Greatest series fightbacks September 8, 2005

Do not go gentle into that good night

ESPNcricinfo staff
More readers' submissions of great series fightbacks

The excellent response to our feature on series fightbacks continued after we put up our first batch of reader submissions, so here's the second one. Keep them coming, and keep them between 150 and 250 words.



Narendra Hirwani: a remarkable debut and a fine series comeback © Getty Images

Hirwani's moment in the sun

Shyam Kalamani on India v West Indies 1987-88

West Indies were the undisputed kings of cricket in the 1980s and thrashed every team with fearsome fast bowling and explosive batting. However, the West Indian juggernaut was jolted in its romp in the dustbowls of India in 1987-88. They had a powerful batting line-up led by Viv Richards, supported by the likes of Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Richie Richardson and Gus Logie, with a new-look pace attack of Patrick Patterson, Courtney Walsh, Winston Davis and Winston Benjamin, following the retirement of Joel Garner and Michael Holding and the unavailability of Malcolm Marshall.

Things went according to script in the first Test at Delhi as West Indies outplayed India in a low-scoring match on a surprisingly fast wicket. This was followed by drab draws in the subsequent Tests at Bombay and Calcutta, with the Indians, led by Dilip Vengsarkar at the peak of his powers, matching West Indies in batting.The Indian think-tank, realizing that the only way to tame the mighty Windies was to have an all-out spin attack, pulled a rabbit out of the hat when they handed a debut to an unheralded 19-year-old legspinner, Narendra Hirwani, in the last Test at Chennai.

Batting first on a square turner, India, boosted by Kapil Dev's century, posted a reasonable score of 382. When West Indies batted, the bespectacled Hirwani completely bamboozled them with his classical legspin and made them dance to his tunes while taking 8 for 61, as the mighty West Indians crumbled to 184 all out, narrowly avoiding the follow-on. More was to follow after a meek Indian batting display in the second innings, when Hirwani repeated his first innings heroics with another 8-wicket haul as India won by 255 runs and snatched a series-levelling victory. This was Hirwani's moment in the sun as he single-handedly won the Test for India with 16 wickets on a fairy-tale debut, as David slayed Goliath.

Caribbean flame

Angshuman Hazra on Australia v West Indies 1992-93

A decade-and-a-half was a very long time for West Indies to have held the crown of world cricket. Australia were now well on their way up from a mid-80's trough while West Indies, having already surrendered their one-day supremacy through improper succession planning, were beginning to feel the pinch of similar decline in the longer version of the game. High drama was in the air on the eve of this crucial Test series for both teams.

The signs of an ebb in the once-unchallenged West Indian cricket was unmistakable, as they squandered their 78-run first-innings lead in the first Test at Brisbane to end up two wickets away from defeat at stumps on the fifth day. In the next match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the then-unofficial Test champions did even worse. They gave the home side a massive 162-run first-innings lead. A young Australian spinner named Shane Warne ensured that the visitors didn't escape with a draw again on the fifth day. Scoreline 1-0, with three more to go.

Sydney was a nightmare revisited for the West Indies. Australia won the toss, batted first and raked up 503. Missing Viv Richards, we all sat up in anticipation of a long-overdue change in the pecking order - and were treated to the unexpected. Young West Indian batsman Brian Lara came out of the shadows of all others with a magical display and a first-ever Test ton of 277 to keep the Caribbean flame of hope burning. Test drawn.

A brief interruption to the enthralling series ensued thereafter for the small matter of doing away with the tri-nation one-day international best-of-three finals between these two teams. Looking back, that interruption was anything but insignificant. Dean Jones made Curtly Ambrose remove his wristband mid-spell. This innocuous looking act of Jones had the effect of pelting a stone at the new big bird of fast bowling, setting it off on its greatest flight ever.

Ambrose won West Indies the one-day finals, and came back to prise out 10 tough-as-nails Australian wickets in the subsequent fourth Test at Adelaide, which saw his team win by the smallest margin ever - a solitary run. The momentum was suddenly back with the visitors as the West Indian fast bowlers Ambrose, Bishop and Walsh started firing.

