December 26, 1981
Christmas came a day late for MCG patrons in 1981. The Test between Australia and the rampant West Indies was a clinker, and the opening day - Boxing Day - had more thrills than a horror movie.
Clive Lloyd’s Caribbean kings had just gone 15 Tests without a defeat. The Windies' pace quartet of Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Joel Garner and Colin Croft has probably never been surpassed for sustained speed and hostility.
Australia had a pretty fair fast bowler, too: Dennis Lillee. The crowd support he received in Melbourne was second to none, and Lillee reciprocated by saving some of his finest performances for the great ground.
On Boxing Day 1981 Greg Chappell won the toss and elected to bat. Within the hour Australia was 3/8, with the openers departed and Chappell out for a duck. Allan Border’s dismissal left Australia 4/26, and with a long tail it seemed possible the home side could be all out before lunch. Holding had three cheap wickets and was breathing fire.
Enter Kim Hughes. The enigmatic West Australian improvised, played his shots, and kept his wicket intact by going on the attack. Just before Australia was dismissed for 198, Hughes notched his ton. He was given staunch support by ultra-bunny Terry Alderman, who hung around to share a last-wicket stand of 43. Hughes remained unbeaten on 100; Holding finished with 5/45. Australian spirits were low. The first day wasn’t even over, and already defeat seemed likely.
But Lillee had other ideas. There was barely half an hour left, but that was long enough for the master to wrest back the balance of power. He began the day with 306 Test wickets to his name, just behind Lance Gibbs¦ world record of 309. By the time stumps were drawn, he had drawn level. To the roaring of the crowd, Lillee tore in and had Desmond Haynes caught at slip for one, then nightwatchman Croft lbw for a duck. Alderman removed makeshift opener Faoud Bacchus.
Out swaggered Viv Richards, a master at the peak of his powers. He casually got off the mark, and seemed to have survived the challenge.
There was one ball left in the day’s play. One last roll of the dice.
Lillee started just inside the fence in front of Bay 13, steamed in, pitched full, beat the batsman all ends up, and Richards was bowled off an inside edge.
The crowd erupted. Lillee did a war dance down the pitch and then kept on jogging towards the dressing room. He had taken 3/3, the Windies were 4/10, and Australia was right back in the match. The Aussies in fact went on to win by 58 runs on the back of Lillee’s awesome 10/127, and drew the series 1-1.
On the second morning, Lillee became the world record holder when Chappell held an edge from Larry Gomes.
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