The 1980s are remembered as the era in which West Indies swept all before them, and certainly as far as matches against England were concerned, they did. Of the 24 Tests the two sides played in the decade, West Indies won 17 and the remainder were drawn. But going into the 1984 series in England, there was a flicker of optimism in the home camp given that they had lost the previous two series in 1980 and 1980-81 by relatively slimmer margins (one and two Tests, respectively).
But that summer was to be the first of two back-to-back 5-0 'blackwashes', and the outcome of the second Test at Lord's, in particular a brutal second-innings double-hundred by Gordon Greenidge, knocked all the fight out of the England side.
The first Test of the series was done and dusted in four days, West Indies bowling England out for 191 and 235 as they won by an innings and 180 runs. The second Test was far more even, England managing to take a slim 41-run first-innings lead after being put in by Clive Lloyd with Ian Botham finishing with 8 for 103, the first of only three occasions he took a five-for against West Indies.
The second time round, England extended that lead past 300 thanks to 110 from Allan Lamb and 81 from Botham. On the fourth evening, with an hour's play remaining, England were on top when Lamb, on 109 at the time, and Derek Pringle were offered the light by the umpires and took it. On the BBC's Test Match Special, Trevor Bailey said the batsmen "would be simply mad" to go off as the umpire's consulted. "Lamb had batted for over six hours," wrote John Woodcock in the Times the next morning. "To lead Pringle off was his first mistake."
The crowd made clear their frustration while the press were almost unanimous in their condemnation of the decision. At the time, West Indies were clearly flagging and their fast bowlers weary; the consensus was that England should have stayed out and made hay, even if the sun was not shining. From as early as the middle of the afternoon Lloyd had been on the back foot, with only one slip in place and allowing the over rate to slip lower and lower. By taking the light, England had surrendered an initiative which came rarely against West Indies at that time, and it also meant David Gower, England's captain, had to declare slightly earlier than he wanted to the next day.
On the Tuesday - the fifth and final day - both Lamb and Pringle fell quickly and Gower soon closed the innings, setting West Indies a very stiff target of 342 from 78 overs. They needed a run-a-minute but the pitch was as good as at any stage of the match and the conditions - cool and sunny without a hint of swing - were in the batsmen's favour. Despite that, few believed the likely outcome was anything other than a draw.
There was also the matter of England's attack. Bob Willis and Botham had bowled long spells in the first innings, Neil Foster was out of form, and Pringle injured a thumb in dropping Larry Gomes in the second over after lunch, meaning Gower's options were further reduced. The spinner, Geoff Miller, was hardly a match-winner, with a record of 60 wickets in his previous 33 Tests.
West Indies opened with Greenidge and Desmond Haynes. They played out two maidens and then started to unleash some shots. "At the start we thought, let's play it as we see it," Haynes said. "Gordon looked confident from the first over." Greenidge said there was no strategy of attacking the bowlers. "We never planned to go after it. It just happened."
Greenidge, as was often the case, was limping but it did not inhibit his strokeplay. "I played with a chronic back injury for most of my career," he recently told The Cricketer. "I also perspired heavily when batting, which often gave me a stiff neck."
The pair had put on 57 in 15 overs when Haynes pushed the ball toward square-leg and called for a single; Greenidge sent him back and Lamb scored a direct hit with an underarm throw to run him out. "I sat inside the dressing-room for a while, feeling down," Haynes said. "Then I began to watch again and saw some truly amazing shots. So I figured, well, at least that makes up for my failure."
At lunch, West Indies were 82 for 1 off 20 overs. Soon after the resumption Pringle put down Gomes at first slip; then the floodgates opened. Between lunch and tea, Greenidge and Gomes added 132 in 25 overs, Greenidge in particular cutting and driving with confidence. "We got a chance to increase the tempo and we did that," Greenidge said. "You don't plan it. I can't think anyone is going to plan 340 runs in five hours, regardless of who you are playing against." Gower continued to attack well into the afternoon with two slips and a gully.
Greenidge brought up his hundred off 135 deliveries. Soon after Botham dropped him at slip off Willis but by then the writing was on the wall, especially as the next two men in were Viv Richards and Lloyd. Greenidge admitted he was given more freedom by knowing "there were good enough players to come who could bat out a draw".
As had been the case the day before, the bowling side reduced their over rate to try to stem the flow but that too was too little too late. After tea, the bowling was savaged. Botham's first three overs of the evening session went for 29, including a lofted six by Greenidge over square leg. By the time the last 20 overs came around, West Indies only needed 43. Greenidge brought up his 200, off 233 balls, with a hook over the fine-leg boundary while Gomes also accelerated towards the finish.
It was Greenidge's day, the innings of his life, and his ruthless batting probably made the bowling look worse that it was.Wisden Cricketers' Almanack
With two required, Botham switched to offspin and Gomes scored the winning runs off the first ball, triggering a pitch invasion by a crowd who had initially come to Lord's in the hope of seeing an England victory. West Indies had got the runs with 11.5 overs to spare. While such run chases are more commonplace these days, at the time they were rare. "Today teams sometimes score 400 in a day," Greenidge said. "But over 300 to win, on the last day, in less than a day, was unheard of back then."
Greenidge finished unbeaten on 214 made off 242 balls and including 29 fours and two sixes; Gomes was left on 92 off 140 deliveries and he hit 13 fours. The pair added an unbeaten 287 for the second wicket. "Greenidge pasted the ball about Lord's like a gifted artist pouring out his soul onto canvas, using every colour in his collection of oils," wrote Christopher Martin-Jenkins.
Gomes' role is often overlooked, but not by Greenidge. "He was quite explosive in that innings as well. A lot of you don't look at the way Larry played, the role he played. The sort of mentions that I get for what I did ... Larry played an exceptional innings too. When we discussed the matter about him getting his hundred, it wasn't a matter to him at all. He said, 'Let's get the game over with.' That was brilliant. History was to be created that day, and we had done so."
Those on the ground on that final day - and I was fortunate enough to be one - were in no doubt that Greenidge's remarkable innings deserved to win the Man-of-the-Match award. The one dissenting voice was the one that mattered, that of the adjudicator Godfrey Evans, who jointly gave it to Greenidge and Botham. Perhaps there was something in the water at Lord's that July. Less than three weeks later Peter May named Lancashire captain John Abrahams Man of the Match in the Benson & Hedges final. Abrahams had scored 0 and not bowled, but May had admired his captaincy.
What happened next
- West Indies went on to win the series 5-0. "No one thought about a 'blackwash' in advance, I can assure you of that," Haynes said. "The mistake the England authorities made repeatedly during the '80s was to try to leave the wickets flat to nullify the threat of our fast bowlers, but all they did was make it hard for their own bowlers to bowl us out twice." West Indies won the following series in the Caribbean in 1985-86 5-0 as well.
- Greenidge finished the summer with 572 runs at 81.71. His tally included another double hundred - 223 - in the fourth Test at Old Trafford.
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