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How Steve Waugh's Jamaica 200 marked the handing over of power from West Indies to Australia
At the start of the tour West Indies had gone 15 years without loss a series. We were very much the underdogs going into the first Test at Barbados, and our hopes were further dented with injuries to two of our fast bowlers, Craig McDermott and Damien Fleming. Still, we somehow managed to catch them on the hop and beat them inside three days.
The aging pace duo of Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh drew a lot of flak for that loss. So they rolled up their sleeves and came steaming down our throats with some intimidating stuff in the third Test, played on one of the greenest wickets I ever saw, in Trinidad. Steve Waugh's unbeaten 63 in the first innings there was a brave effort and it helped him get his eye in and play with the confidence that he displayed to its fullest in Jamaica.
With the score 1-1, the game at Sabina Park was make or break for both teams.
The crowd was an important factor. They were noisy, knew their cricket, and could be intimidating if you gave them room. It was a full house in Kingston and the bowl was resounding in anticipation of a West Indies victory.
Our strategy was for the batsmen to stick around and build as big a score as possible, because we knew that if we had to bat last on a pitch that was definitely wearing, we would have the worst of it. When Steve walked in at 73 for 3, we were in a position where things could have gone either way. But both Steve and Mark [Waugh] batted magnificently and built a fortress strong enough to keep West Indies at bay. Mark nonchalantly scored a beautiful century before getting out, but by then he had helped Steve build a solid platform.
Steve had made up his mind to bat and bat, to stay out there and anchor the proceedings. In the process he copped a lot of blows on his arms, chest and ribs. When he came back to the dressing room at the end of day two, we could see the spots and bruises on his body, but as long as he was out there in the middle he just kept going at them.
I remember when I walked in at No. 9: he didn't say anything to me, but then he didn't need to. We all pretty much knew that we just had to support him.
He was in a trance-like state. Two incidents illustrate this. The first was the famous confrontation with Ambrose in the third Test, where Steve told him to just bowl and Ambrose had to be dragged away by Richie Richardson. The second was when, in the wee hours of the second morning, a security guard was found rifling through Steve's kit bag. That incident, too, didn't affect his concentration. It all it all just went to show how strong a character he was.
Justin Langer said it best: "[Steve] showed he was prepared to put it all on the line, in the toughest conditions ... against probably the best fast bowler of our time. To stand up to him [Ambrose] and go toe to toe, it gave us a huge boost."
On the field, Steve treated each ball on its merits - defending the good ones, wearing the odd one on the body. In the end he ran four to get his 200, off a fast one from Carl Hooper which he pushed towards fine leg. He was last man out. It was one of the greatest feats of batting I ever witnessed.
Inspired by his innings and making good use of the conditions and the mental state of the West Indies top order, I grabbed three quick wickets late in the evening. After a day's rest we returned to complete the formalities and claimed the Frank Worrell Trophy.
We celebrated the win with a few drinks that night, and Steve slept in his whites with his socks and baggy green cap on. That showed how much he enjoyed the victory. It was the start of a new chapter in Australian cricket, and you could say that Steve's legacy gained a lot of momentum from his efforts at Jamaica.
Paul Reiffel took 14 wickets for Australia in the series, seven of them in the Jamaica Test. He was speaking to Nagraj Gollapudi. This article was first published in Wisden Asia Cricket magazine
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