London, 25 September 2004
Victories had become so rare that even when the West Indies team made it to the final of the Champions Trophy in 2004, coming up against England at The Oval on a gloomy September day, hope, springing eternal, did not really blossom.
England planted the seeds, surrendering for 217 in 49.4, but then threw cold water rather than fertiliser on West Indies. Wickets were falling so fast that by the time Brian Lara went, it was 72 for 4 in the 17th over. I couldn't sit still as they continued falling, so that by the time Shivnarine Chanderpaul went with the score on 147 for 8, I had sat on every chair in my living room, and felt the calm of resignation.
From the floor I watched Courtney Browne and Ian Bradshaw settling in doggedly, reminding me that they had both been Barbados captains, and were disciplined, patient batsmen. As they got to the 50-partnership, hope began sprouting audaciously; but in that awful gloom, with what little light there was fading so fast, one mistake would be all England needed.
Like a plant groping towards the light, they inched past 200, and I swear I had stopped breathing. Bradshaw's four to take them within five left me whooping and the four that ended the match made me hoarse. A West Indies harvest had finally come. At the bleak Oval, it felt like a determined tendril had burst into the light, and suddenly it was spring.