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They played Test cricket too

This week, we look back at the red-ball careers of West Indies' T20 freelancers

Chris Gayle played 103 Test matches? Really?

Chris Gayle played 103 Test matches? Really?  •  Getty Images

Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Daren Sammy, Sunil Narine, Dwayne Smith, Andre Russell. They play T20s all over the world, but none of them has featured in Test cricket since September 2014. All of them - except perhaps Russell, who has only played one Test match - showed enough quality in red-ball cricket to leave us wondering what kind of players they may have become in an alternate universe. This week on What We're Watching, we look back at the Test careers of West Indies' T20 globetrotters.
The 103-Test enigma
Chris Gayle famously said he "wouldn't be so sad" if Test cricket died out, but he's shown more fondness for the format since then, wearing the number 333 (his highest Test score) on his jersey, stating in his autobiography that "without Bob Marley there would be no Beenie Man", and expressing hurt that his Test achievements tend to get forgotten.
And he has a point. Gayle played 103 Tests, and left behind an impressive body of work: more than 7000 runs at an average better than that of Stephen Fleming, Michael Vaughan and Mark Waugh among others, with two triple-tons among his 15 hundreds.
So here's some footage to watch and better appreciate the red-ball Gayle: the 333 in Galle; the 87-ball 105 at The Oval in 2004, which included six fours in one Matthew Hoggard over, and a ludicrous straight six, with one foot off the ground, off James Anderson; two hundreds on the 2003-04 tour of South Africa, in Centurion and Cape Town; and a pair of hundreds on the 2009-10 tour of Australia - the unbeaten third-innings 165 in Adelaide, where he carried his bat and gave West Indies a distinct chance of victory, and the 72-ball 102 in an agonizingly close defeat at the WACA.
That's right, Gayle made two hundreds in a series in Australia and South Africa. Since the start of the 1990s, Sachin Tendulkar is the only other visiting batsman to have achieved that feat.
A remarkable debut
In the same Cape Town Test where Gayle scored 116, a debutant walked in to bat in the fourth innings with West Indies four down and struggling to save the game. Dwayne Smith proceeded to play the unlikeliest of match-saving innings, clattering 15 fours and two sixes in an unbeaten, run-a-ball 105.
For those who can only recall Smith in his later avatar as a T20 basher, this video is a glimpse of a very different batsman: nimble-footed, with a lovely, wristy flourish. There's a carefree spirit at work too; Paul Adams bowls to him from left-arm over, with a packed leg-side boundary, and Smith keeps lofting and whipping him in the air and into the gaps. And you'll scarcely see a more breathtaking shot than his bent-knee cover drive off Makhaya Ntini that carries all the way for a flat six.
The other Dwayne
Six months after Smith, West Indies handed a Test debut to another Dwayne, and he also happened to be a lavishly gifted strokeplayer who bowled medium-pace. And while Dwayne Smith never really translated his potential into consistent performances in international cricket, Dwayne Bravo left enough evidence to suggest he could have become an all-format superstar.
Watch here as he picks up six England wickets on a tricky, two-paced Old Trafford pitch in 2004 - he could be as skillful bowling seam-up with the red ball as he is while bowling those dipping slower balls with the white.
And while he's now primarily a bowler who plays the occasional lower-order cameo, he was primarily a batsman during his Test-match days, and scored three hundreds, two of which came in Australia. In Hobart in 2005, he walked in with West Indies effectively minus 124 for 5 (which soon became minus 117 for 6), and scored an attractive 113 against McGrath, Lee, Warne and MacGill. Four years later in Adelaide, Bravo led a strong first-innings display with a 156-ball 104 that featured some terrific drives through the covers. Sadly for red-ball aficionados, Bravo would only play seven more Tests.
Seven at Lord's
Just as it did with Bravo, T20 made a profound impact on Darren Sammy's bowling. Sammy hardly bowls now, and when he does, it's usually an assortment of slower balls and cutters. Early in his career, however, Sammy bowled stiflingly accurate medium-pace, using his height to hit the pitch and get the ball to nibble off the seam. Those limited weapons allowed him to average under 30 through his first 20 Tests, during which time he picked up four five-wicket hauls. One of them, famously, was a seven-for on debut at Lord's, a performance that was all about line, length, a bit of bounce, and the merest hint of movement off the deck.
The new Ramadhin?
In the 1950s, West Indies' most potent spin-bowling weapon was a Trinidadian who could, as his Wisden Almanack profile puts it, "make the ball break either way by a simple flick of his small fingers and an imperceptible turn of the wrist." Sonny Ramadhin picked up 158 Test wickets in 43 Tests, and his average of 28.98 remains the best among those of the five West Indies spinners with 100 or more wickets.
From June 2011 to December 2012, another Trinidadian with a remarkably similar method to Ramadhin played six Tests for West Indies, picking up 21 wickets at 40.52. Not particularly remarkable, but six matches is no sort of sample size to determine a players's quantity, and Sunil Narine may have gone on to bigger things as a Test cricketer. In what turned out to be his last Test, in Hamilton, Narine picked up first-innings figures of 6 for 91 and may well have won the match for West Indies had they not collapsed in the second innings. As you can watch here, it isn't just deception that gets Narine his wickets but his perfect length too.
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Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo