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Tie that opened Hall of fame for West Indies

Pioneering fast bowler of the dreaded kind, Wesley Hall is a man of many hues apart from being a good orator, writes Atreyo Mukhopadhyay.

cricket Updated: Apr 12, 2007 01:00 IST

Pioneering fast bowler of the dreaded kind, a former president of the West Indies Cricket Board and now revered as a reverend, Wesley Hall is a man of many hues apart from being a good orator.

It’s difficult to get hold of him and tougher still to get him to talk cricket even in the days of World Cup in his homeland, but the 69-year-old agreed to speak to HT when approached at a dinner hosted by the Barbados Tourism Department.

Remembered vividly by locals as the bowler “who ran in from the dark with the golden crucifix bouncing on his chest”, Hall avoided getting into the details of what ails West Indies and their fast bowlers, though he was game when asked to recount what happened in the tied Test of Brisbane, 1961, where he bowled the last over, off which Australia needed six (off eight balls) with three wickets in hand

The following is what Hall recalled:

"You make me go back a long time in history! Well, there was a problem with that Test; fortunes kept fluctuating from the first day. We had a big total in the first innings but on the last day they had to get some 230-odd runs.

"We started brilliantly and got them down to 40-something for four at one stage with me taking three. They were soon down to 92 for six and we thought we were comfortably placed.

“That was until Richie Benaud and Alan Davidson came together. They took their team very close to the target before Davidson was run out in the penultimate over. I was to bowl the last one and the first ball was fast.

“It hit Wally Grout, hurt him but he somehow made it to the other end. By this time I was tiring, having bowled so many overs in the day and given 110 per cent all through.

“But I was confident that I could get them out and thought I should bowl a bouncer. My captain Frank Worrell told me repeatedly that I must not bowl one. Something compelled me to go for it still and Benaud hooked at it.

“It wasn’t exactly a top edge because it would’ve flown to the fence in that case but it got some flesh off the blade and flew backwards. Gerry Alexander (wicketkeeper) followed it and took a fantastic catch.

“I was elated but my captain asked me ‘What did I tell you?’ I was very confused. I had just taken a crucial wicket and he was still upset about it. ‘How many runs do they need?’ he asked and I said five. ‘What if it had gone for four,’ he screamed. ‘We would have lost it.’ I was not accustomed to this feeling of taking a wicket and feeling so sad. “I bowled a fuller one next up and the batsman played a good shot.

"It was across the line but played with the full face of the bat and we all thought it was going for four.

"Afterwards we were told that the grass at that part of the ground wasn’t cut properly and that the ball didn’t roll as smoothly as it could have. Conrad Hunte retrieved the ball from about six inches from the fence and we got a run out. They got three runs.

"The next ball was down the legs and the batsmen set off for a bye. Alexander threw the ball back at me and I just had to throw down the stumps from very close but missed. It was certain to go down to the fence for four overthrows before (Alf) Valentine from mid-off came up with an amazing stop.

"Worrell came up to me again and told me ‘I want you to know the scores are tied and you must not bowl a no-ball. They would not let you enter Barbados if you do that.’ I bowled that ball from six inches short of what I normally would. The batsman must not have seen it, but it was an inside edge that took the ball towards square-leg.

"It seemed as if they would get the single until Joe Solomon came up from nowhere, swooped on the ball and threw down the stumps when he had just one stump to look at.

"It brought the curtains down on the greatest Test of all time. The game needed it at that point in time. It was probably the most amazing moment in cricket history."