On this day 64 years ago, Everton Weekes created history by scoring his fifth Test century in consecutive innings. Arunabha Sengupta traces the sterling sequence of hundreds that set up a world record that still stands.
By the end of his career, he was considered by many as the most accomplished batsman amongst the hallowed group called the three Ws. Yet, his start in Test cricket was hardly auspicious.
At Bridgetown, Port-of-Spain and Georgetown, he had been moved up and down the order, sent out at the fall of the first wicket, pushed to open the innings and then dropped down to number seven. Almost all the English bowlers had troubled him, and with a highest score of 36 in five innings, he did not really seem to hold much promise.
Indeed, he was omitted from the final Test match at Kingston, and managed to play only when George Headley had to drop out at the last moment. The Jamaican crowd wanted to see local boy John Holt, and he was booed on the field throughout the English innings.
Everton Weekes came in to bat at 39 for one and was immediately dropped by Godfrey Evans off Dick Howorth. He responded with a display of majestic driving that had seldom been witnessed in the islands, but would be a recurring story during the next decade. Fifteen boundaries etched his innings as he piled up 141 runs that converted baiters into devoted fans. West Indies won the final Test by 10 wickets and took the series 2-0.
Five on the trot
Seven months down the line, in November 1949, West Indies played their next Test match in Delhi. Weekes came in at No 7 and struck the ball delightfully against a hapless Indian attack to score 128 as West Indies amassed 631.
In the second Test at the Brabourne Stadium, Bombay, Weekes was moved up to No 4. He essayed a long succession of majestic hits, including a series of delectable strokes off the back-foot to negate the guile of Vinoo Mankad. Two chances went down – the standard tale of the early Indian sides – but they hardly dimmed the brilliance of his 194.
The party moved to Calcutta for the next Test, starting on the last day of 1948. The wicket had grass. The local fast bowler, Shute Banerjee, moved the ball around, dismissing Allan Rae and Dennis Atkinson early on the first morning to reduce the visitors to 28 for two. But, Clyde Walcott stuck around for a half century and Weekes played one of the best knocks of his career. Technique flawless and the driving exquisite both off front foot and back, the Barbadian batted just over three hours to compile 162, with 24 hits to the fence.
India responded with 272, ending 94 short of the West Indian total. However, with the pitch now helpful for Ghulam Ahmed and Mankad, they were in a spot of bother when Weekes walked in again at 32 for two. By the end of the day, the innings was steady at 120 for three, Weekes unbeaten on 62.
On the next morning, January 3, 1949, West Indians lost captain John Goddard on resumption, but Walcott joined Weekes and the two young batsmen took the game beyond the Indians. With reassuring clam punctuated by crisp and classy strokes, Weekes notched up his fifth Test hundred on the trot before driving one back to Ghulam Ahmed. His 101 was a determined effort with just five boundaries, and created the world record of consecutive hundreds in Tests.
Almost one better
The match at Calcutta ended in a draw. At Madras, Allan Rae and Jeff Stollmeyer added 239 for the first wicket. Weekes walked in to bat with the score reading 319 for two.
There was a mini-wobble as a number of wickets went down and Dattu Phadkar kept pegging away from one end. But Weekes, taking his time to settle down, went about making runs with customary ease. With Gerry Gomez, he had taken the score to 472 and was 10 runs short of what would have been his sixth hundred in succession when he was run out – a murky decision by the umpire that raised quite a few eyebrows. However, the West Indies won by an innings to take the lead in the series.
The day after he was dismissed for 90, there were newspaper reports which proclaimed Weekes ‘finally fails’.
Well, by his sublime standards Weekes failed quite miserably in the thrilling final Test at Bombay, with scores of 56 and 48. He ended the tour with 779 runs at an average of 111.29
(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