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As far as the records are concerned, the 1984 West Indians, under the captaincy of Clive Lloyd, were unique. No country had hitherto achieved a 100 per cent record in a full Test series in England. Apart from one limited-overs international, at Trent Bridge early in their tour, not a game was lost.
Only four other rubbers of five games or more in the history of Test cricket have finished with a similar whitewash for one of the competing teams, and Lloyd's West Indians must rank as the equals at least of the others on this very short list: Australia against England in 1920-21 and South Africa in 1931-32, England against India in 1959, and West Indies, under another of their elder statesmen, Frank Worrell, against India in 1961-62.
Blessed by a dry summer, maturely led, strong and adaptable in batting, possessing in Roger Harper the best West Indian off-spinner since Lance Gibbs, and basing their attack on a formidably fit and hostile band of fast bowlers, Lloyd's was a team of almost all the talents. Whatever may have appeared to be the case on paper, they relied on no special individuals. There was a man for every moment.
The most gifted batsman in contemporary world cricket, Vivian Richards, began the tour in the kind of form, and mood, which had enabled him to score 829 runs in seven Test innings in England in 1976. In the two one-day Texaco Trophy matches which West Indies won he totally dominated the England bowling, producing at Old Trafford perhaps the most powerful innings ever seen in one-day cricket at this level. Then, in the first Test at Edgbaston, he made a century almost as a matter of course, playing as if a hundred was the least that he, and everyone else, expected. If this suggests over-confidence, it is no more than the truth. Thereafter he played like a millionaire and in doing so enjoyed no luck, so that it was not Richards but Greenidge and Gomes who took the main batting honours in the Tests. Both hit four first-class centuries on the tour and two against England. Greenidge, in fact, reached a thousand runs in only sixteen first-class innings at an average of 82.23. Gomes made 841 from seventeen innings at 70.08.
Gomes let his figures talk for him. Phlegmatic and undemonstrative, he stroked the ball with a light touch and relished a tough challenge. When the tour began he was badly out of form and considered lucky to have been chosen. But he worked for hours in the indoor nets at Lord's to ensure that his bat was coming through straight, and played with what struck English spectators as a new assurance, seldom retreating into his shell as he had when failing to establish himself in the Middlesex side in the middle 1970s.
Greenidge batted with the air of a man in control of every situation. Seldom can he have played on such a high plane of inspired brilliance as when seizing the second Test from England on the last day at Lord's. His second double-hundred of the series, at Old Trafford in the fourth Test, was less attractive and fluent, yet his defence was seemingly unpierceable and his judgment in attack quite flawless as he set about locking England out of the game.
Lloyd looked as good a batsman as ever whenever he needed to, which was not often. At Edgbaston he hit 71 off 89 balls to build rapidly on the foundations laid by Richards and Gomes; at The Oval in the last Test he made 60 not out in just under three and a half hours in awkward batting conditions.
Of the younger batsmen, Jeff Dujon and Augustine Logie were the two to make the most of their chances. Dujon, in addition to some gymnastic wicket-keeping when standing back to the fast bowlers, made a felicitous Test hundred at Old Trafford and played some brilliant strokes in several of his other innings. Logie, tiny but bubbling with a peculiarly Caribbean flair, scored consistently against the counties and suggested that he will soon find a regular place in the Test team.
Neither Richie Richardson nor Thelston Payne, the other specialist batsmen, was a failure, but once Richardson had lost his place in the 'first eleven' during the limited-overs internationals, he did not score heavily enough to alter a batting line-up which quickly established mastery over some pedestrian English bowling.
In the field the West Indians were as impressive as at any time during the Lloyd era. The close-catching and out-fielding were slick and sure. One of the most memorable moments of the tour occurred at Lord's when England's Geoff Miller, blithely sauntering along on a second run after the ball had been played wide of Eldine Baptiste on the long-leg boundary, was amazed to see a missile fizzing past him to break the stumps at the bowler's end from some 80 yards away. If this stands out ahead of the many brilliant slip catches, taken by a variety of fielders, it is perhaps because the latter were two-a-penny.
But the invincibility of the West Indians was based again upon their relentless fast bowling. Joel Garner, towering above the batsmen, was the most consistently dangerous; Malcolm Marshall, wiry as a whippet, was the fastest. Michael Holding, graceful but intelligently menacing, bowled mainly off a shorter run than of old but was still capable of taking vital wickets with near-unplayable balls; and Baptiste bowled with admirable stamina and accuracy, if not with quite as much ferocity as the others.
Holding (who also played a couple of spectacular Test innings in which he kept hitting Willis for six) and Marshall both missed one Test because of injury. Milton Small deputised capably at Lord's before damaging his knee and having to return home for treatment, whereupon Winston Davis left his mercenary role with Glamorgan to join the tour and play a leading part in the victory at Old Trafford. Had Davis not been available, Wayne Daniel of Middlesex would no doubt have done well, or Courtney Walsh, who developed rapidly during the tour.
It was also at Old Trafford that Harper, built to bowl fast like so many of his team-mates but in fact a slow off-spinner, with a keen cricket brain, sharp spin, accuracy and subtle changes of flight and pace, took six second-innings wickets for 57. He had less opportunity in the other Tests but still took some important wickets, notably those of Ian Botham at Edgbaston and David Gower at Headingley, when each had achieved a rare ascendancy.
There were no passengers in the party. Whenever it was threatened, someone came to the rescue, as when Desmond Haynes, after a lean series, played the match-winning innings in the final victory at The Oval which took West Indies' run of Test successes to eight out of eight, following a one-sided series against Australia in the Caribbean.
The team was amiably and capably managed by the former Test wicket-keeper, Jackie Hendriks, aided by Walter St John, and they were kept fit by their full-time travelling physiotherapist, the Australian Denis Waight.
Such praise, however, must be tempered by two reservations. Before the tour began, the West Indies Cricket Board refused to agree to the Test and County Cricket Board's idea of insisting on a reasonable minimum number of overs in a day, an expedient which had worked well in England in 1982 and 1983. As a result both sides bowled their overs in the Test matches at a rate which was unacceptably low. Over the series, England averaged 13.4 overs an hour, West Indies 13.5. Only at Old Trafford, when Pocock, Cook and Harper bowled long spells, did either side maintain a rate of more than 15 overs an hour.
Equally typical of contemporary cricket, for which West Indies, being the best team in the world, have set the trend, the bouncer was used by their fast bowlers to such an extent that batting against them became as much an exercise in self-defence as in defence of the wicket. Andy Lloyd and Paul Terry both sustained serious injury while playing for England. Several others were hit on the helmet. Uneven pitches and poor batting techniques partially explained this, but so, too, did the West Indian strategy (aped by other teams but most effectively carried out by themselves) of digging the ball in short and watching the hapless batsmen dance to their tune.
Test matches - Played 5: Won 5.
First-class matches - Played 14: Won 8, Drawn 6.
Wins - England (5), Derbyshire, Glamorgan, Somerset.
Draws - Essex, Leicestershire, Middlesex, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Worcestershire.
Non first-class matches - Played 9: Won 4, Lost, 1 Drawn 4. Wins - England (2), Lancashire, Lavinia Duchess of Norfolk's XI. Loss - England. Draws - Oxford & Cambridge Universities, Ireland, League Cricket Conference, Minor Counties.
Match reports for