Dave Warner, in Perth, notched three consecutive Test centuries in three consecutive innings for the second time in his career. He further inked his name onto a list that includes the great and good of the game; names such as Kumar Sangakkara (three times), Sir Don Bradman, Sunil Gavaskar, Herbert Sutcliffe, George Headley and Ravi Bopara.
Warner’s relative failure in Australia’s second innings against New Zealand in the drawn second Test at Perth means that he couldn’t etch his name onto a list that goes one step further. Warren Bardsley, Rahul Dravid, Alan Melville and Jack Fingleton all managed four consecutive Test hundreds. One man, however, managed five.
Sir Everton Weekes is unquestionably one of the finest batsman ever to have graced the game. He, along with contemporaries such as Headley, Clyde Walcott and Frank Worrell (Weekes, Worrell and Walcott make up The Three W’s, after whom the stadium in Barbados is named) put the West Indies on the map as a cricketing powerhouse. They also represented the turning of the tide in favour of black cricketers in the Caribbean – Worrell, pertinently, became the West Indies’ first black captain.
1948 is a year that is widely associated with ‘Bradman’s Invincibles’. The great Australian team that toured England that year returned undefeated, having seen off India at the beginning of the year. Whilst that side remains rightly feted, 1948 was also the year in which Weekes struck five consecutive Test centuries in five consecutive innings.
It is a record that remains astonishing since it is so unlikely that it will ever be bettered. The precursor to Weekes’s introduction into the West Indies XI for the first of his five centuries was an odd one. He had made his debut in the first of the four Test series against England and played the first three Tests, without much success.
George Headley was due to return to the West Indies XI and Weekes was set to make way. Injury produced a reversal in their positions and Weekes was in the West Indies XI for the final Test in Kingston. The locals were peeved at this; they wanted local favourite John Holt to play instead of the injured Headley and reports from the game state that Weekes was roundly booed by the Kingston crowd in the field as England batted first.
As an aside, Holt had to wait another six years for his Test debut, against England. At Sabina Park, where the locals had so hoped he would feature in 1948, Holt was given out lbw on 94 and the umpire responsible, Perry Burke, had his home attacked by aggrieved supporters. They really rather liked Holt…
Weekes set about silencing the Sabina Park attendees in imperious fashion. When John Goddard departed with the score at 39/1, Weekes strode to the crease at number three. Things would never be the same again.
His dominating 141 was a maiden Test ton which announced the arrival of a cricketing icon. It laid the platform for West Indies to win the Test by 10 wickets and secure the series 2-0. There were no more calls for Weekes to be replaced.
After that triumphant series, West Indies headed to India at the end of the year for a five Test tour. The first Test saw a return for Headley and Weekes was demoted from three to seven in the batting order, from where he plundered 121 runs in West Indies only innings. The Test was drawn.
Onto Mumbai, thereafter, where Weekes was promoted to four in the batting order and delivered 194 runs in West Indies only innings. Again, the game was drawn.
It was then onto Kolkatta. Weekes retained his spot at number four and struck 162 out of West Indies first innings 366. In the second innings, he scored 101. The match, once again, was drawn.
The fourth Test, in Madras, was where Weekes’s wonder-run would end, albeit in some controversy. Cruising along to his sixth consecutive Test ton, he was controversially given out run out on 90. No umpires were attacked at the conclusion of this decision, and there ended the most remarkable compilation of Test hundreds that cricket has known.
West Indies did, however, win the fourth Test in Madras before concluding the series with a draw in Bombay; Weekes made 56 and 48 in that Test.
That final 56 in Bombay gave Weekes a slice of another Test record: the most consecutive 50s. His run of centuries, followed by scores of 90 and 56, meant that he had notched seven consecutive scores of 50-plus. Having fallen agonisingly short of that sixth consecutive hundred, so when Vijay Hazare bowled him for 48 in Bombay, he fell agonisingly short of that eighth consecutive 50.
Only Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Andy Flower, Chris Rogers and Kumar Sangakkara have as many consecutive 50s.
It shows just how good Sir Donald Bradman was, then, that 1948 belongs to him. In eight Tests the Don notched 1025 runs at an average of 113.88, inclusive of five centuries. Weekes, in seven Tests, was the second top run scorer in 1948 with 878 runs at 87.80 with five centuries.
Those five, all in a row, look an unbreakable record.
In the annals of 1948 a thought should be spared for India. They lost 4-0 in a five Test series in Australia at the turn of the year. The series was the only time Bradman notched three consecutive centuries in consecutive innings. They then saw Weekes unfurl his magic upon them, too.
By Miles Reucroft