Gods and Flannelled Fools is a new series in which I take a trip through the history of English test match cricket. If you are curious as to the myths and legends of the game, or perhaps a follower of the limited overs format and can't work out what the fuss is all about when it comes to test cricket, this might be of interest to you!
In each episode I will pick up on a specific test series, starting with the very first test matches and continuing through to the present day, including at least one series from each decade. Each episode will focus on a series, match or individual of note, perhaps looking at a famous incident, performance or a great line up.
Episode nine covers the 1963 home series against the West Indies. While the form of the English cricket side tailed off towards the end of the 1950s and especially the start of the 1960, the West Indies were on their way up with a team packed full of talent and character. Leading the side was their first “established” black captain, Frank Worrell and the team featured the opening pace attach of Wes Hall and Charlie Griffiths, along with Sir Gary Sobers, a player regarded by many as the finest all-rounder to have played the game. The England side were captained by Ted Dexter, but had seen many of their star names retire and the side was at best unsettled – though did feature the ever-dependable Fred Truman as their leading wicket-taker and the solid presence of Ken Barrington in the top order.
The 1963 series ended up as a West Indies away win (thereby winning the inaugural Wisden Trophy), but was played in fine spirit and the second test at Lords is still regarded as one of the great test matches, with Colin Cowdrey coming out to bat with a broken arm right at the death, all four results still in play. The success of the series established the West Indies as one of the best sides in the world and paved the way for the concept of “twin tours” in order to ensure that the test match calendar was able to cater for the number test-playing nations.
England would continue to struggle for form and consistency for much of the decade, though the West Indies’ template for a fast opening bowling attack would prove to be the successful formula that future captains from all countries would aspire towards in the decades that followed.
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