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In playing terms England's three-month tour of West Indies went no better and no worse than expected. Two-nil was not a massive defeat considering the known difference in the strength of the two sides, especially in bowling, even if England achieved the two draws only after being well behind on first innings and with the help of rain on the fourth day both in Antigua and Jamaica. Moreover, not many touring sides have been as beset by ill fortune as was this one in the first half of the tour.
When practice on good pitches was urgently required, the England party were handicapped by bad weather, turning pitches untypical of what was to come, and the withdrawal for political reasons from Guyana. In the first seven weeks after leaving home in mid-January, they played only seventeen days of cricket. When normality was about to be restored, the death of their assistant-manager, coach and friend, Ken Barrington, during the Barbados Test match came as a shattering blow. It was a shock to his countless friends throughout the world. To those who had been working away at the nets with him through the previous, mostly dispiriting, two months, it was more poignant, and they went through the next day's play almost in a daze.
The team had been in Guyana for two days when, early on February 23, they were joined by Jackman, the replacement for Willis who had returned home after breaking down in Trinidad. No attempt was made to conceal the fact that Jackman, like others in the party, had spent winters playing in South Africa. Bairstow had captained a South African province, Griqualand West, in 1977-78 after the signing of the Gleneagles Declaration which, in the next few days, was to become the subject of many interpretations, varying according to political taste.
By February 25, three days before the second Test was due to start, it was known that a radio commentator in Jamaica had suggested that the Guyana government, by admitting Jackman with his South African connections, was in contravention of the Gleneagles agreement. It was also learnt that the Guyana government was taking the matter seriously. The next day the British government stated clearly through the Minister for Sport, Hector Monro, that the Gleneagles Declaration was irrelevant in this case as it made no reference to actions by one country against the nationals of another.
However, later on February 26, the British High Commissioner in Georgetown was informed by the Guyanese Minister of Foreign Affairs that Jackman's visitor's permit had been withdrawn and that he must leave the country. A statement was issued simultaneously by the England manager, Alan Smith, in Georgetown and by the Cricket Council meeting at Lord's, saying that England would not play the second Test as it was no longer possible for the Test team to be chosen without restrictions being imposed. In fact, it had not been envisaged that Jackman, newly arrived from an English winter, would play at all in Guyana, but injuries to Dilley and Old would probably have forced his inclusion if the match had taken place.
Alan Smith, in collaboration with the High Commissioner and with sympathy and support from other Caribbean countries, at once set in motion plans to withdraw the England party which, with press, radio and television representatives, was now over 40 strong. This was done next morning and, after a long wait at Georgetown airport, the team arrived that night in Barbados to a warm welcome.
A meeting was then convened in Bridgetown between representatives of the governments of Barbados, Montserrat, Antigua and Jamaica, the other islands where England were due to play. Five days later, at 2.00 a.m. local time on March 4, it was announced that the tour would go on.
The statement of the four governments said that the Gleneagles Declaration did not deal with sanctions against nationals of another country. From Lord's, the Cricket Council reaffirmed its support for the right of cricketers to pursue their careers in South Africa, Australia or anywhere else on an individual basis. The Cricket Council also made the highly significant point that such eventualities had been thoroughly discussed with the West Indies Board during the year or more in which the tour was being planned. The team had gone only after assurances had been received that the fact that many English players earn their living in the winter by coaching and playing in South Africa would be no stumbling block.
As the dust settled in later weeks, it became even clearer that the case of Jackman was being used by the Guyana government to make a political point. In particular, it was considered elsewhere in the Caribbean to have been largely a reprisal for Lord Avebury's adverse report on election-rigging in Guyana. The main sufferers were the Guyanese cricket public, starved of cricket and, on all the evidence, bitterly disappointed to be deprived of a Test match. The previous match with Guyana had not been played owing to the waterlogged state of the Bourda Oval after days of heavy storms.
The tour had begun well enough with a victory over a Young West Indies XI at Pointe-á-Pierre in South Trinidad. Ironically the two first-class victories of the tour, here and in Montserrat, were largely won by Miller who, after Willis's early departure, became a respected vice-captain. Yet he was kept out of the last three Tests by the presence of an outstanding off-spinner in Emburey, by Willey's success with the bat, and by his own illness in Jamaica.
Rain in St. Vincent led to the cancellation of the four-day match against the Windward Islands and the less than satisfactory substitution of two one-day matches. The match against Trinidad was played on a turning pitch of negligible bounce and was also affected by rain. The innings defeat in the first Test and subsequent events in Guyana did nothing to improve England's chances, though morale stayed remarkably high considering the hopelessness of the cause.
The three weeks in the friendly atmosphere of Barbados were to be tragically marred by Ken Barrington's death. Yet after the heavy Test defeat there, the tour, in its remaining four weeks, followed a more normal pattern, not least in Jamaica, often turbulent in the past but now peaceful and orderly, despite the biggest crowds of the tour.
The last two Tests were drawn, and several batsmen ended the series with reputations enhanced. Gooch, Gower and Willey especially had met and come nearer to mastering the West Indies bowling than had seemed possible early in the tour.
This was not a great West Indies side. The batting relied too much on Clive Lloyd who, with a lowest score of 58, had his best series for a long time. Richards, successful though he was, was not quite the devastating genius of other series. Greenidge was also below par, and though Haynes often looked in the same high class, the batsmen did not destroy a modestly equipped English attack as some of their predecessors might have done.
