For 15 years, maybe even longer, one of cricket's greatest and most respected prizes was missing.
Like a narrative from a Tolkien epic, the story of the Frank Worrell Trophy features two fierce foes, an historic battle and a lost treasure.
In 1960 The West Indies cricket team toured Australia for the third time, captained by Frank Worrell, the first black West Indian to ever lead the side.
Worrell was a classy right-handed batsman and useful left-arm seam bowler.
His counterpart was all-rounder and yet-to-be Australian cricket legend Richie Benaud.
The Historic Battle
The first Test match of the 1960/61 Tour was played at the 'Gabba ground in Brisbane.
The match was the first Test to ever end in a tie, a scenario so unlikely, that in more than 2000 Test matches to date, it has only happened twice.
After a disastrous start to the match, the West Indies were 3/65. Garry Sobers stepped-up, belting a rapid-fire 132, boosting the first innings total to 453.
Norm O'Neil replied with a ton for the Australians, the home side eventually all out for 505.
In the second innings the Windies made 284, setting the Aussies 233 runs to win.
By the time fearsome fast blower Wes Hall took the ball for the final over, the match had boiled up to a dramatic climax, with all four results still possible for each side.
As Hall charged in, the clock read 5:56pm and Australia stood at 7/227 requiring six runs from 8 deliveries (the standard over at the time). A single from the 1st, Benaud was caught from the 2nd, a catch was spilled and a run was made from the 5th ball when Hall and Kanhai collided in the field and Grout was then run out from a boundary throw attempting a third run off the 6th ball that would have won the match.
On the seventh ball of the over Joe Solomon, with only one stump to aim at, hit the stumps running Ian Meckiff out by centimetres, as he tried to complete the winning run.
This was the first match of an incredible series, which featured two more nail-biting finishes.
At the end of the tour the immensely popular West Indians, led by Frank Worrell, were given a tickertape farewell procession through Melbourne after more than 270,000 people saw the match there.
The Lost Treasure
The Frank Worrell Trophy was forged to commemorate the epic battle of the 1960/61 tour. Crowning the trophy is a ball used in the final innings of the tied Test.
Commissioned by Sir Donald Bradman for 45 pounds, former Test cricketer and jeweller Ernie McCormick created the perpetual trophy to be presented to the winning captain of each Test series between Australia and the West Indies.
The West Indies won the trophy for the first time in 1964 on home soil. It returned to Australian custody from 1968 through 1978.
In March 1978 the West Indies reclaimed the trophy and the golden era of Caribbean cricket began.
And somewhere along the way, the trophy went missing in the calypso isles.
For the next 15 years, the West Indies rampaged through series after series, country after country. Lightening quicks with fearsome spirit terrorised batsmen in Mumbai, Marylebone and Melbourne.
To an extent, the whereabouts of the Frank Worrell Trophy was incidental. It never look like moving from its home among the blueberry syrup seas of the Caribbean, until 1995 when Mark Taylor toured with a side featuring DC Boon, SR and ME Waugh, SK Warne and GD McGrath - legends in the making.
While Australia hadn’t looked like winning it back for decades before that, the Frank Worrell Trophy had been needed for ceremonial reasons – if for no other purpose than for it to be handed over routinely to the West Indian team at the end of each series.
And so a quiet and then-unpublicised Australian Cricket Board decision was made to make a replica. There was concern the West Indies might be offended if it was known that the original was lost.
Melbourne jeweller and cricket trophy specialist John Atherton was given a 6” by 4” photograph of the original to copy.
Now retired, he reports that it was a struggle. But his starting point was that the original Frank Worrell trophy featured a cricket ball, Test balls are a standard size and so he was able to scale the dimensions accurately enough for the ACB to slip the replica into service without fans knowing the real thing was missing somewhere in the Caribbean.
Meanwhile, time passed.
On the island of Barbados in an unremarkable garage of an elderly lady, a family sifted through a lifetime of possessions.
Among boxes of flotsam and jetsam surfaced a tarnished silver trophy with a cricket ball fixed to the top.
The lady who owned the garage was the mother of Wes Hall, the man who bowled the final over in that incredible match at the 'Gabba more than thirty years before.
The Frank Worrell trophy has remained in Australian hands since Mark Taylor’s team pulled off their upset series win against the long-standing kings of cricket in the Windies 1995.
Where is the original now? Hopefully, en route to Cricket Australia in the freight shipment of Australian gear coming back after Michael Clarke’s team finished its successful tour last week.
And the replica? On show at the National Sports Museum at the MCG in Melbourne.
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia
First Posted 07 May, 2012 6:18PM AEST