Best: Fire in Babylon and fireworks under pressure—we love the way WI play

Bazball brings a broad smile to British faces. It brings back very happy memories, but not from before the last decade.

Mention, however, the nameless West Indian brand or Barbados—or Babylon—and what we get is a scowl. Or a furrowed brow. Not easy to erase is the memory of what Geoff Boycott believes is the best over ever bowled in Test cricket.

Kensington Oval 1981, though, is not included among the stops on our chronological tour of memorable moments in West Indies cricket. If  anything is clear from Scyld Berry’s 12 April piece about “Selfish Lara”, it is that what matters is the destination, not the journey. The result, not the records posted along the way.

Despite the promised chronological order, I shall run one after the other two Tests at the venue where it all began…

Brisbane, 1960: By 1957, cricket’s English masters had changed the rules to ensure no recurrence of the 1950 debacle. Together, Learie Constantine and CLR James force the authorities’ minions in the Indies to make a major concession: the team in Australia in 1960/61 is led by a Black man.

The way we play will never be the same again.

West Indies captain Frank Worrell (second from left) leads his troops out to face Australia.

The scores in the First Test are level. WI captain Frank Worrell walks over to his big fast bowler, Wes Hall. To direct him to bowl underarm? No. That might work for Greg Chappell—or Ricky Ponting!—but it’s not the way we play.

“Wes,” he says, “if you bowl a no-ball now, you’ll never be able to go back to Barbados.”

Lindsay Kline manages to deflect the ball to square-leg but Ian Meckiff  can’t beat Joe Solomon’s accurate direct throw from square-leg. Cricket has its first tied Test.

Thanks in large measure to the way WI now play.

West Indies cricketers erupt after Joe Solomon runs out Australia batsman Ian Meckiff in the famous tied Test at the Gabba in 1960.

Lord’s, 1966: When David Holford joins Garfield Sobers at the wicket in the WI second innings, the score reads 95 for 5, effectively 5 for 5.

“The only questions left, it seemed,” Sobers writes in King Cricket, “were when they would win and by what margin.”

“Incredibly,” Tony Cozier takes up the story in Fifty Years of Test Cricket, “Holford, in his second Test, (…) chose this moment to play the innings of his life.”

When Sobers eventually declares, he is unbeaten on 163 not out, Holford unbeaten 105 not out and victory is beyond England’s reach.

Photo: West Indies legend Sir Garry Sobers (left) drives the ball while England captain Colin Cowdrey (right) watches on in slips.

The way WI play…

Lord’s, 1984: Details: Gordon Greenidge 214* (29 x 4, 2 x 6), Larry Gomes 92* (13 x 4). Match result? Clive Lloyd’s West Indies beat David Gower’s England by 9 wkts. Series result? WI whitewash!

Relevant details: England declared at 300 for 9 before lunch on the last day, leaving WI to get 342 in just over two sessions. Greenidge got to 200 with enough runs still needed for Gomes to also reach three figures. Lara, oops! Larry didn’t care!

That’s the way WI play…

West Indies batsman Gordon Greenidge on the go against England.

Queen’s Park Oval, 1968: Sickened by the proliferation of bore-draws in Test cricket, Sobers declared twice, first at 526 for 7 and again at 92 for 2. Colin Cowdrey’s England capitalized, knocking off the 215 runs required to record a rare England result.

“If I had not [declared],” the erstwhile world record holder would later explain, “the game would have died.”

That’s the way we play. Win, lose or draw, we don’t let the game die.

Photo: West Indies captain Garry Sobers delivers with the ball.
(via Wisden)

Lahore, World Cup 1987: Imran Khan’s Pakistan need 14 runs off the last over to edge Lloyd’s West Indies out of a semi-final place. Off the first five balls, Abdul Qadir and Saleem Jaffar get 12.

Walsh ran in to bowl the last ball, runs one version of the story, and pulled up without delivering. Jaffar, at the non-striker’s end, was well out of his crease, heading up the wicket.

Walsh opts not to run him out.

West Indies supporters get behind their team.

“Qadir repaid the magnanimity by taking the necessary runs off the last ball.”

That’s the risk we take; it’s the way WI play.

Kensington Oval, 1992: Back in the Test arena, Kepler Wessels’ South Africa are cock-a-hoop. Leading by 83 on first innings, they reduce Richie Richardson’s WI to 139 for 5 and eventually dismiss us for just 283. Needing 201 for the win, they end Day Four on 122 for 2.

Day Five is short; so are the South Africans. By 53 runs! Curtly Ambrose takes 6/34 and Walsh 4/31 and the home side have a historic victory.

Photo: West Indies strike bowlers (left) Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh
(Copyright Ross Setford/EMPICS via Getty Images)

Fire in Babylon. That’s the way we play.

Queen’s Park Oval, 1994: Michael Atherton’s England are over the moon. Dismissing Richie Richardson’s WI for a mere 269 in the third innings, they need only 194 to make the series score 1-2.

Alec Stewart contributes 18. Nobody else—not even extras!—reaches double figures as they tally 46. Hurricane Ambrose claims 6/24.

More fire in Babylon. That’s the way WI play.

West Indies pacer Curtly Ambrose (backgrounds) bowls England batsman Jack Russell during Test action in 1990.

St John’s, Antigua, 2003: Steve Waugh’s Australia are in the driver’s seat. Lara’s WI will have to break the Test fourth innings world record if they are to avoid a 4-0 whitewash.

At 165 for 4, Stuart MacGill bowls Lara (60). But Ramnaresh Sarwan (105) and Shivnarine Chanderpaul (104) defy a foul-mouthed Glenn McGrath to add 123 for the fifth wicket. WI get 418 and a historic 3-wkt win.

How’s that for the way we play?

Photo: West Indies batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul (right) and Ramnaresh Sarwan had a 123-run partnership for the fifth wicket, as WI successfully chased a target of 418 in the fourth Test to avoid a sweep by Australia.

Kennington Oval, 2004: Chasing England’s 217, Lara’s WI fall to 148 for 8. Courtney Browne (35*) and Ian Bradshaw (34*) combine to add the 70 runs needed to win the Champions Trophy.

Along the way, they decline the umpires’ offer of the light.

It’s the way we play.

More from Wired868
Vaneisa: Feeling the feeling—why I’m optimistic about West Indies

The rains have come. The poui blossoms have gone. Burnt browns have given way to verdant green. What is the Read more

T20WC24: Rutherford on WI batting, his IPL stint and Afghanistan challenge

Despite the West Indies qualifying for the Super Eight stage of the 2024 ICC T20 World Cup by beating New Read more

T20WC24: Chase: We went out like it was Australia; WI squeak past Papua New Guinea

The West Indies cricket team needed all of 19 overs to see off minnows Papua New Guinea today, as the Read more

T20WC24: Can Powell’s WI have new focus—will home advantage count?

Old enough to have been around when Kapil Dev ran halfway across Lord’s to pouch Viv Richards’ skier, I am Read more

King leads WI in S/Africa dress rehearsal; Shamar set for T20I debut

Cricket West Indies today announced a 15-man team to face South Africa in the West Indies’ final dress rehearsal before Read more

Open letter to Scyld Berry: does plucking feathers from Lara’s wing float your boat?

These growing feathers plucked from Lara’s wing Will make him fly an ordinary pitch. Who else would soar above the Read more

Check Also

Vaneisa: Feeling the feeling—why I’m optimistic about West Indies

The rains have come. The poui blossoms have gone. Burnt browns have given way to …

One comment

  1. Oh gosh!how I love this article!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.