It was in its bowling that Lloyd's side was as formidable as any in West Indies' cricket history. The four fast bowlers - Roberts, Holding, Croft and Garner - wheeled away hour after hour, intensely accurate, grudging every run and occasionally producing the extra pace and bounce that can upset the best batsmen. In the modern, unattractive fashion they did not spare the later batsmen, who received a full share of high bouncers. Yet, except in Barbados, the bowlers had little help from the pitches. Nor from the umpiring, about which there were singularly few complaints compared with that of other tours.
What the bowlers achieved, they achieved by high-class bowling supported by usually safe slip-catching. If they did not destroy the batsman immediately, they eventually forced him, by their unflagging accuracy and aggression, into some injudicious stroke. West Indies made only one change in the series, replacing the 30-year-old Roberts in the last Test by the lively and equally accurate Marshall, aged 22.
Together the fast bowlers made their side invincible, even though individually they were not all at their best. Garner was not always fully fit, Roberts lost form. But Holding frequently produced his best and fastest, and Croft, with his in-slant from very wide of the stumps and his extraordinary ability to make the ball deviate a fraction away from the batsman, took 21 wickets in the first three Tests played at 13 apiece. In the last Test he was hit for 56 in his first eight overs, mostly by Gooch in an innings of high class and high spirit.
The weight of fast bowling and the over-rate of little more than thirteen an hour was sometimes relieved by the off-spin of Richards, who bowled to some effect to the left-handed Gower and to batsmen wary of being caught off-guard by gentle spin after so much uncomfortable pace.
Against this formidable outcricket, England had, apart from the experience of Boycott, an unusually young batting side. When Rose returned home from Guyana with an eye defect and was replaced by Athey, this brought the number of players in the team aged 23 or under up to the remarkable number of five. It was in bowling that, as expected, England were outclassed. Dilley, still only 21, continued his improvement. The experienced Jackman soon settled down to bowl tidily, but in West Indian conditions, which allow little movement of the ball in the air or off the pitch, penetration was predictably lacking. The long and economical spells by Emburey, the one world-class bowler in the side, held the bowling together, but could only be a containing factor in these conditions. The fielding was usually keen and athletic; the slip catching was adequate but well below the lofty standards of 1978-79.
Botham at second slip was more fallible than in the past, and, though he took most wickets, his bowling never recovered the full rhythm of a year before. His batting, save in the one-day international in St. Vincent, was found wanting in technique, concentration and eventually in confidence. His personal performances, in fact, could be cited as eloquent evidence of the undesirability of saddling a fast bowler and vital all-rounder with the extra burden of captaincy.
Yet it is fair to add that he did much to contribute to the harmony and good humour which existed between the two sides and between the England team and the public. Cynics would say that the first was because both sides knew each other well from playing, sometimes for the same counties, in England; and that the second owed much to the fact that England were always losing. Nevertheless, the crowds were well behaved, the team was popular, and Alan Smith, a manager in greater overall control than many of his predecessors, emerged from a difficult tour with immense credit.
By the end of it, several of the England batsmen had found a modus vivendi with the ever-menacing fast bowling. Boycott, though generally as consistent as ever, began to attract the unplayable ball, but Gooch, who had already made a splendid 116 in the Barbados Test, which few others could have played. Gower, with his advantage of seeing the ball earlier than others, played well throughout the tour and with a new maturity. If he was still out to the loose or casual stroke, he now seldom succumbed to the wildly irrational one. In his first innings of the tour, and in his last, he put his head down and batted for nearly eight hours, on the last day saving the final Test with his 154 not out. Willey, having worked out a method of holding off the fast bowlers, eventually carried the battle to them in his 102 not out in Antigua.
The weakness of the batting lay in the lack of an experienced number three. The original selection had relied too much on Rose's establishing himself in that position. Athey, the last incumbent, was doubtless a good pick for the future, but he found the opposition too much at this stage of his career.
Selection, both before and during a tour of West Indies, is all-important because so little cricket is played. Those not chosen for Tests go for weeks without playing, with a subsequent loss of all form, and it was hard to follow some of the choices. Gatting, having started the season confidently with an innings of 94, was left out of the team for the first Test and in the peculiar circumstances of this tour did not play another first-class innings for six weeks. Downton, selected to keep wicket in the first Test on an awkward low pitch in Port-of-Spain, had a successful match but did not play again for 31 days. When he recovered his Test place, he again kept very promisingly but had lost his batting. This made his innings on the last day of the series all the more admirable. Coming in at a critical moment with Holding in full cry with the new ball, he took numerous blows on the body but stuck it out and helped Gower to save the match by batting staunchly through the last three and a quarter hours. Both had celebrated their 24th birthdays only a fortnight before.
England's tour may have been ill-fated and unsuccessful in itself, but the performance at the end of these two young men seemed to symbolise a more prosperous future - given a new intake of fast or fast-medium bowlers.
Test matches - Played 4: Lost 2, Drawn 2. Cancelled 1.
First-class matches - Played 9: Won 2, Lost 2, Drawn 5. Abandoned 2, Cancelled 1.
Wins - President's Young West Indies XI, Leeward Islands.
Losses - West Indies (2).
Draws - Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados, West Indies (2), Jamaica.
Abandoned - Windward Islands, Guyana.
Cancelled - West Indies (Second Test).
Non first-class matches - Played 5: Won 3, Lost 2, Abandoned 2. Wins - Windward Islands (2), Barbados. Losses - West Indies (2). Abandoned - Guyana(2).