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Match reports

WEST INDIES v ENGLAND 1985-86

Richards's 110 not out in West Indies' second innings, the fastest Test hundred ever in terms of balls received (56 to reach three figures, 58 in all), made the final Test historic on two counts

15-Apr-1987
Richards's 110 not out in West Indies' second innings, the fastest Test hundred ever in terms of balls received (56 to reach three figures, 58 in all), made the final Test historic on two counts. The other was West Indies' achievement in emulating Australia, previously the only country to win all five home Tests on more than one occasion. Their previous five-love victory was over India in 1961-62, matching Australia's feats against England (1920-21) and South Africa (1931-32), the series in which Sir Donald Bradman made 806 runs in four completed innings. In addition, West Indies also won all five Tests of the 1984 series in England.
Richards's display, making him the obvious candidate for the match award, would have been staggering at any level of cricket. What made it unforgettable for the 5,000 or so lucky enough to see it was that he scored it without blemish at a time when England's sole aim was to make run-scoring as difficult as possible to delay a declaration. Botham and Emburey never had fewer than six men on the boundary and sometimes nine, yet whatever length or line they bowled, Richards had a stroke for it. His control and touch were as much features of the innings as the tremendous power of his driving. As can be calculated from the following table, he was within range of his hundred six balls before completing it (with a leg-side 4 off Botham), while from the time he reached 83 off 46 balls there had been no doubt, assuming he stayed in, that he would trim several deliveries off J. M. Gregory's previous record of 67 for Australia against South Africa at Johannesburg in 1921-22. The full innings went: 36126141 (24 off 10) 211 412 1 (36 off 20) 112 2111 (45 off 30) 1 1624441 (68 off 40) 12 664612 (96 off 50) 21 461 (110 off 58).
Plundered in 83 minutes out of 146 while he was at the wicket, it had to be, by any yardstick, among the most wonderful innings ever played.
Though it was not until the sixth of the final twenty overs that Downton's dismissal enabled West Indies to complete their second successive blackwash over Gower's side, England's defeat was in one way their worst of the series. With the exception of the second Test, the pitch was the only one that did not overtly help West Indian-style fast bowling; and by winning the toss Gower gave his bowlers their best chance of exploiting any moisture beneath the surface following heavy rain the weekend before the match.
In the event, there were only two junctures when England were remotely in contention - 40 minutes before lunch on the second day when Haynes, having deservedly completed his first hundred of the series, was caught at mid-on to make West Indies 291 for six; and when Gooch and Slack opened the first innings with a partnership of 127, England's highest of the rubber.
Both positions flattered to deceive. With Gower misguidedly over-bowling Botham in the hope he would collect the extra two wickets he needed to overtake Lillee's world record of dismissals, West Indies added 183 at almost 5 an over for their last four wickets (Marshall, Harper and Holding shared eight 6s). And within ten overs of Gooch's dismissal, England were 159 for four and in danger of being forced to follow on. Having taken two of the four wickets that fell on the first day - Richards was caught off a mis-hook at deep fine-leg - Botham emerged from the match with two for 225. The nearest he came to drawing level with Lillee (355) was when, with Marshall 12, Slack, diving to his left, missed a well-hit pick-up at square leg.
The game was not without its controversial moments, all of them, regrettably, centring on Richards in the field. But the first day, which was declared a public holiday and drew a full house of 10,000, established a carnival atmosphere which made the fifth Test the most enjoyable of the series. It was played in perfect weather: scorching hot but always with a sea-breeze.
Four weeks to the day after having his right thumb broken, Gatting was fit to play, while Slack and Ellison replaced Willey, who had returned to England, and Thomas. Smith's enforced withdrawal with back trouble within hours of the start gave Robinson another chance, this time at number three. Overnight there had been doubts about Gower's fitness following a blow on the right wrist, received while batting against Marshall in the previous Test, but Smith's indisposition settled the matter. West Indies were unchanged.
Haynes capped a consistent series with 131 (440 minutes, fifteen 4s) and 70; Gooch put together a pair of hard-earned 5ls; Slack produced an innings of the type which should have seen him included in the original sixteen; Gower, with his captaincy possibly at stake, batted more than seven hours in the match. For once, too, there was an important contribution from a West Indian spinner, Harper striking at vital moments four times; and Emburey continued his mastery of Richardson by dismissing him for the fifth and sixth times in seven completed innings. Less encouragingly, West Indies bowled 40 no-balls which were not scored from: the most in any Test innings.
Notwithstanding his haughty treatment of the umpires in his stubborn pursuit of a ball to the liking of his bowlers, Richards, however, stood alone. For West Indian spectators, the only thing the series had lacked until the last Test was the sight of the greatest player in the world in full majestic flow. If anyone forgets that extraordinary tour de force, it can truthfully be said that he did not deserve to see it in the first place.
The Man of the Series award was presented to Marshall, who spearheaded West Indies' attack throughout the rubber, taking 27 wickets.