First Test


Toss: West Indies.

England won by nine wickets, their first victory against West Indies in sixteen years and 30 Tests. Before this match began, it would have been hard to find one person in the Caribbean willing to give England a chance of victory. When it ended, just before lunch on the final day, the game's established order had been so dramatically overturned that even those within the England party were scarcely able to absorb the fact. Among those who witnessed it were two members of the only previous England team to win in Kingston, 36 years earlier, Sir Leonard Hutton and T. G. Evans.

West Indies were without Logie and Ambrose, both unfit, but their team none the less had a familiar appearance. England gave first caps to Stewart and Hussain and opted, controversially, to include only four bowlers, not one of them a spinner. It was a policy vindicated by subsequent events, and none of the chosen quartet can ever have bowled better.

There was no hint of the sensations to come as West Indies' opening pair were putting on 62. However, Greenidge's run out, as he tried to take a second when Malcolm fumbled at fine leg, was the first of several needlessly sacrificed wickets as all ten went down for the addition of only 102 runs. Not that the West Indies' lowest total against England for 21 years, since the Leeds Test of 1969, was entirely due to slapdash batting. Operating rigidly to an off-stump line, England's four bowlers could not be faulted, and after Small, Malcolm and Capel had taken important top-order wickets, Fraser collected the last five at a personal cost of 6 runs. To complete one of their best days' cricket in some years, England navigated to close of play for the loss only of Gooch and Stewart, the latter to a viciously rising ball from Bishop which was a sobering reminder of possible reprisals.

The first two sessions of the second day were decisive, with England losing only one wicket as Larkins, Lamb and Smith applied themselves to five-day disciplines with a will not always evident in recent England displays. Lamb and Smith put on 172 for the fourth wicket, and Lamb went on to his tenth Test century, five of them against West Indies. He had been batting for 364 minutes when he was out, and by the close of play England were on 178 with two wickets remaining.

That lead was stretched to 200 early on the third day, which ended with the game all but decided. Despite approaching their second innings more professionally than their first, the West Indians still found some curious ways of getting out on a pitch on which the increasingly low bounce called for the elimination of certain shots. Malcolm bowled fast, and with unsuspected control, taking the crucial wicket when he dismissed Richards (for the second time in the match) to end a partnership of 80 with Best. That wicket fell with West Indies still 8 runs short of avoiding an innings defeat, and when three more fell in consecutive overs while they clawed a lead of 29 before the close, it seemed that only the weather could deny England.

This being Jamaica, such a thing could not happen - yet it so nearly did. It rained intermittently on the rest day and again, heavily, overnight. The fourth day's play was abandoned, after numerous inspections, but English prayers were answered when the final day dawned sunny and clear. The two outstanding West Indian wickets were taken in twenty balls, their confusion ending, as it had begun, in a run-out. England, needing 41 to win, coasted home for the loss of Gooch, who had waited ten years to beat West Indies and now, as captain, deserved to have been there at the end. This, however, was a match of no logic, and while it paid handsome tribute to the preparation and discipline of the England team, it asked more questions than it answered about West Indies.

Man of the Match: A. J. Lamb.

Close of play: First day, England 80-2 (W. Larkins 28*, A. J. Lamb 10*); Second day, England 342-8 (R. C. Russell 12*, A. R. C. Fraser 1*); Third day, West Indies 229-8 (M. D. Marshall 2*, C. A. Walsh 0*); Fourth day, No play.

© John Wisden & Co