Australia had a 2-1 lead in the five-Test series against the West Indies coming into this Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the fourth of the series. The hosts had taken the first two matches at Brisbane and Sydney before West Indies pulled one back in the third Test at Adelaide. The match began on New Year’s Eve, 1951.
Led by John Goddard, the visitors decided to bat after winning the toss as they began their quest of squaring the series. Frank Worrell (who was to later be honoured by having the trophy for all Australia-West Indies Test Series named after him) scored an impressive 108 to rescue the visitors from a precarious position.
Keith Miller and Bill Johnston rattled the West Indian top order to have them at 30/3. In spite of being badly hit by Miller on the right hand, Worrell put on 72 for the fourth wicket with Gerry Gomez and 92 for the fifth with Robert Christiani to lead his team’s fightback.
Playing most of his innings in considerable pain, Worrell was sixth out with the score at 221, bowled by Ray Lindwall. West Indies finally ended their innings at 272, upon which the first day ended. Miller returned figures of 5/60. On day two, right-arm fast-medium bowler John Trim proceeded to give his team the advantage.
Playing his fourth – and what turned out to be his last – Test, Trim grabbed a career best of 5/34 as Australia were bowled out for 216. After being at 49/3 at one stage, Neil Harvey (83) and Miller (47) seemed like giving the hosts a good lead during their 124-run stand.
But Harvey’s dismissal – caught and bowled by Sonny Ramadhin – triggered a collapse as Australia went from 173/3 to 216 all out, Trim mopping off the lower order after taking the vital scalps of Arthur Morris and Miller. Leading by 56, the West Indies lost both Sammy Gullien and Goddard to Lindwall without a single run on the board, before ending the day at 20/2.
Australian captain Lindsay Hassett made a match-winning 102 in the 2nd innings (source – trialx.com)
The wickets continued to fall on the third day as the West Indies fell to 97/5, Jefferey Stollmeyer scoring the bulk of the runs with 54. Gomez shepherded the lower order well as he made a vital 52 and shared an important 62-run partnership for the seventh wicket with Worrell, who batted down the order.
However his team lost their last four wickets for 13 to be bowled out for 203 – Gomez being the last man out. Australia’s target was 260 runs and they ended the day in a stable manner, placed at 68/1 with two full days remaining.
The West Indians kept on chipping away with regular wickets on the fourth day, with only Australian captain Lindsay Hassett showing the determination to stay at the crease. The pitch was responding to spin, and the Windies’ spin duo of Ramadhin and Alf Valentine found it to their liking.
The game was evenly poised at 147/5, whereupon Hassett and Lindwall added a valuable 45 for the sixth wicket. Australia were on course at 218/6, when they suffered a near-fatal collapse of 3/4 to get reduced to 222/9, Hassett being the eighth man out for a patient knock of 102 – he batted for almost five and a half hours.
Bill Johnston (left) and Doug Ring head back after helping Australia to thrilling one-wicket victory (source – wikipedia.org)
The loss of wicketkeeper Gil Langley (LBW by Valentine for his fifth wicket) suddenly meant that Australia still needed a further 38 with one wicket left. Tailenders Doug Ring and Bill Johnston were at the crease. The duo thwarted all efforts from the West Indian bowlers to dislodge that one last wicket. They went about the task calmly, occasionally playing a few attacking shots.
Ring scored most of the runs and ended unbeaten on 32, while Johnston (who made 7 not out), hit the winning stroke towards the leg side to ensure a thrilling one-wicket victory amid mounting tension for his team – a win which also sealed the series in Australia’s favour. Valentine took 5/88, but he and his fellow bowlers failed to to take the final wicket required to stay alive in the series.
This was only the fifth instance of a one-wicket win in Test matches (seven more instances have since then followed). Australia went on to win the last Test at Sydney by 202 runs to record a comprehensive 4-1 series win.