Roy Fredericks: a beauty to behold
The West Indies tourists against Australia in 1975-76 was worthy of billing as a World Championship with formidable pace attacks and strong batting on both sides. In the event, the series turned out to be a disappointment for the West Indies and a triumph for Australia by five games to one.
The West Indies lost the first game in Brisbane, but bounced back admirably to take the second. If Australia's victory in the first Test set the pattern for most of the series, however, the second Test at Perth momentarily reminded the world that a truly great side the West Indies could be when things were not going their way. Australia won the toss and batted on a fast true pitch. But expectations of a high first innings score were quickly scotched. Fast bowler Andy Roberts took two wickets in his opening spell and all the West Indies bowlers maintained the pressure, including Lance Gibbs, still an outstanding off-spinner at the twilight of his career, who claimed Gary Gilmour as his 300th Test wicket.
Only a superb performance from Ian Chappell held the innings together. Coming in when Rick McCosker was dismissed in the first over of the day, Chappell batted through the close displaying a wide range of strokes. When Michael Holding ran in to bowl Chappell with the second new ball early in the second day's play, the batsman had scored 156 and Australia were 329-7. Holding broke through Chappell's defense and clean bowled him. With the next ball he shattered Jeff Thomson'
s stumps, and five balls later finished the innings by bowling Ashley Mallet.
This precipitate end to the Australian first innings, opened the way for one of the most astonishing assault ever perpetuated upon a top-flight Test bowling attack. In the 90 minutes to lunch, the West Indies scored a formidable 130 for one off only 14 overs. The man most responsible was the little powerful opener, the late Roy Fredericks, who hit Lillee's second ball for six with a hook. It was some statement intent. Remember, a few months earlier at Lord's in the first World Cup final, Freddo hooked Lillee first ball for six, then trod on his stumps. This time he decided to get his eyes in for one ball. The rest of the shots flew infallibly off the middle of the bat. Hooking, cutting and driving, he reached his hundred less than half an hour after lunch, off a mere 71 balls with one six and 18 fours was the second fastest at that time, after Australian JMGregory's in 67 balls against South Africa at Johannesburg in 1921-22. Come to think of it, this was not a one-day, nor a 20/20, but a Test match, for God's sake.
Lille hurling down his thunderbolts and Thomson like the wind, supported by the excellent Garry Gilmour and Max Walker-the most feared fast-bowling quad let in the world at the time- on a pitch that favored pace, and Freddo, cutting, pulling and hooking like a man possessed. There were many a time when he cut at lifting deliveries, and at the precise instance he struck the ball, both his feet were well clear of the ground. According to Ashley Mallet who played in the match, forty years later says he was fielding in the gully, and nothing came anywhere near me, yet Freddo was cutting fiercely, the ball soaring over my head and to my left, round point.
In just 145 balls he scorched to 169 against Lillee at his most fearsome and Thomson at his fastest with 27 fours and one six. The former Australian captain Lindsay Hassett said on the ABC network said that Freddo's 169 was the greatest innings I've seen in Australia. Some accolade, given Hassett had played along-side Bradman from 1938 through to 1948 and seen many amazing innings from the Don and others. Freddo thumped 26 runs off one Thomson over, 25 from one Lillee over and 24 from Walker's (all 8 ball overs). Oh, how we longed for a Roy Fredericks on the West Indies side at this point in time.
Roy Fredericks was the only recognized opening batsman in the team and the management was not prepared to use Lawrence Rowe or Derych Murray. In the minutes prior to the start of the innings, there was the unusual sight of three batsmen- Fredericks, Bernard Julian and Keith Boyce padded up to do the job, with Lance Gibbs even offering his services. In the end, Julian was the one- a decision which left Fredericks somewhat in anger as he would have preferred Rowe as his partner. When he stepped out of the dressing room, it was obvious that something was going to happen out in the middle, one way or the other. This was the mood the Guyanese was in. In the opening over, he top-edged a hook off Thomson wide of the man on long leg boundary and from then on it was blue or what we Guyanese say red murder with Julian reduced to nothing more than a bystander at the opposite end. Thomson Lillee, Gilmore and Walker threw everything at him on the world's fastest pitch and he just lashed them to ribbons, hitting the ball anywhere he wanted and with tremendous power as he drove, cut pull with disdain.
The measure of his authority as evident when the last over to lunch, a time when other batsmen would fold their hands and think about coming back after the break he hit, not one, not two, not three, not four but five boundaries of Gilmour's bowling. After the interval, he just stepped up the pace as he blazed the West Indies to a total handsome enough to give them victory by an innings. And prior to his death, if you ask Freddo how he got out or why, he would tell you to ask the manager.
At tea time, with the Australian attack in shreds and Fredericks past 150, and still licking his fingers, manager Edmond Kentish pulled reins. The former West Indies pace bowler from Jamaica begged Fredericks to cool it with the explanation that he was scoring too quickly, that he wanted the Australian danger pair Thomson and Lillee to stay out in the field and bowl as many overs as possible. Fredericks, the good team man he was, followed orders, sheathed his sword and that was that.
Fredericks on the go was a beauty to behold as the new ball raced from his bat glistering across the turf as it flashed to the boundary. Fredericks was out, just after tea, for 169 out of a total of 258-3. His blistering innings in 212 minutes off 145 balls and containing 27 fours and a six had virtually immortalized him. It was, as they once said of the legendary Don Bradman in the 1930 series, murder in specification, an innings rated by Ray Robinson, the dean of Australian cricket writers, as the best Test innings in Australia in more than 20 years.
After Fredericks departure, the pace of the scoring slackened, but not by much. For over three and a half hours the commanding figure of Clive Lloyd occupied the crease. In most matches, his 149 would have outshone all else.
But the power and glory of Fredericks remarkable innings dulled everything that came after it. The West Indies eventual total of 585 was scored at the rate of more than six runs an over. Lillee's 20 overs cost 123 runs less expensive than Thomson at 17 overs for 128. To rub salt into the Australian wounds, it only remained for Andy Roberts to show who what could be achieved by an inspired fast bowler on the Perth wicket. Unfailingly accurate and very fast, Roberts destroyed the Australian batting, taking the wickets of all seven specialist batsmen and leaving Bernard Julian to pick off the tail enders.
It was an outstanding victory, both in the margin, an innings and 87 runs, and the manner it was achieved. For the rest of the series, the West Indies sought and failed to repeat the same form. For consistent high quality performance, Australia might justly claim to have proved themselves the better team. But at Perth, the West Indies had shown how, on their day, they could play cricket-typical West Indian cricket-to match the finest ever seen in the history of the game.
Fredericks, a man who developed from a middle order batsman at club level, to become the most successful of all West Indian opening batsmen. The batsman who fears no foe.