Allan Border…one of the greatest rearguard action in the history of Test cricket © Getty Images
On March 21, 1984 Allan Border saved a Test fighting all odds against the mighty West Indians. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at one of the greatest rearguard actions in the history of Test cricket.
Nobody gave the Australians a chance when they landed in Caribbean. West Indies, of course, were the best team in the world by a distance. The Australian side, sans Greg Chappell, Rodney Marsh, and Dennis Lillee, were expected to be blown away by Clive Lloyd’s men.
Australia had managed to draw the first Test, but not easily. Chasing 323, Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes had launched a furious assault, and reached 250 without loss when time had run out. On the eve of the second Test at Port-of-Spain, Lloyd had pulled a hamstring and had to opt out of the Test. On the other hand, Malcolm Marshall had managed to get fit and make a comeback to the side.
Day One: Garner rules in rain
Richards won the toss and put Australia in. Joel Garner, who had picked up nine for 132 in the first Test, wrecked the Australian top order, removing Kepler Wessels, Greg Ritchie, and Wayne Phillips with only 16 runs on the scorecard. Kim Hughes, the Australian captain, and Allan Border tried a recovery, but Garner pitched one up to remove Hughes. Australia finished the rain-affected day at 55 for four.
Day Two: Border resurrects
As the West Indian fast bowlers kept making inroads, Allan Border stood firm amidst the ruins. He lost David Hookes early, but Dean Jones, making his debut, hung around to add exactly 100 for the sixth wicket. After Jones fell for 48, Border added 48 with Geoff Lawson, but Wayne Daniel struck twice towards the end, and Australia finished with 241 for eight with Border on 92.
Day Three: West Indian batsmen dominate
Border was left stranded on 98 as the innings folded on 255. Greenidge and Haynes began well; Haynes scored a quick-fire 53, and though there were a few quick wickets, Richards and Gus Logie added 89; West Indies were 218 for four at stumps, only 37 runs behind.
Day Four: Dujon plunders, Aussies collapse
Though Terry Alderman removed Richards for 76 early on Day Four, Jeff Dujon joined Logie, and the two of them massacred the Australian attack. The duo added 158 in no time before Tom Hogan trapped Logie leg-before for 97. Dujon scored a rampant hundred, and eventually fell for 130 off only 187 balls. Richards declared the innings closed at 468 for eight, 213 runs ahead. They had scored at 3.71 runs an over, and had an hour to bowl on Day Four.
Australia began disastrously, with Phillips run out without scoring. The debutant Milton Small accounted for Ritchie, and Wessels fell to Garner. Hogan, the night-watchman, hung around with Hughes to play out time, and Australia ended Day Four at 55 for three, still 158 runs in arrears.
Day Five: A Border encore
To their credit, Hughes and Hogan hung around way, way beyond the Australian supporters had expected. Not only did they bat on, but they also scored runs quickly. When Marshall finally trapped Hughes leg-before (somewhat dubiously), the two had added 73 in 88 minutes. In the first innings Border had scored an unbeaten 98 off 314 balls, batting for 360 minutes. He had then spent close to two days on the field. Could he bail Australia out of trouble yet again?
Before he could blink, Daniel had ended Hogan’s resistance. 115 for five now, and Australia needed 98 more runs to avoid an innings-defeat. The only plus side was the fact that Garner, the wrecker of Australians in the series so far, was suffering from food-poisoning, and was bowling below his par. Indeed, he could bowl only eight overs on the final day, and spent most of the day outside the ground.
Still, Marshall, Daniel, and Small, backed up by Richards and Gomes, was a formidable attack. Though David Hookes put up a resistance of sorts, Gomes dismissed him soon, and Richards removed Jones cheaply. Lawson batted for half an hour, and Rodney Hogg hung around to see Australia save the innings defeat.
Border, solid as a rock, seemed unperturbed by the goings-on at the other end. He knew he had been batting with a mission — that of saving the Test — and he simply had to do it. It was a Test of technique, temperament, courage, and stamina — and the great man gritted it out.
He stood in the stance that went on to become familiar to the world over time: slightly crouched, bat raised as the bowler ran in, his cautious eyes and legs ready to go forward or back at the slightest possible warning. Daniel, Marshall, and Small bowled with hostile pace, and hit Border all over his torso, especially on his biceps and around his armpits, but the great man stood as still as a rock.
Hogg hung around for over half an hour, and when he finally fell to Richards at 2.39 PM, Australia were only 25 runs ahead with well over two hours of play left. Alderman, who went into this Test with 55 runs at 5.00 and a highest Test score of 12 not out, walked out to join Border.
Hughes, though, was confident that Alderman would see them off: “I had a gut feeling when Terry went out to bat that he might be able to hang around for Allan to get the hundred he deserved. I didn’t believe we could get out with a draw, but I felt there would be a fight.”
When Richards realised that he and Gomes could not remove Alderman, he eventually took the new ball, and summoned Marshall and Daniel. It was 2.56 pm then, and Australia were 249 for 9, only 36 runs ahead. Border kept faith in Alderman, and the latter grew in confidence as he saw the new ball off.
It was impossible to believe that Border was actually performing an encore of his first innings performance, but there he stood, the epitome of concentration. Alderman hung around stubbornly, refusing to budge, even when the ruthless fast bowlers bounced him, and slowly, surely, time began to run out for the West Indians.
Sensing the urgency, Richards shuffled around his bowlers in desperation. When the fast bowlers were blunted, Richards tried himself and Gomes once again. He sorely missed Garner, who would later go on to win the Man of the Series award with 31 wickets at 16.87
The bouncers came in hard, the spinners turned the ball from the footmarks. But the great left-hander confronted everything the bowlers and the pitch had to offer, in a resilient display of concentration for the second time in the Test. In the words of journalist Malcolm Knox, “he’d proved himself as the one man who could stand up to them.”
The clock ticked 4 o’clock, with just an hour left, and only the 20 mandatory overs to be bowled. Border showed no sign of fatigue. To add to the frustration of Richards, Alderman went past his previous highest score, and even hit three boundaries. The overs ran out — five, ten, and then it was evident that West Indies would not win the Test. Not only did the last pair remain intact, they did not give a single chance to the fielders.
Richards and Gomes bowled 10 of the 16 mandatory overs. Then, with Border on 96, Richards brought on Logie, and Border hit him for a four to bring up his 12th Test hundred when play was finally called off. Australia finished at 299 for nine, and the last pair had added 61 runs in 105 minutes. Alderman had survived 69 balls, and Border’s hundred had taken him 279 minutes and 269 balls. In all, he had batted for 639 minutes and had faced 583 balls to score 198 runs — and the West Indian fast bowlers were not able to remove him even once.As Hughes went on to say, “His performance in this game — 98 not out and 100 not out —entitles him to be ranked with the greats, not just of this era but any other.”
However, the final word should be Border’s: “Critics have called this my finest hour. I prefer to call it my finest ten hours.”
Brief scores: Australia 255 (Allan Border 98*, Dean Jones 48; Joel Garner 6 for 60, Wayne Daniel 3 for 40) and 299 for 9 (Allan Border 100*) drew with West Indies 468 for 8 declared (Jeff Dujon 130, Gus Logie 97, Viv Richards 76, Desmond Haynes 53)
(Abhishek Mukherjee is a cricket historian and Senior Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He generally looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – though not as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the sport with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers that cricket has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks in street cricket, and blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in. He can be followed on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ovshake and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)