Blackwash II – Part 3

“Barbadians come not to see if the West Indies win but, rather like the informed spectators around the Madrid bullring, to judge the style and efficiency with which it is done”

Robin Marlar – Sunday Times

I rummaged around the detritus in the spare room to see if I had any back issues of WCM to refer to. I knew I had a lot of late 80s stuff, but not so sure about this season. I found one. And what a cover.

I’m never one to belabour a point! But imagine if the front cover of the prominent cricket magazine pictured your best player in friendly pose with the opposition’s iconic captain were reproduced today. Lord almighty there would be vapours. Especially if that best player was surrounded by acrimony, salacious stories and accusations of a poor attitude.

Wisden Cover

There are a couple of things about this cover. I think any lip reader out there recognises what the word is that’s just about to come out of Botham’s mouth. Second, good job there weren’t mobiles around and Strauss/Flower weren’t running the show.

Anyway, we left the gallant English team 2-0 down, battered and bruised, but not without some fight after a 7 wicket defeat in Trinidad. Thirty years ago we didn’t have large amounts of rest and recovery. Two days after the test finished, England left Trinidad, flew to Barbados, and commenced a fixture against the island. Not surprisingly, England were knocked over for 171. More symbolically, and man alive we were clutching at straws, was the return of Mike Gatting. He’d come back to the team from the UK, having sorted out his nose, and he took his place in the batting line-up. There was hope…. until he broke his thumb in this game and his tour was over. It was probably a good tour to miss out on! (Only it wasn’t the end).

England kept the game competitive but ended up losing on the final day by three wickets. Ian Botham bowled just three and a half overs in the match, but was to be declared fit for the upcoming test. The island of Barbados would go down in infamy for our all rounder, as the location for the most salacious story of the winter.

Barbados test
I see Boycott, Cozier and Engel….. The media at Kensington

Before the third test was the third ODI at the Kensington Oval and with the series level at 1-1, an interesting diversion from the test trauma. It was normal order restored – West Indies made 249 on the back of a pair of 62s from Sorcerer (Viv) and Apprentice (Richie), and then England collapsed in a heap from 42 for 1 to 89 for 9, with only a little cameo 10th wicket partnership getting us into three figures. WCM suggests Botham bowled as impressively as he had all series. That wasn’t saying much. Joel Garner’s bowling figures were 6-2-6-1; Malcolm Marshall 6-2-14-3. You don’t get to win with figures like that.

The edition of Wisden Cricket Monthly I managed to locate covered the second and third tests (so apologies it wasn’t included in the last piece), but David Frith’s match report and editorial are worth their weight in gold.

“Like fools, many of us thought England were back in the series after the second day’s play in Bridgetown.”

We’ll come to that in the process of this post.

England won the toss and put the West Indies in. After a solid start, Neil Foster, in the team by popular demand it seemed, struck in his first over to remove Gordon Greenidge (for 21). I’ll let David Frith take up the story:

“…..and Richardson played and missed at his second ball, from Foster. Botham then let him have a ball which in line and length was perfect…for the hook. The Antiguan was on his way. Capless and with hair-parting and slitted eyes of an Everton Weekes [not sure you could write that now], he carved into England’s toilers with the dash that reminded some of the late Collie Smith, driving assuredly and raking his characteristic cut to anything the slightest bit short.”

The day’s play ended with the hosts on 269 for 2. The English fought back very well on Day 2, with the last 8 wickets falling for 132. Richardson made 160, Dessie Haynes a patient 84 and Viv a typically aggressive 51. Greg Thomas took 4/74, Neil Foster 3/76.

Barbados test - 2
Down, but definitely not out. Richie Richardson makes 160

So with 418 on the board, every pessimist around was looking at 219 as the magic number to at least extend the game. But the clue here is in Frith’s pre-amble… things actually went well, for a while. Sure, Tim Robinson’s desperate tour continued with another cheap dismissal at the hands of Malcolm Marshall, but that would be the Windies’ only success on the second day.

“That blissful evening we went back over the scores. West Indies, an ominous 269 for 2, had crashed to 418 all out, and England were not 66 for 3, as might have been anticipated, but 110 for 1. Gower 51, Gooch 46. Clearly England’s best day of this uncomfortable tour.”

It wasn’t all plain sailing. Got to love 1980’s writing. Can’t see Newman writing this (perhaps Bunkers), but a certain journo may appreciate the commas…. I love it, by the way!

