On March 3, 1930 began a Test with one of the most bizarre scorecards. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at one of the longest Tests ever that witnessed many a record being shattered.
The Jamaican spectators probably called it a ‘yawnathon’. The statisticians possibly jumped up and down as every record was broken. Andy Sandham emerged a very happy man. And years later, Bill Lawry possibly took copious notes in the library when he researched on teams not enforcing follow-ons.
But what really happened?
Towards the end of the 1920s two teams were rewarded with the Test status — West Indies and New Zealand. Obviously, both teams were considered the minnows of world cricket. The Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) was so sure that they would thrash the two teams easily that they did something unique – they sent two different teams, to the West Indies and New Zealand, on simultaneous tours.
England won the first Test in New Zealand, but the Kiwis fought back well to draw the next three Tests — putting up a much better performance. West Indies, however, was another matter. The first Test at Bridgetown was drawn, and was highlighted by top-notch hundreds from Sandham and George Headley. There would be an encore later that series.
Patsy Hendren and Bill Voce led England to a 167-run victory at Port-of-Spain, but Headley’s twin tons and Learie Constantine’s nine wickets helped West Indies to a gargantuan 289-run win at Georgetown. When the teams met at Kingston for the fourth and decisive Test, it was agreed that the Test would be played to a finish.
Day One: Sandham takes charge
On a placid track, The Honorary Frederick Somerset Gough Calthorpe, abbreviated to a rather commonplace Freddie for the benefit of cricket fans, won the toss and elected to bat. George Gunn and Andy Sandham walked out to bat, and simply batted on.
Lunch came and went, and the duo remained intact. Then, possibly out of boredom, Gunn stepped out against Freddie Martin, and was stumped by Ivan Barrow. Gunn had probably kicked himself for missing out on a hundred (he scored 85 in 216 balls), and England were 173 for one. Years later, Gunn had commented, “I thought if one of us didn’t get out we wouldn’t catch the boat home!” The ‘boat’ was supposed to sail after 10 days.
They did not look too disturbed, though: at stumps England were 289 for one, already looking in a safe position, and all set for a win in the timeless Test. Bob Wyatt was on 47, while Sandham had reached 151.
Day Two: Sandham goes past Foster
To West Indies’ relief, Oscar Da Costa had Wyatt caught behind for a patient 58 (in 157 balls) early in the day. However, Patsy Hendren was not really a side wants to see at 321 for two: Hendren took charge from the very beginning, and launched a furious assault. He scored 61 in 93 balls in a partnership of 97 runs with Sandham, outscoring the latter by two-to-one. It was a commendable feat, given that Sandham was batting quite aggressively. This brought Les Ames to the crease.
Watching Hendren from the dressing-room had possibly brought some kind of determination in Ames. Few onslaughts have matched Ames’ innings: in an era when beating the clock was considered a commendable achievement, Ames scored 149 runs in 130 minutes (and 174 balls). Sandham and Ames added 249 runs in just over two hours in what can only be considered a brutal massacre.
Ames, being one of the fittest players of his era, also ran very hard. This made Sandham to walk up to him and comment: “Now look here, Les [Ames], it’s all right for you but I’ve been here for hours and I’m in my 40th year.” Apart from those two issues, his shoes had given way, and he had to borrow Hendren’s shoes — that kept slipping off his feet.
Meanwhile, he had gone past Reg Foster’s 287 — the highest score ever by a batsman in Test cricket. Could he reach that elusive 300-mark now? He did, towards the end of play, amidst much cheering from the local crowd. During the Sandham-Ames partnership, England had also gone past the highest score of all time — their own 636 in the Ashes Test at Sydney just over a year back.
England finished the day at 700 for four, with Sandham on 309, with Jack O’Connor on 22 for company.
Day Three: West Indies in trouble
Early on day three, the unthinkable happened. After batting for exactly ten hours and facing 640 balls. He had hit 28 fours, and had run a five and a seven. It was a sensational display of tenacity, concentration, and application by the 39-year old. His 325 remained the highest score by a No. 2 batsman in Test cricket until Matthew Hayden went past it with 380.
Calthorpe, after waiting in the pavilion for 10 hours, got out quickly, and O’Connor fell just afterwards, scoring a 75-ball 51. It was the first time ever that the top six batsmen in a line-up had gone past fifty. Nigel Haig and Ewart Astill added 58 more, and when England finally finished at 849, they had almost certainly batted West Indies out of the Test. Not only had they scored over 33% more than the previous highest score, the score still remains the third-highest score till date, surpassed only by the two 900+ scores. Tommy Scott’s five wickets had come at the cost of 266 from 80.2 overs. This was easily the then highest runs conceded by any bowler in a Test innings, going past Clarrie Grimmett’s two for 191 at Sydney a year back — and still remains the third-highest ever, after Chuck Fleetwood-Smith (298) and Rajesh Chauhan (276).
