West Indies v Australia, first Test, Barbados, 1995 July 11, 2010

A fiery beginning to the end of an empire

Mike Selvey
The Australians had sounded the clarion call for the end of West Indies' reign, but Hooper and Lara wouldn't go down without a fight

Never before or since can a high-profile series have had such a pyrotechnic start. John Woodcock, who by estimates had at that stage witnessed around a third of all Test matches ever played, thought it the most scintillating overture of them all, and he more than any would know.

Bridgetown, March 31 1995. The last vestiges of the proud, dominant West Indies, who for two decades had laid to waste all before them, against the brilliant emerging Australians.

Toss to West Indies and Richie Richardson opted to bat where once the war machine would have been unleashed first up.

There was bounce in the pitch, as it proved, and Australia, deprived through injury of Craig McDermott and Damien Fleming but including a young firebrand Glenn McGrath, made use of it, although they were flattered by West Indian profligacy.

Before the fourth over of the series was done, the left-armer Brendon Julian had seen Stuart Williams taken at slip and had Richardson, trying to kitchen-sink a wide ball slanted across him, caught at the wicket, while in between times Sherwin Campbell had edged Paul Reiffel to Ian Healy. One run between the three of them and a scoreboard reading 6 for 3.

"Situation desperate," once said Marshall Foch when surrounded. "I shall attack." And so Carl Hooper and Brian Lara launched a counter-offensive of rapacious cut-and-thrust brilliance. So hard did they go at the pacemen that Mark Taylor, the Australian captain, was forced to introduce Shane Warne, reputation burgeoning and on his first Caribbean trip, for the tenth over of the series.

Hooper was fearless against spin, his feet taking him into territory uncharted by other batsmen, and if over the years Warne was able to decode his body language, he could not do so now. Warne's first ball was met by Hooper yards down the pitch and belted back over his head to the Pickwick Pavilion. So too the second ball, treated identically.

A man went back to long-on. No matter. To the next ball, Hooper charged again but misread, went through with the stroke nonetheless and the inside edge careered to fine leg for another boundary: Warne's first three balls in the West Indies had gone for four.

By lunch, the ferocity of the counterattack against all comers had seen the unbroken fourth-wicket partnership worth 110. West Indies lost the match and eventually a momentous series but the gauntlet had been thrown down. Wonderful.

Former England and Middlesex bowler Mike Selvey is cricket correspondent of the Guardian

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