Allan Border © Getty Images
Allan Border © Getty Images

On January 26, 1989, legendary Australian captain Allan Border gave the Sydney Cricket Ground a wonderful Australia Day present with a match-winning all-round performance. Jaideep Vaidya travels back to that warm summer day in Sydney when Border’s secondary trait flourished more than his primary one.

Allan Border took 39 wickets in his 156-match Test career. Eleven of those came in one match in the summer of 1988-89 at the SCG against the West Indies.

Atypical to the green, bouncy tops that adorn the middle of the SCG today, the wicket which was prepared for the fourth Test of the West Indies tour of Australia 1988-89 was a slow, turning stopper. It was a tactic the Australians had first employed in the 1984-85 tour to negate the pace of the Caribbean pace batteries that were at Viv Richards’s disposal.

The names of Malcolm Marshall, Patrick Patterson, Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh were enough to induce fear in the Australians enough to change the nature of the track. The fearsome foursome had demolished the hosts in the first three Tests and the Australians were in damage control mode.

Border was leading an Australian side that was in a similar situation to what the current team finds itself in. The Chappells, the Lillees and the Thomsons, who could single-handedly win you a match, were long gone. Kim Hughes had rather unceremoniously stepped down as captain four years ago and Border was given charge of a team in transition.

Responding to the turning pitch, the West Indies sacrificed Patterson for spinner Roger Harper. Australia fielded two inexperienced spinners, Peter Taylor and Trevor Hohns – who was making a debut alongside opening batsman Mark Taylor. Viv Richards won the toss on the first morning and elected to bat.

Pacers Terry Alderman and Merv Hughes could do nothing on that surface to unsettle Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes. After Peter Taylor dismissed Greenidge for 56, the West Indies were cruising along at 144 for 1 when a heavily bearded Border decided to butt in. The slow left-arm spinner had taken just 16 wickets in 11 years since his debut, but he had a knack of dismissing top-order batsmen.

And that’s exactly what Border did as Richie Richardson tried to cut a ball that got him cramped up for space and he hit it to Taylor at mid-off. Border didn’t let Richards and Carl Hooper last long either as Geoff Marsh and David Boon took superb catches at cover and silly mid-off, respectively.

Taylor took Haynes’s wicket for 75 and Border followed it up by bowling Gus Logie out for a duck via an inside edge. Border had 4 for 18 by now and they were his best ever bowling figures in Tests. But the Australian captain wasn’t done yet. He got Jeff Dujon to top-edge a sweep to record his first fifer in a First-Class match. Two more spectacular catches by Taylor and Marsh, and Border had seven. The West Indies had collapsed from 144 for 1 to 224 all out as Border led his team back to the pavilion.

After beginning his career as a bowling all-rounder Border — probably 40 per cent batsman and 60 per cent bowler, the ratio altered to 70-30 midway through his career, and towards the end of it had made it 90-10. So, 7 for 46 for a part-timer were incredible figures.

However, Border felt that his contribution to the match was still not over. He walked in to bat with the score at 114 for 3 and a stubborn, hungry David Boon at the other end. Border began his typical scratchy innings. Employing an edgy style of going about his batting, quite similar to South Africa’s Graeme Smith, Border scraped and jabbed his way to 75 as he and Boon (149) put on 170 for the fourth wicket. Australia put on 401 on the board by the end of Day Three.

Border still wasn’t done for the match.

Beginning their second innings 177 runs behind the Australians, the Windies could notch up just 256 in their second essay as Border took 4 more wickets to add to his tally. Eleven for 126 in a match was a record for the best bowling analysis by an Australian captain. It was fitting that Border would hit the winning runs to complete a memorable victory for the Aussies — their only one in the five-match series which they lost 1-3.

Border was always regarded an inspirational captain, but that performance at SCG was something extraordinary. Bowling a match total of over 44 overs and batting an equivalent of more than 60 of them is no mean feat. It made for perfect Australia Day celebrations for the SCG crowd, who had thoroughly enjoyed the Allan Border show in the midst of a Caribbean hurricane.

Brief Scores:

West Indies 224 (Desmond Haynes 75, Gordon Greenidge 56; Allan Border 7 for 46) and 256 (Haynes 143; Border 4 for 50) lost to Australia 401 (David Boon 149, Border 75; Malcolm Marshall 5 for 29) and 82 for 3 (Dean Jones 24*, Border 16*) by 7 wickets.

(JaideepVaidya is a multiple sports buff and a writer at CricketCountry. He has a B.E. in Electronics Engineering, but that isn’t fooling anybody. He started writing on sports during his engineering course and fell in love with it. The best day of his life came on April 24, 1998, when he witnessed birthday boy Sachin Tendulkar pummel a Shane Warne-speared Aussie attack from the stands during the Sharjah Cup Final. A diehard Manchester United fan, you can follow him on Twitter @jaideepvaidya. He also writes a sports blog - The Mullygrubber )