies a lucky break. Thomson removed Haynes very early in the innings. Richards continued to blaze away and the duo added 100 runs in just 95 minutes seemingly cantering to the target. Thomson and Pascoe removed Greenidge and Richards respectively within 7 runs with both batsmen completing their 50s. Richards' coming off just 56 balls.

West Indies were wobbling at 114/3. First innings hero Gomes and Lloyd were struggling. Lloyd was even dropped on 18 by Marsh off of Thomson. Gomes blocked and plodded to 21 and added 62 for the 4th wicket before he was castled by Pascoe. Bacchus joined Lloyd in the middle and they went at the target aggressively. They were also aided by a case of butterfingers by the Aussies who dropped 3 catches, 2 of them of Lloyd. Yet another match where catches win matches was proved right. 59 runs were added before Bacchus fell to Pascoe when West Indies were just 4 runs shy off a series levelling win.

Clive Lloyd scored the winning runs with just 17 balls to spare. His 77 came off just 93 balls. Not too shabby for a 37 year old with bum knees. A thoroughly controlled and professional chase, aided by some poor Aussie fielding no doubt.  The Windies also avoided the awkwardness of not having the Frank Worrell trophy in case they hadn't been able to win. They would continue to hold on to it for 13 more years. Supercat, after what was expected to be his last test innings in Australia, was chaired off the field by his pace battery of Croft, Garner and Holding.

Test matches like this Adelaide test rarely make news but for a connoisseur it gets as close to perfection as possible. West Indies were ahead at 17/4 on day 1 but after that neither side gave an inch and fought tooth and nail for each run for nearly 4 days. It was like two heavyweight boxers going at each other with technique and tactics instead of brute force. Ultimately, the difference was Lillee's inability to bowl and Garner finding his satellite guided heat seeking missiles.

A few days before the game Lynton Taylor, the managing director of Packer company, apparently believed test cricket could not be saved! Some things never change, eh? The Aussies and the Windies put on a show for 5 intriguing days the made Taylor eat kākā biriyāni*.

*Crow Biriyani


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