Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The classic battle for Frank Worrell trophy 1995

In yet another blast from  the past, I would look at the battle for Frank Worrell trophy in 1995. It was a great test series with both teams going hammer and tongs at each other. In the end, Aussies were able to win a historic test series, but only after they played out of their skins  to defeat the Westindies in their own backyard.


Before the test series began, both teams played five one-day matches. West Indies  gave the hard-nosed Aussies a sound thrashing as they won the series by a margin of 4-1. Everyone again started thinking that West Indies would continue their success into the test series and maintain their unbeaten record of not losing a test series for fifteen years!

Australia's woes was compounded by the fact that  both their spearhead McDermott and the promising swing bowler  Fleming got injured. To make matters worse, Warne was rendered completely ineffective as Lara and Hooper took him apart and their inspirational coach Simpson suddenly took ill.

The test series

So, Australia went into the test series as underdogs with West Indies being the clear favourites to win the Frank Worrell series. Cricket though can be a funny game and we have seen in the past, the underdog upsetting the apple-cart like India defeating West Indies in the world cup final, or Bangladesh defeating the mighty Aussies in 2005, but we are here thinking of one off matches and they were all mickey mouse one-day matches.

Anyway, let us look at how the test series unfolded

Surprise package in the first innings

In the first test at Barbados, the left armer  Julien was the surprise package as he took four wickets to help keep the Windies side for a score of just over 200. Australian fielders took some great catches, which helped the team, but there was a controversial one taken by S.Waugh of Lara.

Australia consolidate
 Australia consolidated their position by getting the vital first innings lead. All the Australian batsmen chipped in with useful  scores and the deadly Ambrose cut a sorry figure as he was all over the place.

Victory for Australia 

Yes, Australia had got the vital first innings lead, but hard work still had to be done as they had to bowl out the formidable batting line-up  of West Indies for the second time around and with Warne still looking ineffective, it was never going to be an easy task. The young and lanky McGrath though, took the mantle of being the main strike bowler by taking a 5for and helped the the Aussies to win by 10 wickets.

Second test 

In the second test at Trinidad, the Aussies  again did well with the ball in hand as the pistol Reiffel with his accurate bowling got wickets and even Warne chipped in with a few wickets. Aussies were in a bit of trouble in that match, but   Mark Waugh and Boon rescued the sinking ship to take Australia to safety as the match ended in a draw.

Third test

The third test belonged completely to the speed king Ambrose as he bowled superbly to destroy Australia's batting line-up, albeit on a  track that could have been left for cows to graze as  the groundsmen left lots of grass on the pitch.

As far as Ambrose's bowling was concerned, it looked like  the speed king had woken up from a deep slumber, as in the first two tests he wasn’t any good, but on a green wicket he was unplayable. The match would also be  remembered for some heated exchanges that happened between Steve Waugh and Ambrose.In the end, the Aussies were crushed, but not before McGrath again showed that he was ready to take up the mantle of being the spearhead  of the attack by taking yet another 5for. Actually, it  was a sight to see McGrath not holding back against Ambrose and Walsh, though they were from the fast bowlers union as he tested them with bouncers and gave them a mouthful.

The final test

With the series locked at 1-1,  it all came down to the final test at Jamaica. Everyone expected West Indies to romp home as they seemed to have got the momentum after winning at Trinidad. At the fag end of a long tour tour,  the Aussies also seemed to be tired, but write off the hard nosed Aussies at your own peril as they made a grand come back to win a historic test series.

In the first innings,  Australia's pistol Paul Reiffel was the chief wicket-taker as he helped them to bowl out  Windies cheaply. Westindies though seemed to be making a come back as Australia lost early wickets with Lara taking a great catch at square leg to  help dismiss Slater.

Waughs at their best 

If we think about Waughs, both were completely different as Steve was a real fighter, but Afghan was more cavalier, natural and always seemed to have the instincts of a gambler yet, they were destined  to come together to come up with a path breaking partnership that would help Australia to defeat the mighty West Indies in their own den. Actually, if we think of a blood and guts battle, Mark would be the slick boxer and Steve the iron hard fighter.

With the game in balance, Mark took the gamble of going after the bowling just before lunch and he succeeded.  The assault by Afghan seemed to have shifted the momentum towards Australia. When the last session commenced, West Indies tried everything with Walsh coming around    the wicket to exploit the perceived weakness of the older Waugh against short pitch stuff ,but the tenacious Waugh was able to survive it.  He did give a simple chance to Browne of  Kenny Benjamin's bowling, but the catch was floored by Browne. Even now I see the Caribbean fans remembering Browne for all the wrong reasons lol. Anyway, both played magnificently with Mark playing his trademark flicks and cuts  and S.Waugh playing the waiting game.  Mark scored a hundred and Steve went onto to score the only double hundred of his career.

Australia win the historic test series

The magnificent partnership between the Waughs meant that  Windies were suddenly staring down the barrel as they were 266 runs in deficit.  It got worse as the pistol Reiffel again came to the party by sending back three batsmen to the pavilion before the close of third day's play.   It seemed like the only thing that could  save the mighty West Indies from losing was rain, but thankfully for Australia it didn't,. Yes, the West Indies's team did show a bit of resistance in the second innings, though it came from unexpected quarters with the nightwatchman Winston Benjamin making a half century. Once the resistance from the nightwatchman ended, the rest fell like a pack of cards.  One could even see a few vultures around and they didn't had to wait long as the mighty West Indies's  reign as the number one test team soon ended, when Shane Warne took the last wicket of Kenny Benjamin.

As expected, the Aussies were jubilant as they had won the Frank Worrell trophy for the first time in nineteen  years and had ended the fifteen year unbeaten run of West Indies. Richie Richardson though didn't had kind words to say about the opposition team as he said it was the weakest Australian team he had ever played!


Suhas said...

Defintely a memorable series for a variety of reasons. I recall cricinfo recently publishing a piece of how the WIndies were 6 for 3 on the first morning, in stepped Carl Hooper and he launched a superb counter attack with Lara against Warne.

Although Australia lost that third test, that exchange between Waugh and Ambrose was probably the turning point of the series (and S.Waugh's career). Tugga's refusal to back away sent out a signal that Australia were not intimidated, and it changed the way we thought of him as a player.

greyblazer said...

Hooper was a real enigma as he could play some great shots and suddenly would lose his concentration and gift his wicket away.

The Windies clearly took Aus lightly as can be seen by Richardson's statement at the end of the series and paid the price.