First Cornhill Test



At Nottingham, June 5, 6, 7, 9, 10. West Indies won by two wickets. Barely 1,000 spectators made the effort to turn up for the final morning with West Indies requiring only 99 runs for victory with eight second innings wickets in hand. But those who saw the ending were rewarded by a gripping and courageous fight-back, by England's bowlers in general and Willis in particular, that went close to presenting Botham with a startling victory in his first Test as captain.

Thoughout the previous four days the bowlers on both sides had held the upper hand on a wicket that offered extravagant movement off the seam and in conditions conducive to swing bowling. On the final morning even putting bat against ball proved difficult and only Haynes batted with any degree of authority during his three hundred and five minutes, match-winning vigil. Willis's heroic bowling was rewarded with nine wickets in the match, and if one of two vital catches on the final day had been taken England might easily have won.

The bitter split in English cricket caused by the Packer affair was officialy healed with Knott and Woolmer being welcomed back into the England side for the first time since they rejected their country in 1977. In all, Kent provided four of the England side. It would have been five but for the omission of Underwood from the England twelve, owing largely to the weather conditions and the need to include an extra pace bowler because of fitness doubts concerning Botham (back) and Hendrick (shoulder). Injuries to Rowe, King and Croft saw Bacchus and Marshall play their first Tests against England for West Indies.

Throughout the match missed catches affected the fortunes of both sides. Boycott, Woolmer and Botham benefited to a considerable degree on the first day after Botham had won the toss. In attempting to take one of them, Lloyd was forced to leave the field in mid-afternoon after splitting the webbing between the first and second fingers of his right hand, an injury which required two stitches and was to prove a handicap when batting, Boycott had made only 4 when he gave a chance behind. Woolmer (0) and Botham (20) also offered edges in the slip region, their escapes enabling England to reach 243 for seven by the close; a respectable figure in the conditions, especially against the movement obtained by Roberts and West Indies' slow over-rate.

In making his half-century Botham demonstrated he could cope with the responsibility of leading a Test side without losing his belligerence, while Woolmer gave the innings stability in the middle with his stay of three hours twenty minutes. Both innings began to look insignificant the following morning when West Indies started their reply. After losing Haynes in Willis's fifth over, Greenidge and Richards added 88 in only 91 minutes, a scoring-rate Bacchus helped to maintain after Knott and Hendrick had combined to dismiss Greenidge. Another large West Indies total threatened but Willis, bowling with a rhythm and aggression lacking in Australia, induced edges from the third-wicket pair to reverse the trend; it needed an unusually violent Murray - dropped when 23 - to steer his side to a 45-run lead when their innings ended an hour into the third day.

An unfortunate run out of Gooch, when he was batting well, by the agile Bacchus, and a spectacular thunderstorm interrupted England's second innings progress. Boycott and Woolmer again benefited from missed chances, and England were in a handy position at the start of the fourth day, 100 runs ahead at 145 for two. Slow progress by these two, however, enabled Richards, who had taken control in the field in Lloyd's absence, to maintain an attacking field. Only 29 more runs came off fourteen overs in the first hour on the fourth morning, a lack of progress accentuated over the next thirty-five minutes when both were dismissed along with Gower and Botham for the addition of just 9 runs against the bowling of Roberts and Garner. Boycott batted more than five hours for his 75 and Woolmer took two hundred minutes over his 29. Their departure left only Willey to produce a number of powerful blows, helping England to 252 all out, a total boosted considerably by 52 extras. The unfortunate Murray had a difficult time behind the wicket trying to cope with the movement his bowlers obtained.

West Indies were left with a target of 208 in just over eight hours, one that was never going to be easy, especially after Greenidge was caught behind with only 11 on the board. There followed, however, probably the decisive innings of the match as Richards ripped into England's bowling. In 56 minutes he scored 48 runs, striking eight boundaries with supreme arrogance, before Botham produced a leg-cutter to get him lbw shortly before the close.

Although Richards' innings eased the pressure on the rest of batsmen, the tension returned immediately the next morning when West Indies started the final day only 99 runs from victory with eight wickets in hand. Bacchus, driving recklessly at Hendrick's opening ball, gave a catch behind and opened the way for England's bold effort to snatch victory. With Willis showing the stamina many believed he had lost, West Indies suffered casualties regularly. That they were still inching their way towards the target owed much to the resolute Haynes, who might have fallen to Willis at slip when he was 23.

Roberts, too, was dropped off Willis when West Indies needed just 13 to win. Even then their anxiety showed as Haynes, after five hours five minutes at the crease, was run out by a direct throw from Willey after being sent back. Haynes raced from the field in tears, believing he had thrown away a victory by his rashness, even though only 3 runs were required with two wickets left. Two balls later it was all over when Roberts, chancing his arm again, lifted Botham over long-on to secure victory for his side and the Man of the Match award for himself. West Indies' victory, achieved half an hour after lunch, was one of the closest winning margins in Tests between the two countries and put them one ahead in the series.

The official attendance was 50,010; takings were £153,700.

© John Wisden & Co