As part of Legends Month on Cricket Network, look back on one of Allan Border's greatest performances
Legends Month: The best of Allan Border
At the peak of their individual and collective powers, no fast bowlers so relentlessly and ruthlessly hunted down opposition batters as those the West Indies put on the park.
And during that stretch of almost 15 years – from June 1980 through until March 1995 – when teams led by Clive Lloyd, Viv Richards and finally Richie Richardson did not surrender a solitary Test series, nobody withstood more heat than Allan Border.
England opener Graham Gooch might have scored marginally more runs (an extra 263) but no batter can match the 5295 deliveries that Border faced up to, for the most part with only pads, gloves and a rudimentary helmet with plastic ear-guards to supplement his bat in protecting his person.
On fast, flinty Australian pitches, that was sufficiently fraught.
But the well-grassed, sticky and pitted surface that leered at Australia’s novice captain Kim Hughes when he lost the coin toss and was told to bat in the second Test of the 1983-84 Caribbean tour at Queen’s Park in Trinidad offered an altogether more chilling proposition.
Missing their three most decorated players – captain Greg Chappell, keeper Rod Marsh and fast bowler Dennis Lillee – who took retirement before Hughes’s men boarded the plane, his outfit was already favoured for a thrashing and had only averted one in the opening Test due to Georgetown’s rain.Image Id: 52B04AF419F6405983D4257271BC0E19 Image Caption: The retirements of Marsh, Chappell and Lillee left a sizeable hole // Getty
A potent combination of damp track and Joel Garner looked likely to right that result as the hapless tourists lurched to 3-16, then 4-55 when further showers sweeping across the Savannah curtailed day one in Port-of-Spain.
Border had scrapped his way to 12 not out, but when his senior batting partner David Hookes fell to Garner next morning only debutant Dean Jones protected Australia's tail and the 100-run partnership he forged with Border was worth at least three-fold in any conversion to danger money.
Border still stood unbeaten when day three began, with 92 to his name after five hours of toil and eyeing what would be a most heroic hundred.Image Id: AC6C3B37A94747F6A01251B23FDF77F1 Image Caption: Border stood firm in both innings at Queen's Park Oval // Getty
Or it would have been, had last pair Rodney Hogg and Terry Alderman not succumbed in rapid succession to leave the unflinching left-hander 98 not out and his team with an equally dogged 255 extracted from almost seven hours of punishment.
A day and half later they were back at the crease, facing a deficit of 213 and a raring West Indies attack of which only Garner would prove below par due to a bout of day five food poisoning.
The defeat that everyone, including most of the touring party in fairness, expected then loomed larger when that final day began with Australia already 3-55 and needing to find a further 159 runs simply to make the hosts bat again.
Or survive another 80 or so overs to steal a second consecutive draw.Image Id: 51F108452E7645089EE1236E288A67D6 Image Caption: The Aussies were spared the frightening prospect of Garner on day five // Getty
A debilitated Garner did not mean respite, and when Border appeared an hour before lunch he was pummelled by the three other quicks - Malcolm Marshall, Wayne Daniel and Milton Small in his one and only Test – who rained blows on the Australian's unprotected chest, upper arms and shoulders.
Again, Border stood resolute and as with the first innings he let slip not a single false stroke as he defended his body and his wicket when needed, and scored runs here and there when able.
With three hours remaining in the Test and around 20 more needed to claim ascendancy, if solely in the scorebook, Hogg joined his future captain in the storm’s eye.Image Id: 41B26E8E59634476B55E109B5E4BA22E Image Caption: Border secured a well-earned hundred on day five // Getty
Rarely renowned for his obduracy against hostile fast bowling, Hogg hung in for 53 minutes before he fell to stand-in skipper Richards' off-spin, at which point it was Alderman's task to see Border to the century he’d missed days earlier and – even less likely – Australia to a draw.
For 105 minutes the last pair endured all that the mighty Caribbean war machine could launch their way as Alderman reached his then highest Test score (21 not out) and Border betrayed neither flaws nor fatigue as he passed 10 hours at the crease for the match.
Finally, with his unfancied foes almost 90 runs ahead and no time to chase down a win even if the final wicket should fall, Richards signalled his surrender by tossing the ball to local lad Gus Logie for the first time in a Test.
And Border flagged his delight by belting the occasional offie’s maiden offering to the boundary to reach a ton that was perhaps his most deserved, and high among his most grueling.
At that point, Richards offered his hand to his rival to signal the Test was finished and to symbolically confirm what history's annals will forever show – that Allan Border had fought the most feared bowlers of the time, and won.
Even if his team had not.