Ambrose hadn't had enough yet. He went on to take another nine wickets in the decisive fifth Test at West Indies' home-away-from-home - Perth. It included a devastating first-innings spell of 7 wickets for 1 run. Having chosen to bat, Australia were all out for 119 and conceded a lead of 203. Ian Bishop performed the last rites with a 6-wicket haul in the second innings as the Australian captain Allan Border completed a pair and his team failed to even make the visitors bat again. The 2-1 scoreline ensured that the West Indians kept the Frank Worrell trophy for a while longer.

Deliverance at Christchurch

Mark Row on New Zealand v West Indies 1986-87

The first Test of three had suggested a relatively even series. Centuries to Desmond Haynes, John Wright and Martin Crowe and good wicket hauls to Joel Garner and Richard Hadlee resulted in a drawn match. This seemingly balanced contest was tilted sharply towards West Indies in the second Test at Eden Park. New Zealand was comprehensively outplayed, following on after being bowled out for 157 in the first innings - a score bolstered by the tenth-wicket partnership of 39. West Indies' first innings total of 418 for 9 was built around a magnificent double-century by Gordon Greenidge. A ten-wicket win to the West Indies only required them to face nine deliveries in their second innings.

And so to Christchurch for the third Test and a dramatic turn around in fortunes. In less than 40 overs the tourists were bowled out for 100, boosted by a stand of 25 for the last wicket by Courtney Walsh and Tony Gray. Walsh was the second-highest scorer in the innings - surely a never-to-be repeated feat. Hadlee and Ewen Chatfield shared the wickets with Chatfield bowling unchanged. Even though Hadlee took six wickets Chatfield was the pick of the bowlers, giving Larry Gomes's outside edge a real work-over. Personally I'll never forget Gordon Greenidge's middle stump cartwheeling out of the ground as Chatfield cleaned him out.

New Zealand's 332 for 9 was built around half-centuries by the Crowe brothers and John Bracewell. Martin Snedden then featured with five wickets as the West Indies were bowled out for 264 in their second innings. Only Nos. 10 and 11 failed to get into double figures but 45 was the highest score. Like England in the fourth Ashes Test recently, New Zealand's batting stuttered in the chase for victory with their supporters on tenterhooks. Five wickets were lost chasing a paltry 33 for victory, but they were the deserved victors. The fiery bowling of Gray, Walsh and Garner could not deny a classic victory. Jeremy Coney's last Test was a win that was built on a genuine allround team performance rather than individual brilliance.

Lara's theme

Vivek Shankar on West Indies v Australia 1998-99

This was a series that was supposed to go 4-0 to Australia. West Indies had lost 5-0 in South Africa and their captain Brian Lara was under pressure. On returning home he was put on probation by being appointed as captain for just the first two Tests. The first Test was a nightmare as West Indies were bowled out for 51, then their lowest Test total, and it happened to be at Lara's home ground, Port of Spian, Trinidad.

The second Test was at Sabina Park and with six losses on the trot the pressure was acute on the team - and more so on Lara. Australia made a decent 256 and when West Indies were reduced to 34 for 4, there were jokes about whether they would avoid the follow-on. But the genius arose on the second day of the match, and with support from Jimmy Adams he batted the whole day to make his third double-hundred. West Indies took the lead and they eventually won by 10 wickets.

More drama was to follow in the next Test at the Kensington Oval in Barbados. Australia made 490 and had West Indies on 98 for 6 but the fightback then started. West Indies made 329 and Australia were then bowled out for 146, with Walsh rising to the occasion. West Indies, needing 308 to win, started well but then faltered to 105 for 5. It was Lara again who got them within reasonable distance but a further collapse took the score to to 248 to 8. Sixty runs were needed and only Walsh and Ambrose remained to support Lara. The tension grew as Ambrose added 54 with Lara, and with 6 needed Walsh came out to bat, much to the tension of the spectators. He somehow survived, and Lara hit the winning runs, giving West Indies a one-wicket win and a 2-1 lead in the series.

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