After a 53-run opening stand between captain Karl Nunes and Clifford Roach, Roach and Headley fell in quick succession. Nunes, the third and last star batsman, fell to Bill Voce in the last ball of the day for a 146-ball 66, and West Indies finished the day on 141 for 3 with Freddie Martin on 28. They were still trailing by a massive 708 runs.
Day Four: Calthorpe’s queer decision
Despite a 73-run seventh wicket partnership between Charles Passailaigue and Da Costa, West Indies were bowled out for 286 after the rest day, 563 runs behind, Haigh and Astill taking three wickets apiece. With West Indies low on confidence, surely Calthorpe would enforce the follow-on and kill them psychologically?
He had mercy on Sandham, though: he sent Wyatt to open with Gunn. England finished the day at 121 for four, leading by 684 runs, Hendren having scored yet another quick-fire fifty, scoring 55 off 75 balls. Maybe there was a declaration around the corner?
Day Five: England bat on
All speculations regarding a declaration vanished as Calthorpe decided to bat on. Sandham, coming out at seven, scored a 62-ball fifty, and England finished the rain-affected day at 256 for nine, with a staggering 819-run lead. Sandham had scored 375 runs in the Test by now — way ahead of Foster’s match tally of 287. It still remains the sixth-highest match aggregate by any batsman — after Graham Gooch (456), Mark Taylor (426), Brian Lara (400), Greg Chappell (380), and Matthew Hayden (380).
Day Six: Headley takes over
To everyone’s surprise, Calthorpe declared the innings closed at 272 for nine, leaving West Indies to score a mere 836. Scott had taken four for 108, returning match figures of nine for 374. Not only did this break Arthur Mailey’s seven for 308 at Sydney five years back, it still remains the world record.
Wilfred Rhodes removed Roach early, but Nunes and Headley stuck to their task, and did a commendable job. While Nunes played a sheet-anchor, Headley played his strokes, and soon overtook Nunes. He reached his hundred before close, and at the end of Day Six West Indies were 234 for 1, with Nunes on 78 and Headley on 117. The duo had put on 190.
Headley batted with panache. He drove the over-pitched deliveries on the rise, and cut and pulled with fierce power. The daunting target did not hold him down. He dominated the bowling even on the sixth afternoon, and even bowlers of the pedigree of Voce and Rhodes could not have an impact on him.
Could West Indies pull off a miracle by scoring 602 more?
Day Seven: Headley bats on
West Indies lost Nunes early. The captain had scored a patient 92 off 355 balls, and had added 227 in 255 minutes with Headley. This was the highest fourth-innings partnership, going past the 210 between Jack Brown and Albert Ward, set in 1895. It is still the seventh-highest partnership in a fourth innings.
Headley added 49 more with Frank de Caires, and looked like on track for going past Joe Darling’s 160 — the highest fourth-innings score by any batsman — a record that had stood for 32 years. He soon went past it, and then recorded the first double-hundred by anyone in the fourth innings.
Finally Calthorpe had to revert to the military medium-pace of Wyatt, who struck, picking up Martin. Headley followed soon afterwards, again off Wyatt, for 223 — a fourth-innings high in Test cricket history that still stands. Stumps were called with that wicket with Passailaigue at the wicket, and West Indies were on a brave 408 for five, still requiring 428 runs. Calthorpe’s team needed to pick up five more wickes.
The next two days were washed out due to incessant rain. The MCC ‘boat’, as mentioned by Gunn on the Day One, was really supposed to leave, and the Test was declared a draw by mutual consent of the captains. England had to leave the Caribbean shores without winning the series.
The match had yielded 1,815 runs — going past the 1,753 set during the Ashes Test at Adelaide in 1920-21. The match aggregate remains the second-highest, beaten only by the England-South Africa Test at Durban in 1938-39 — the longest Test in the history of the sport.
Headley finished the series with 703 runs at 87.87 — ahead of Hendren (693) and Sandham (592). It was this series that had launched Headley into the world arena as one of the champion batsmen of all time. Constantine, on the other hand, led the wickets tally with 18 wickets (from three Tests), ahead of Voce (17 from four Tests).
The most stunning fact was perhaps that Sandham, after scoring the first 300 in Test cricket and setting world records of all sorts, never played a Test again — perhaps the greatest example of bowing out on a high.
Brief scores: England 849 (Andy Sandham 325, Les Ames 149, George Gunn 85, Patsy Hendren 61, Bob Wyatt 58, Jack O’Connor 51; Tommy Scott 5 for 266) and 272 for 9 declared (Patsy Hendren 55, Andy Sandham 50, George Gunn 47; Tommy Scott 4 for 108) drew with West Indies 286 (Karl Nunes 66, Charles Passailaigue 44) and 408 for 5 (George Headley 223, Karl Nunes 92).
(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/