December 16, 1999

What a start for the West Indies!

On the first day of this first Test match against New Zealand, Adrian Griffith, in his fourth Test, and his more seasoned partner, Sherwin Campbell, in his 35th Test, did a few things and even set some new records along the way. It would be interesting to note some of their achievements.

Firstly, they managed to break a 20 year old West Indian record for opening batsmen playing in New Zealand. Not a small feat at all, really, since that record, 225 at Christ Church on that ill-tempered tour of 1980, was put on by the best pair of openers ever to play for the West Indies, that venerable opening pair of Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes. Strangely, perhaps not incidentally, they too were another pair of opening batsmen from Barbados.

In stretching that opening partnership to 276, Griffith and Campbell also broke a West Indian all-wicket partnership record of 269, against New Zealand. This particular record had belonged to Roy Fredericks and Lawrence Rowe, scored at Sabina Park, Jamaica in 1972. That was Rowe's first Test and he went on to make 214 (plus another 100 in the second innings) and Fredericks 163.

Further still, this was the second highest opening partnership in New Zealand for all Test teams. However, Griffith and Campbell were somewhat away from that particular record; 413 were scored by Pankhag Roy and Vinoo Mankad, the Indian batsmen, in 1955.

But for Campbell's tiredness, or carelessness, near the end of the first day's play, he and his partner Griffith may just have gotten past that 298, again put on Greenidge and Haynes, as the best opening partnership for a West Indies team against anyone, period. That was put on in Antigua, against the Englishmen, in 1989-1990.

Another smaller, but perhaps very significant record just eluded this pair. Had Campbell not gotten out so late in the day, he and Griffith would have seen the West Indies to a position where they would not have lost a wicket in a day. Believe this or not, but it would have been the first time ever that a West Indian team would have batted for an entire day, on tour, without losing a wicket. Considering the recent results in Pakistan in 1997-1998 and South Africa in 1998-1999, that would perhaps have been the greatest achievement of all. Of course that was not to be. Incidentally, the fact of no wicket falling for the West Indies in a day's play did happen on three previous occasions, but they all occurred in the Caribbean.

Griffith, in particular, played a very different game to the one he normally is known for. This innings was full of great maturity. Normally, he plays much more loosely, much more aggressively. Sometimes in the past, he even became impatient while batting. This innings was so very different. Here, he realized that, loosely, he was under some pressure, since Darren Ganga had just made a century in the game against Auckland. It was a chance for Griffith to cement his place as the permanent opener for the West Indies. Obviously, he took it well. Not only did he play well for his first Test century, 103 not out after the first day's play, but he looked the part of an opener, the defense almost totally intact and correct.

It was also a chance to vindicate the selection overall. Brian Lara had suggested a few days ago that the West Indian players were all straining at the bit, ready to get going. He also suggested that it felt good to have all of the players competing for the respective positions. Lara did confirm that that was a good feeling. It showed with the openers. Simply, if you are the incumbents, anyone else must work doubly hard to replace the incumbents. These guys obviously decided not to give up their positions without a fight.

This is also the first "real" left handed & right handed pair of openers for some time, the last one of note for the West Indies being Roy Fredericks and Gordon Greenidge, just before the advent of Desmond Haynes. A left handed & right handed pair of batsman is a very difficult combination to get playing together, and, from a bowler's point of view, to get out. It is also the classical combination. A few of the recent successful ones that come to mind are Bobby Simpson and Bill Lawry for Australia, and Geoff Boycott and John Edrich of England. Mark Taylor of Australia was also left-handed, but he suffered from not having a regular parner over his career. Herschell Gibbs and Gary Kirsten for South Africa are not doing too badly either.

Sherwin Campbell showed great composure earlier in this innings. Remember, he was coming off a game in which he scored two centuries, so he was on form. At lunch on the first day, Campbell only had 23. By tea, he had moved to 101. That says something when one batsman could flay the bowling in one session to the extent of 78 runs. That takes some doing and is normally only done by someone in either great form or very adventurous. On this first day, Campbell was both. He absolutely massacred the bowling, hitting 23 four's and two 6's in his stay of 344 minutes at the crease; 104 of his runs in boundaries. He only took 262 balls to get his 170. Perhaps he likes New Zealand's bowling, since it was against new Zealand, in his native Barbados in 1995, that he got both his first Test century and his highest Test score to date, 208.

Whatever happens now, the West Indies cannot lose this match. It may be presumptuous to suggest that after only one day of play, but New Zealand, in the field, did not look ready for this Test. The picture they presented was not a good one at all, especially playing at home. Any home team must be more aggressive. I have never seen a Test team look so flat on the first day of a Test match. The bowling was as lifeless, and at times, ill directed, as I have ever seen

Things have gone well in the opening salvoes of this Test for the West Indies. Viv Richards, Clive Lloyd and Brian Lara must be smiling!!