The captain had survived one particularly torrid over from Patterson, flashing a no-ball to the third man boundary and swishing at the next, standing meditatively, guiltily, not, in the time-honoured imagery, like a boy caught stealing jam, but rather like a marksman whose own ear had just blushingly been clipped by a bullet.

I actually remember my feelings of optimism, but then recalled one day’s play in particular. I thought of the Saturday in 1984 at Headingley. England had held the West Indies to a lead of 32, and their main man, Malcolm Marshall had a broken hand. We lost two early wickets but Fowler and Gower took us to 100 for 2 and all seemed great. We were in a car going to Rotterdam for a cricket tour at the time (and not getting in to our first choice camp site) and as we pitched the tents ready for the second party in the minibuses we then heard the wickets fall. 104 for 3, 106 for 4, 107 for 5, 135 for 6. Close of play and our dreams ruined. England would subside further on the Monday, Marshall took 7 wickets. Positions of strength were ephemeral against this team. They were more positions from which England would collapse. It was just a question of degree.

And collapse we did.

“Next morning grim reality returned. In the fifth over, Gower took four off Marshall with that same hook stroke he executed to his first ball in test cricket, nearly eight years ago. But then he felt for the next ball and was caught behind, his stand with Gooch worth 120….”

“Gooch went to a lifter four overs later. Willey to a static response three overs after that, giving Dujon a hat-trick of catches in seven overs.”

126 for 1, 126 for 2, 134 for 3, 141 for 4, 151 for 5, 168 for 6, 172 for 7, 181 for 8, 185 for 9, 189 all out. 63 runs for 9 wickets. You’ll be delighted to know Aplomb got 11. Marshall claimed four top order wickets, Patterson brushed up three lower middle order scalps. It was painfully familiar. All hope had gone. Looking to get on terms at the start of the day, England were batting for the second time after lunch, and six down at stumps. If Day 2 had been the day of miracles, day 3 was the day of misery.

“Lamb edged to second slip.”

“Botham, having staggered from the crease gasping for breath after a crack in the ribs from Holding, skyed an attempted hook off Patterson to give Dujon his fourth pre-lunch catch while becoming England’s fifth casualty of a disastrous session.”

The second innings started promisingly. An opening stand of 48 between Robinson and Gooch gave fleeting hope. But it was always only that. Gooch played on for 11 and Robinson for 43, both off Patterson, but then the resistance, such as it was, disintegrated in what Frith called a range of “one day strokes or reactions”.

“Botham’s kamikaze approach would have been extraordinary in any other batsman. His aim in this hopeless crisis seemed to be to smash a rapid 149 not out and let Thomas or somebody – his desperate self? – follow up with 8 for 43. We all continue to suppose this to be an impossibility. Ironically Botham died feebly with an offside waft after having thumped 21 off 4 balls.”

In researching this post I came across an excerpt from Botham’s autobiography – I have no idea which one as he’s written three to my knowledge – in which he revealed his mental state. There’s the infamous incidents that I might deal with later (or in the next post on this) but he comes into the dressing room after a dismissal and is absolutely livid. He screams out something along the lines of “how the hell are you supposed to play on a wicket like that? It’s dangerous” which would have done wonders for all that followed. According to his book, Gatting, who presumably had stayed on (he did, he played the 5th test) took him to one side (he was the vice-captain) and told him he was bang out of order and should not have done it. One of the commenters on the second part had a recall that Botham had had a poor attitude throughout. In my eyes, at that time, he was our superstar and people were out to get him. There was that feeling, in your logical self, that he was simply not a good enough batsman against extreme pace, but you tried not to think that. This was our hero.

“In the evening session, they had succumbed to their own low morale as anything else. Botham had come to the wicket with 20 minutes remaining, the score 108 for 4, and a rest day beckoning, but he played an innings totally out of context with that situation. It left the impression that the ship was rudderless, a view that was enhanced by the lack of demand on players to practice. ” B&H Yearbook

“The Way I Play” anyone?

It rained on the rest day. Aplomb and Embers batted a while, but it was a hopeless mission. England were finally dismissed for 199 and losing by an innings and 30 runs. It was 3-0. But if people thought the storm was over, it was only just beginning.

In the next part, I’ll deal with aftermath of the defeat, and the next test. I hope people are enjoying it. I think the quote below summed up how we all felt playing the WIndies….

“A gloom several shades deeper than the overcast sky itself descended over the England camp and its several thousand holidaymaking supporters. The pattern of West Indian dominance which had driven British writers and spectators to the edge of despair had reasserted itself, with no realistic prospect of its ever being lifted for more than the odd estatic hour”