Cricket World Rewind: #OnThisDay - Bob Simpson, Bill Lawry bat on for two and a half days against Hall, Griffith, Sobers & Gibbs
May 6, 1965 - The Australian opening combination of Bob Simpson and Bill Lawry added 382 against West Indies - the highest opening stand for Australia. 55 years have passed and the record still stands.
Before the West Indian quartet of Joel Garner, Michael Holding, Colin Croft and Sir Andy Roberts sent chills down the opposition's spine, there was another quartet which gave batmen hell. They were Wes Hall, Charlie Griffith, Garry Sobers and Lance Gibbs who were on song through the 1960s.
On the Australia tour of West Indies in 1964/65 as well, the case had been similar. By the time the fourth Test arrived, West Indies had taken an unassailable lead of 2-0. After winning the opening Test by 179 runs, the hosts had pocketed the third Test by a big margin of 212 runs.
The Australian batsmen had struggled against the quality of the West Indian bowling. Only Bob Cowper and Brian Booth were the two visiting batsmen to get into double figures in the first three Tests, both of which came in the drawn second Test.
The Australian opening combination of Bob Simpson and Bill Lawry had managed their highest opening stand of 39 in the first five innings. The team has been bowled out for just 144 in the last innings of the third Test and were low on confidence. The Bob Simpson-led side had to win the 4th Test at Georgetown at any cost to keep their chances of drawing the series alive.
Agains the odds, when Simpson won the toss and opted to bat, he along with Lawry took a positive approach. Both batsmen displayed exemplary techniques and did let too many pass their bat. It must have come as a surprise to them as well as the opposition when they survived the opening session and walked back to the pavilion without loss.The West Indian attack would later see many more wicketless sessions.
As the first day ended, with the two batsmen putting on an unbeaten 263-run stand, with Simpson contributing 137 and the tenacious Lawry at 102, West Indies felt aggrieved.
Day 2 brought no better news for the hosts. Simpson and Lawry continued to build on the platform as they surpassed Australia’s then-standing highest partnership for the first wicket - 233 between Bill Brown and Jack Fingleton in January 1936. Later in the day, the duo became the the first opening pair in Test history to score double centuries in the same innings.
The stand was finally broken when Simpson, who was the aggressor in the partnership was bowled for 201 by Hall. By that time, the scoreboard read 382 - the highest opening stand for Australia. 55 years have passed and the record still stands. The tally is 69 short of Australia’s best partnership in Tests ever - 451 by Sir Don Bradman and Bill Ponsford.
Had the duo of Simpson and Lawry scored 32 more runs, they would have overtaken the existing record for the highest opening partnership (413), held by India’s Vinoo Mankad and Pankaj Roy at that time.
Once Simpson departed, Lawry also began to play some shots in the company of Bob Cowper who scored an effortless century. Lawry, who had smashed the famous quartet, was finally dismissed by the innocuous-looking part-time spin of Joe Solomon on 210.
Australia declared on 650 for six on day 3 after having batted 189 overs. West Indies' solid reply of 573 was led by a double century from Seymour Nurse and a century from Rohan Kanhai. Despite Simpson declaring Australia’s second innings on 175 for 4 and setting West Indies a target of 253 on the final day, the match ended in a draw.
This was the time when Test matches were played over six days. But with three double centuries in the match, even that was not sufficient for a result. However, West Indies fell just 11 runs short of the improbable target eventually with five wickets still in hand.
Bill Lawry: The voice of the MCG
© Cricket World 2020