First Cornhill Test



Granted the known disparity between the teams, West Indies were always likely winners on a ground where the previous six Tests had all finished well inside four days. Fresh from three sweeping victories against Australia in the Caribbean, and pitted against an England team which during the previous winter had lost series to New Zealand and Pakistan for the first time, West Indies carried nearly all the guns, especially in bowling. To that extent, the match went according to form, three missed catches being the only blemishes on a powerful all-round performance that exposed to the full the shortcomings of the England team. Yet, though West Indies would probably have won irrespective of their opponents' strategy, three decisions by the England camp seemed to simplify their task.

Foster, the Essex fast bowler, was omitted from the twelve in favour of a second spinner, Cook, in the hope that, at low-bouncing Edgbaston of all grounds, West Indies might be vulnerable to spinners of the class of Cook and Miller. The damaging consequence of this was for England to bat first when Gower won the toss, despite local conviction that there was damp beneath the surface following heavy rain before the pitch had been covered. The third costly decision was to run the risk of exposing Randall to the new ball at No 3, a position in which he had a poor Test record against fast bowling of high class. In the event Randall, coming to the wicket in the fourth over of the first innings and twelfth of the second was out for 0 and 1.

Three of England's team, Miller, Pringle and Downton, were former Test players who had been passed over for the winter tour, Downton replacing Taylor, who had had a run of 28 successive Tests as wicket-keeper. A fourth, Lloyd, Warwickshire's left-handed opening batsman, was winning his first cap. Unhappily, his first experience of Test cricket lasted only seven overs. After showing a sounder technique and greater resolution than some of his new team-mates were to do, he was hit on the side of the head by a ball from Marshall and spent the rest of the match, and five days more, in hospital, suffering from blurred vision. The ball, fast and shortish, hit Lloyd on the earpiece of his helmet as he took evasive action. The pitch was far from venomous. But it was poor batting that reduced England to 49 for four in nineteen overs, and they recovered to reach 191 only because Botham, who hit ten 4s in a gambler's 64, was dropped before he had scored. Technically, Downton's 33 in 112 minutes was the best effort of the innings.

West Indies, batting half an hour after tea on the first day, pressed home their advantage brilliantly, scoring their 606 at 4.23 an over in ten hours. Much credit went to Gomes, a slightly built left-hander who, after the loss of Haynes and Greenidge to Willis within three balls of one another, added 206 with Richards for the third wicket and 124 with Lloyd for the fifth while making his first hundred against England. A deft placer of the ball, Gomes, though physically overshadowed by his partners, was always purposeful in an innings of 384 minutes (but only 91 overs) containing sixteen 4s. Richards, who was troubled by a stomach bug, began unevenly with a variety of mis-hits and mistimings against Pringle, the tidiest of England's bowlers. But when he found his touch, his seventh hundred against England in fourteen Tests always looked a certainty. He batted 205 minutes, hitting a 6 and seventeen 4s before driving Cook to extra-cover.

Lloyd left in the over after Gomes, caught at slip off a ball that moved late, after striking eight 4s in 110 minutes. Marshall and Harper fell cheaply, but with England in mounting disarray, Baptiste (eleven 4s) and Holding (four 6s, eight 4s) added 150 in 113 minutes for the ninth wicket, a West Indies record against England. Apart from the proliferation of no-balls (Pringle eighteen), features of West Indies' innings had been Cook's field-placings to Richards - five and briefly six men on the leg side - and the fact that Gower did not call on Miller till the score was 260 for three.

Downton, promoted to open England's second innings in Lloyd's absence, again showed the efforts of recognised batsmen in unflattering light by staying 280 minutes, playing straight, eliminating risky strokes and, when possible, entrusting his defences to the forward stroke. He was seventh out, caught at silly-point. Garner, his accuracy unaffected by rediscovered extra pace, had match figures of nine for 108; but F. S. Trueman's match award went instead to Gomes. An attendance of 42,000 for the four days produced receipts of £198,050.

© John Wisden & Co