The all-conquering West Indies team, led by Clive Lloyd, travelled to New Zealand in 1980, after vanquishing Australia for the first time in their home soil. They expected a cakewalk in this three-match series.
New Zealand was still not a major force in world cricket. Even though they were playing Test cricket for 50 years, they had not won a single Test series at home. Their only Test series victory came in 1970 in Pakistan, when Graham Dowling’s team won in Lahore by 5 wickets. In fact, New Zealand won only 12 Test matches out of 130+ matches they played till then.
West Indies was expecting some quick 3-day finishes, even though their master batsman, Viv Richards, had to go back home with a sore back. They were up for a major surprise. This New Zealand team was starting to assemble some fine talents.
John Wright had played only 8 Tests till then. But he looked a good batsman and a probable successor for New Zealand legend Glenn Turner. His opening partner Bruce Edgar was a solid batsman. Geoff Howarth was on his way to become a brilliant captain and tactician. Jeremy Coney made his debut in 1974. but, he had been out of the Test side for the next 5 years and was making a comeback. He looked a good all-round cricketer.
Down the order, there was Lance Cairns to add flair with bat and ball (his autobiography was aptly named as “Give it a heave”). But, the person who had made all the difference, was the New Zealand's greatest cricketer of all time and one of the finest bowler and all-rounder the game has ever seen – Sir Richard Hadlee. Hadlee had played 26 Test matches till then, claiming 106 wickets. His average was still not great. But, there were already glimpses of what he would eventually become.
But, even with this team, they did not stand a chance against the might of the world champions. So, they decided to take ball by ball, They discussed a strategy: “Stay in this ball. Hang in there till the next ball. Beat them by a hundred thousand little cuts to bring down the giant. No point in planning to take their queen out – it was much of a case of trying to trap a pawn”. Goliath was about to be brought down by David.
In a bitterly cold Dunedin, West Indies batted first and was bowled out for just 140 inside 70 overs. In comparison to Australian wickets, Dunedin had much lower bounce. Their batsmen were wrapped regularly in the pads, defeated by pace and swing from Hadlee. Umpire Fred Goodall was very quick to raise his fingers.
West Indies was genuinely unhappy on some of those. But, to be fair to the umpire, most of them were very adjacent to the wickets. Hadlee finished with 5 for 34, four of them being LBW.
In response, Bruce Edgar made a patient 65. But, Colin Croft, with 4 for 64, kept West Indies in the game. At 168 for 7, the game was perfectly in balance. Lance Cairns joined Hadlee in the middle and next 35 minutes saw the most aggressive batting of the match. They added 64 crucial runs in that half an hour time, with Cairns sending spinner Derick Parry 3 times into the stands. Hadlee scored 53 and New Zealand got a vital lead of 109 runs.
West Indies batting performance in the second knock was slightly better. Desmond Haynes battled for more than 7 hours for a fighting hundred (105). However, Hadlee was superb once again, taking 6 for 68. His match figure read 11 for 102 (7 of them were LBW – a world record). West Indies was finally all out for 212 on fifth day morning, with Haynes being the last man out, almost carrying his bat. New Zealand needed 104 for a memorable Test match victory and they had one full day in hand.
However, the West Indies was not the World champion for nothing. They came out all guns blazing. Holding removed Edgar and Wright quickly. Then, he bowled a brilliant lifter which John Parker seemed to have gloved to Dereck Murray. Holding was so confident that he just ran down the pitch without even bothering to appeal. However, he was shocked to find that umpire John Hastie was standing still. It was given not out.
Holding lost his cool – the first thing he saw were the stumps at the batsman’s end and he kicked them with full strength. The off and middle stumps were flying. There was an amateur photographer who caught the event in his lens, with Holding’s leg high on the air (later, Colin Croft would mention that photograph should have been enough for Holding to have a trial at Manchester United). The photograph (one of the most infamous in the history of cricket) would be all over the newspapers across the globe.
Fred Goodall, who was standing at square leg, walked to the wickets and put them into proper place. He requested Clive Lloyd to have a word with the bowler. The only response he got was from Lawrence Rowe, who was standing in the slip, next to the skipper – “You guys are nothing but cheats.”
Many years later, Holding would admit that what he did that day was extremely wrong and he was plain lucky that ICC did not have a stricter disciplinary policy that time.
In the meantime, West Indies pace trio, Garner, Holding and Croft continued to strike. When Hadlee got out, the scoreboard read 73 for 8, with 31 runs still to win. Lance Cairns played another crucial knock of 19, with two extremely important hits to the boundary. But, when Holding dismissed Cairns caught behind, it was 100 for 9 and New Zealand's last pair, Troup and Boock, were hanging on for their life.
In an absolute pressure cooker situation, Boock noticed that the West Indies did not have a gully or backward point. He decided that whatever might be the delivery, he would play the ball in that direction and it worked like a dream. They ran two most important runs of their life to tie the score.
All fielders closed in now with a tie being a real possibility. The ball ricocheted of batsman’s pad and they scampered for a single. Wicket-keeper Derek Murray was the closest. He picked up the ball and threw at the stump. He missed!! New Zealand was through. It was an unprecedented scene. The World Champions was beaten against all odds.
After the end of the match, West Indies manager Willie Rodrigez mentioned that at least two New Zealand batsmen were out and not given. On being asked about any action against Holding, he just said that he had been reprimanded. A seed of acrimony was planted between the two teams now, which would explode even bitterly in the next Test match.