All the Way to the Wire

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There have been two ties in the 123-year history of Test cricket, but when people talk about the Tied Test, it's always clear which match they mean-Australia vs. West Indies in Brisbane, from Dec. 9-14, 1960. (The other tie was between Australia and India in Madras in September 1986.)

This summer's first Test marks the 40th anniversary of that famous match, which began with cricket in a familiar state of crisis. Today, the issue is corruption; 40 years ago it was boredom. Most Tests then were somnolent affairs in which conservative captains were more intent on avoiding defeat than pushing for victory. In Australian captain Richie Benaud and his West Indian counterpart Frank Worrell, however, the game was about to find its cure.

The Australians were addressed on match eve by Don Bradman, who urged them to play with spark and visible enjoyment. This would be the way of Worrell's men, "whose simple, unsophisticated, essentially carefree and good cricketing behaviour" would later be cited by writer Jack Fingleton as the "principal cause" of the game's greatest series.

Had it not been tied, the 60th Australia-West Indies Test would still have been rated highly for Garry Sobers' 132 on the first day ("I have never seen a better innings than the one by Sobers," Benaud said afterward), Alan Davidson's mighty contribution with bat and ball, and especially for the chaotic final eight-ball over, which began with Australia needing six runs to win and the West Indies three wickets.

It was bowled by the burly speedster Wes Hall, to whom Worrell had said that morning, "Today is the day you will show them what you can do." From the first ball, Australia scored a leg bye; on the second, Benaud was caught; from the third there was nothing; on the fourth Australia pinched a bye; on the fifth Hall collided with teammate Rohan Kanhai and a simple chance was spilled.

Three balls left, three runs to win. Tailender Ian Meckiff heaved at the next delivery and connected sweetly; the ball skidded toward the square-leg fence. But due to an oversight, the grass on that part of the ground had not been trimmed that morning, and the ball slowed sufficiently for Conrad Hunte to haul it in and rifle a pinpoint 70-m throw that found Wally Grout, attempting the winning run, short of his ground.

Two balls left, one run to win, last man Lindsay Kline on strike. He and Meckiff agreed to run if Kline put bat on ball. Worrell told Hall, "If you bowl a no-ball you will never be allowed to set foot in Barbados again." Kline's recollection is that Hall's run-up, long normally, seemed this time to begin from the sightscreen.

Hall charged in and released. Despite shaking with nerves, Kline managed to deflect the ball to leg. As Meckiff raced through, fieldsman Joe Solomon swooped. Though from his position there was only one stump to aim at, Solomon's only hope was a direct hit from about 10 m. Bull's-eye. Meckiff was run out and Test cricket had spawned its first tie.

Thirty years later in the Caribbean, Australia and the West Indies would contest a series infamous for its spite. The Tied Test, however, was a high point not only for the game but for harmony between the two sides. "Wes is still one of my great mates, even though he bowled more bouncers at me than any other five bowlers put together," says Simpson, a batsman in that Test and in 61 others. "At the end of a day's play, Wes used to pick up my baby daughter from my wife and bring her down with him to the dressing room. There was this great feeling between the teams."