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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  • Anup on July 14, 2010, 5:04 GMT

    i remember this innings for 2 things; 1) my Dad being shocked that Richardson could play such a rash stroke when they were 6/2 already. and later thrilled that these two staged such a blazing fightback 2) my liking and respect level for Waugh dropping drastically after he claimed that bump-catch, that too of Lara who had established himself as a thorough gentleman after having walked when on 91 of the bowling of V Raju during his tour to India in 94/95. Waugh never got back to the original pedestal i had placed him on.. though he did redeem himself to some extent with charity work in Kolkota.

    btw. Another real good hooper innings was during the 5th ODI (in Guyana i think) against Pak in '93 with WI and Pak tied 2-2. he took care of the chase. probably the best shot of the match came when WI needed 8 runs from 3 balls. he moved to the offside and casually leg-glanced Akram for 4.. the shot is right before my eyes even now..!!

    and lastly, his slip catching was top class!!!!

  • Pradeep on July 13, 2010, 16:39 GMT

    @ cal2810 best batsman of all time for Lara is a bit too much, but yep i'd say he was the best test batsman of OUR time , Tendulkar is probably a better one-day batsman ,better at pacing himself, but both players will signify the end of the "batting artist" ...from now it will be about the Afridi's , Gayle's, Dhoni's ..ugly big hitters who can't bat on a proper pitch for their lives worth..sad.. Indeed an honour we got to see such greats Lara and Tendulkar, as well as Warne and Murali in our times...

  • srikanth on July 13, 2010, 16:04 GMT

    The article correctly captures the times that saw the beginning of the end of 'The Great WIan Empire'. The Former WIan sides were different from the rest for this lone reason..Unparallel bowling team! They could be matched with the batting skills but never when it came to matching the bowling skills! I think the aging Ambrose and Walsh(the last ) saw the last twilight of the windies. I understand they cannot be replaced, but none came close. also, in response to "George204 on (July 13 2010, 09:46 AM GMT)"..dude, y we speak pro-india? Bcoz we see illogical,apparently envious comments like yours..Records speak for themselves.Sachin is indeed the greatest batsman. And if u dont agree with this, fine. BUT REMEMBER WHAT LARA & BRADMAN( whom you believe is the greatest batsman) HIMSELF SAID ABOUT SACHIN! ;) reiterating, Call spade a spade, and you will know Sachin is indeed the greatest batsman! :)

  • Cricinfouser on July 13, 2010, 15:50 GMT

    I remember seeing Hooper's 84 at Trent Bridge on the 1988 tour - he had come with a reputation having made a brilliant century in India and he lived up to the hype. Batting at no3 in a whte sunhat he was all languid ease and looked set to inherit Lawremce Rowe's mantle as the most beautiful strokeplayer in the WI team. Unfrotunately he did little thereafter in that series and his career never really blossomed. Maybe it was the burden of expectation, maybe Vivian Richard's wasn't the most sympathetic captain. It is difficult to know. Maybe he just found the game too easy and switched off. When he was on I think that he was as destructive than Lara, scored just as quickly and was lovely to watch. All bowlers came alike to him - Warne, Akram, McGrath, Donald. The off-spin was ok but he was one of the most outstanding slip fielders of his generation - absolutely first-rate. the 178 in Antigua was a masterpice and was supposed to be the making of him but he never kicked on. What a shame!

  • jamshed on July 13, 2010, 15:49 GMT

    West Indies' unbeaten run should in all fairness have ended during Pakistan's tour in early nineteen eighty eight.Imran Khan's side won the first Test,the second was drawn and in the third,the West Indies only scraped home due to some terrible umpiring decisions.It was one of the best series ever.

  • George on July 13, 2010, 9:46 GMT

    sowri123 (& others) - Why does the comment thread on every article not written about an Indian player get deluged with Indian fans posting "but Tendulkar/Sehwag/Dravid/Laxman is better". Do many India fans really find it so hard to understand/accept that some people like players NOT called Sachin/Virinder/Rahul/VVS? Chaps, we get the message - you have enjoyed a 15-year "golden age" of Indian batting, it must have been very enjoyable for you. Actually it was rather enjoyable for the rest of us too, we like good batting. But the two-eyed among us realise that it has been helped by flat pitches & weak opponents. Saying over & over again that Sachin is the 2nd greatest batsman ever, or even the greatest batsman ever, doesn't make it true.

  • Carl on July 13, 2010, 4:03 GMT

    B Lara was the greatest batsman of all time, Everyone wanted to see hiim in action. He also has the record of the most "Cheated out" batsman of all time, yes .... go to the record books,videos whatever... Lara was the Greatest... If he was still in the game, S .Tendulkar would have to settle for second.... Lara had more class and style. Those who disagree, well read some of the comments from Greats like S Warne, Muri, and others what they have to say..

  • Lindsay on July 12, 2010, 23:39 GMT

    I watched virtually every ball of this series, I'd come home from work and go straight to bed so I could get up at midnight and watch the match.

    My stand out memory of this series was the quality of the fielding, not only were the regulation chances taken, but time and again half chances were snapped up by brilliant fielding from both sides.

    Australia dropped a couple in the 4th test when the game was won but that about it for them. The West Indies made the critical drop of the series when Steve Waugh was missed in the 4th Test.

    Another feature was that the openers from both sides kept getting through tough periods late in the day to start their innings, and would then quickly disappear the next morning!

  • Harry on July 12, 2010, 22:24 GMT

    The saying "History Repeats Itself" is so true. The 2 decades that WI ruled was finally broken by Aussies and uptill now they were the ones who were ruling. Warne, McGrath were enough for any pitch and any team something ala Marshalls, Roberts, Holdings were for WI during their era. Time has come for another team to take over! None of the teams right now have bowlers of such guile / pace / quality. May be Eng or Ind or Pak can produce one such team??

  • Avenash on July 12, 2010, 22:06 GMT

    Carl Hooper was a class act, velvet-like i would say. However, I share the view that he's a huge underachiever. Brian Lara- pure genius; the best I've seen in my lifetime...

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