First Test Match


Only while Gooch and Robinson batted without undue difficulty in the first hour of the match did England promise to give West Indies a harder fight than in 1984. Of the five West Indian victories in that series in England, two were achieved on the fourth day: at Sabina Park, after two England collapses, they had almost an hour to spare on the third when Haynes and Richardson completed the formality of scoring the 5 runs needed in West Indies' second innings. Once again the cause of England's defeat was their inability to play exceptional fast bowling, much of it short-pitched. Their problems were accentuated by a fast, uneven surface and the presence in the West Indies ranks of Patterson, a 24-year-old Jamaican who, after failing to make much impact in a handful of games for Lancashire in 1985, forced his way into the West Indies team by his performances in the Shell Shield. Described before the Test as the fastest bowler in the Caribbean after Marshall, Patterson left no doubt in the England batsmen's minds that the order should have been reversed. A heavyweight of 6ft 2in, with a sprinting run and powerful delivery, in England's second innings he bowled at a pace comparable to that of Jeff Thomson of Australia in his prime. Deprived of the new ball by the prior claims of Marshall and Garner, he none the less took seven for 74 in his first Test and won the match award.

England went into the game weakened by Gatting's injury in the one-day international. (He returned home for further treatment after two days' play.) Lamb was the only other batsman in true form following four games on sub-standard pitches, and the England batsmen were further incommoded by an inadequate sightscreen at the Southern end, which was too low to frame the hands of bowlers more than six feet tall. The Jamaica Cricket Association had been unable to grant England's request to have it raised, lodged after their problems facing Walsh and Holding in the Jamaica match, because to do so would have obscured the view of an estimated 200 spectators to whom tickets had been sold. All Patterson's wickets were taken from that end.

After Gower won the toss, Gooch and Robinson reached 32 before the latter was caught at slip in the thirteenth over off a break-back that clipped the bat as he tried to withdraw it. Little could they have suspected it, but England had used up one-seventh of their batting time in both innings put together. The collapse rapidly took shape. Gower, having started against Patterson with a top-edged 6 over the four slips, was soon lbw to Holding, playing round a full-length ball, and Smith, in his first Test, was caught at the wicket from a ball he could have left.

Gooch defended skilfully, repeatedly killing chest-high balls to keep them from Haynes at short leg. But ten minutes after lunch he was unable to control a steeply rising ball from Marshall and was caught in the gully. From then on only Lamb produced the necessary resolution, fortitude and patience to cope with the surfeit of short bowling. He lost Botham, Willey and Downton, the first two to mis-played attacking strokes, before Garner bowled him with a shooter that struck off stump no more than six inches above the base. The same fate befell Robinson in the second innings.

When West Indies batted, Thomas, England's other new cap, opened with one of the most fiery overs of the match. Haynes edged his first ball head high between first and second slip, and was dropped by Willey in the gully from a square-cut off the second. The sixth, fast and lifting, just missed bat and head. Willey's proved a costly miss. With Greenidge punishing Thomas and Botham, the first wicket put on 79 in eighteen overs before Greenidge retired hurt with a cut forehead after mis-hooking Botham, and when West Indies reached 85 for no wicket (in two hours) by the close, the outlook for England was depressing.

On the second day, however, England gained the initiative through the accuracy of Ellison and Edmonds, aided by the cautious batting of a team determined to consolidate and by Richards's decision not to bat at number five. Gomes made sure the task was carried out, batting self-denyingly for 220 minutes, and Best made a good impression, opening his Test account with a hook for 6, third ball, off Botham and sharing a stand of 68 with Gomes. Tactical considerations notwithstanding, it was a fine effort by England to take seven for 183 off 75 overs in the day.

By dismissing Marshall and Greenidge, who returned at 247 for seven, Ellison next morning completed five or more wickets in an innings in his third successive Test, the product of persevering accuracy. But Dujon's handsome 54 extended West Indies' lead to 148, which, with the pitch playing as it had been, looked enough to give them victory. In practice England, apart from Willey, batted acquiescently after Robinson and Gooch had been dismissed for 0.

© John Wisden & Co