Allan Border’s (above) final tally of 19 wickets against West Indies were at a better average [24.31] than Keith Miller (40 wickets at 25.97), Ray Lindwall (41 at 27.34) and Dennis Lillee (55 at 27.74) © Getty Images
March 25, 1991. In the second Test at Georgetown, Allan Border produced an incredible spell of bowling with his sparingly used left-arm spinners, taking four wickets in the space of nine balls without conceding a run. Arunabha Sengupta remembers the feat which did not really make much of a difference to the final outcome of the match.
Was the Georgetown wicket helpful for spinners?
The West Indian outfit did not know and did not care. Curtly Ambrose, Malcolm Marshall, Pat Patterson and Courtney Walsh bowled 102 overs and four balls of the 116.4 overs of the Australian first innings, a display of relentless pace of supreme quality.
The apologetic effort at off-spin was provided by Carl Hooper, at rare moments when wickets had somehow stopped tumbling for significantly long periods. As an after-thought, when Mark Waugh and Ian Healy were putting that gutsy seventh-wicket partnership, Viv Richards also had a go for an over. But, the figures at the end looked as traditionally age-old for the West Indians as the colours and calypsos of the Guyanese Mashramani. The pacemen shared the wickets, the 14 overs of innocuous off-spin provided some breather for the Australian batsmen.
Australia did have a specialist spinner, in the form of the eccentric Greg Matthews. They had been bowled out for 348, and Craig McDermott had got rid of Gordon Greenidge early enough. As Desmond Haynes and Richie Richardson settled down, the off-spinner was given a long bowl by Allan Border. And he was taken to the cleaners. Richardson launched him into the stands. Haynes treated him with patronising contempt. Not that the two were any less severe on the pace bowlers. By the end of the second day West Indies were coasting at 226 for one.
The Border spell
The next morning, it was left to captain Allan Border to do something about it when the Caribbean duo brought up the 300 of the innings with still one showing in the wickets column. With Mike Whitney, Merv Hughes and Matthews leaking runs, Border ran in his sprightly steps, in his short, curved path between the umpire and the stumps, and sent down his left-arm spinners.
It was he who broke the partnership. Haynes played forward and the ball popped off his bat and pad to Mark Waugh at silly point.
The skipper continued to roll his arm over. Only once had he bowled more in an innings — at Sydney against the Englishmen in the January of 1979 — when he had sent down 23 stingy eight-ball overs.
Perhaps, as a captain he tended to under-bowl himself. The world knew him as the most prolific Australian batsman, but few realised that he also possessed the best match bowling figures among Australian captains. He had famously picked up 11 for 96 at Sydney, against these very West Indians two years earlier – bowling his side to an incredible win. He still leads the table of Australian skippers, ahead of Richie Benaud’s nine for 173 and George Giffen’s eight for 40.
In this innings he was tidy, not taken for too many even when Viv Richards and Carl Hooper went hammer and tongs at the bowling. Towards the end of the third day, Jeff Dujon and Gus Logie were in the middle of another productive partnership, the scoreboard showing a tottering 529 for five.
It was now that the Australian captain produced the sensational nine ball spell, taking four wickets for none. Dujon missed the line of one that straightened and was caught plumb. Logie edged one to Healy. The very next ball saw Ambrose played down the wrong line and have his stumps rearranged. An over later, Walsh followed in the huge footsteps of his fellow fast bowler, his curious lunge getting nowhere close to the ball.
The West Indians ended the day on 532 for nine. The captain had shown his main bowlers how it was done.
Patterson helped Marshall put on 37 more the next morning, before Matthews got the former leg before. Border’s figures read 30-11-68-5. His main spinner, Matthews, ended with 37.5-6-155-3.
When Australia batted again, Border found himself in the centre of action yet again. From the non-striker’s end, he saw Dean Jones get bowled to a no-ball from Walsh. The batsman did not hear umpire Clyde Duncan’s call. The pavilion was located towards extra-cover and he walked away in that direction, busy performing the routine of taking off his gloves and headgear. Carl Hooper, rushing in from the slips, gathered the ball and made for the stumps. Border desperately alerted Jones, and the latter made a dash for the crease, but the stumps had been uprooted. The West Indians appealed and square-leg umpire Clyde Cumberbatch, standing in his seventh Test, ruled Jones out. This was against the Law 38.2 which states: “If a no-ball has been called, the striker shall not be given run out unless he attempts to run.” However, the decision stuck and Australia surrendered soon enough, collapsing to 248 all out, extras top scoring with 53.
West Indies won by 10 wickets.
It is a curious cricketing fact that Border’s final tally of 19 wickets against West Indies were scalped at a better average of 24.31 than such confirmed tormentors of Caribbean batsmen as Keith Miller (40 wickets at 25.97), Ray Lindwall (41 at 27.34) and Dennis Lillee (55 at 27.74).
Brief Scores: Australia 348 (Geoff Marsh 94, Allan Border 47, Mark Waugh 71, Ian Healy 53; Pat Patterson 4 for 80) and 248 (Ian Healy 47) lost to West Indies 569 (Desmond Haynes 111, Richie Richardson 182, Viv Richards 50, Carl Hooper 62, Gus Logie 54; Allan Border 5 for 68) and 31 for no loss by 10 wickets.
(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)