The West Indian super express WESLEY WINFIED HALL | Daily News


The West Indian super express WESLEY WINFIED HALL

He was a giant of a fast bowler. Built like a black superman standing 6 feet 4 inches tall, not only his supple muscle bound frame, but his lengthy run up to the wicket had batsman jelly kneed having to face him.

It was the WESLEY WINFIELD HALL Express from Barbados. In the 1960s and 1970s he breathed fire at batsmen who feared to face his blinding pace as he dominated and blew aside batsmen. ‘

Starting his run up that began from almost the boundary line, with top shirt button undone, glistening big silver cross hanging round his neck, shining in the sun he was menacing and not many batsmen of that era wanted to face for fear of being hit a hit out of the game and their livelihood.

No body protectors

Mind you those were the days when no helmets or body protectors that are now in vogue other than the ‘box’ were the only protection allowed batsmen. Today batsmen have protectors all over their body they look like knights in armor.

Before going on to describe his heroics in international cricket, the writer who was a spectator at that game at the Colombo Oval would like to describe the game he played in on the way home after that historic Test series against Australia in Australia in the 1960/’61 series which saw the first ever tied Test.

A few of the cricketers led by Garfield Sobers, played a game here for a team that was termed the ‘Daily Mirror’ X1 versus a Board X1. I will be doing an injustice if I don’t make mention of the man who made that game possible.

Cricket loving Chairman

He was none other than the cricket loving Chairman and Managing Director of ‘The Times of Ceylon’ Felix Goonewardene. It was his hard work that got that game going and helped the Sri Lankan fans see the likes of Sobers, Rohan Kanhai, Wesley Hall, Condrad Hunte, Seymour Nurse, Wesley Hall and Chester Watson for the first time.

That was after a tour of Australia where the two teams played the historic and memorable first Tied Test match in Brisbane. The captains in that series were Frank Worrell and Richie Benaud who in their eagerness to bring back the fire into the game played positive cricket not worried of the final result.

After the team that the few West Indians played had batted first, the Board X1 openers were Sarath Silva and T.C.T. Edwards. Silva was after a successful inter-school season for Nalanda and SSC and Edwards similarly for STCML and NCC.

Lightning fast

HALL began his run up from near the boundary cheered on and watched in amazement by a full house. His first ball was lightning fast and before Silva could bring his bat down the ball had sent his off bail flying. HALL realizing his pace was too much slowed down after that. Silva never recovered from that harrowing experience.

In that game the stylish and elegant right hand batsman and the most successful Pre Test era captain produced by Sri Lanka Michael Tissera facing HALL, Sobers and Watson went on to make a magnificent century which came in for high praise from Sobers and Kanhai.

And now to the heroics of HALL. He played in 48 Test matches for West Indies from 1958 to 1969 CAPTURING 192 wickets with 9 wickets in an innings and one 10 wicket match haul. His opening bowling partner was also the menacing Charlie Griffith. Together they were lightning fast and fearsome.

HALL’S Test debut

HALL made his Test debut against India in 1958. Although he did not meet with much success against India, it was the following year 1959 that he showed what could be expected of him in the future when he became the first WI bowler to pocket a hat-trick against Pakistan at the Bagh- e-Jinnah in Lahore. His victims were Mushtaq Mohammad, Nasimu-ul-Ghani and Fazal Mahmood.

Believe it or not HALL started his career as a youngster as a wicket keeper at Combermee School. After quitting school he found employment in a Cable office in Bridgetown. It was there that he took to fast bowling.

HALL was partnered by another fearsome fast man in Roy Gilchrist and they met with success against India. HALL made a lasting memory when in his Test debut against India he had the wickets of Nari Contractor, Pankaj Roy and Vijaya Manjrekar.

Bag of 11 wickets

In the Second Test against India he sent wickets tumbling with a bag of 11 wickets. HALL and Gilchrist terrorised the Indian batsmen with their terrifying pace and WI won that series Three Tests to nil.

When England toured the Caribbean in 1959/60 HALL was among the wickets again with 7 for 69 in the Third Test his best figures in Tests.

Then in the Third Test he had 6 for 90.

But what HALL remembers and cherishes most was the Test series Australia in 1960/61 which saw the first ever tied Test.

On that memorable tour the fire was brought back into Test cricket that was losing its appeal when the First Test was a heart stopper. West Indies had set Australia a winning target of 233.

Broke through early

HALL broke through early with the scalps of Bob Simpson and Neil Harvey and Les Favell. Australia were tumbling at 92 for 6, Benaud joined Alan Davidson and began retrieving the innings and taking them to victory at 226 for 7 with 7 runs to win.

Davidson was run out by a direct hit by Joe Solomon with Australia requiring 4 more runs with WI needing to take 3 wickets. Captain Worrell called on HALL to bowl the last over. He had Benaud caught behind, then dropped a catch in bizarre fashion and then the last two Aussie batsmen were run out with scores on 233. With the last ball to be bowled Worrell ran up and issued a warning to HALL –‘Remember, Wes, if you bowl a no-ball you’ll never be able to go back to Barbados’. HALL still remembers what Worrell told him. And thus ended the first ever tie in Test cricket.

Windies won the hearts

Although Australia won that exciting series 2-1, it was the Windies who won the hearts of the Aussie public who gave them a ticker-tape parade and had the city at a standstill through to the airport.

After memorable series, the Aussie arrived in Sri Lanka on the ship ‘ORCADES’ on their way to England. Helped by our ‘TIMES’ Ports and Shipping correspondent Russel Raymond, M.B.Marjan and the writer who were on the Sports Desk got on the ship.

While talking to some of the players we noticed opener Bob Simpson sporting a bump on his forehead. When asked he said it was after being hit by a HALL bouncer.

Fearsome pace

Starting with the fearsome pace of Gilchrist, HALL and Griffith most Windies bowlers took to pace bowling and produced a set of terror strikers in Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Joel Garner, Colin Croft, Malcom Marshall, Patrick Patterson, Coutney Walsh, Curtley Ambrose and Wayne Daniel as they dominated the Test arena in the 1970s and 1980s.

There’s a lot more that could be written about HALL the great hearted fast bowling terror, but space limits me from dwelling further. But HALL suffered the greatest disappointment in his life when during the World Cup in the Caribbean in 2007, he lost his son who had flown in from Canada with the family to take in the action when he was drowned. HALL was gutted. Sports legends like HALL appear one in a generation.

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