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How a 20-year-old George Headley inspired West Indies’ strong arrival

George Headley
by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

A 20-year-old George Headley stamped his authority all over England in his debut series, with a staggering aggregate of 703 runs from four Tests to lead West Indies’ early upsurge in Test cricket.

The Georgetown Test of 1930 signalled the arrival of the West Indies as a world force. Having been beaten by an innings in each of the three Tests that comprised their 1928 tour of England, not much was expected of the West Indies when, two years later, they played host to an England side containing the likes of Bill Voce and Wilfred Rhodes.

But this time the home side had George Headley batting at three. Making his debut during the first Test at Bridgetown, he made 176 in the second innings to help his side battle out a draw. England took the second Test at Port of Spain by 167 runs, but were left in no doubt that this was a different proposition to the side they had thrashed back at home.

In the third Test, West Indies won the toss and got up to 471. The major contributors were opener Clifford Roach with 209, and Headley with a sublime 114 that could only be ended via run out. England staggered to 145 all out, with George Francis and Learie Constantine taking four wickets apiece.

During the West Indies’ second innings, wickets fell regularly as England staged a fightback, but Headley played on undeterred, showcasing the timing and footwork that came to characterise his career, making yet another century. In doing so he became the first West Indian to score a hundred in each innings of a Test match.

England were eventually set a target of 617 and were bowled out for 327, with Constantine picking up a further five wickets. The West Indies registered their first-ever victory over England, and the region rejoiced as one.

Headley followed this landmark innings with 223 at his home ground of Kingston in a drawn game, and a hard-fought series ended level at one-all. The West Indies had come of age, and ‘The Black Bradman’ had made his mark.

One of the game’s greatest talents, Headley made ten centuries in 22 Tests, including a brace in the 1939 Lord’s Test. What a player.

First published in 2008

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