“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.
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.
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.
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”
Great again. Thanks.
I see Berry, two spaces to Boycott’s left.
Loving this, by the way.
Matthew Engel in the row in front (said that on caption) but is that Johnson next to him?
Could be, although the Independent’s first edition wasn’t until 7 October 1986 (my 14th birthday). Not sure if he worked on a national title before that.
“Greg Thomas took 4/74”.
Was this the match where Thomas had Viv ducking a bouncer and gave him the verbals of “it’s round, red and you’re supposed to hit it”? Viv smashed the next one into the crowd and came back with, “you know what it looks like – so why don’t you go and find it?”.
This site – https://thebestcricketsledgings.wordpress.com/ – seems to think it was in a county match.
Looking back its not just another era, but it feels like a completely different sport. I remember Tony Cozier saying at the time that the WI were in effect a group of third world nations,with a first world super power cricket team. England had some very good players. Gooch, Gower, Lamb, Botham, yet they were just blown away.
You have to put this series into the contex of the times. This was at the height of Thatcherism. The Falklands war had been won, and the miners unions crushed. This was Rule Britania stuff. The British elite were on the up, and many of the media were non to pleased to see such a crushing defeat of their cricket team. It’s interesting that last quote about the ” several thousand England holidaydaying supporters.” This was the beginning of the mass tours of England supporters. Cheaper air travel, and a wealthy confident England fan that could now follow their team abroad. But it was the beginning of problems for home supporters. Priced out of their own grounds. Of course it brought much needed revenue to the islands, but at a cost to the home cricket fan.
One of the things you can never do in sport is to see teams of differemt eras play each other. I would love to have seen the great WI team of this era play the great Aussie team of Warne, MCGrath, Ponting etc etc. What a series that would have been. I would back the WI. Because I think their bowlers would have consistently bowled out the Aussie batsmam for low scores. But who knows? We will never know.
As a final thought, this was before the era of huge backroom staffs and laptop coaching. These players had to think on their feet, and if the wheels came off, it was only them who could try to put it back together again. There was a lot of criticism at the time about lack of practice, and no naughty boy nets. Wouldn’t happen today of course. Not sure it would have made the slightest difference to the result though. Look at the modern version. Englands disasterous tour to Aus in 2013/14. The wheels came off there, and they had an enormous backroom staff, but he result was the same 5-0. With biterness and acrimony to follow.
Fair points all.
When I watch Bob Willis coming off his long run on the Verdict, with criticism of coaches and players (much of which, to be fair, is on the mark) I sometimes think back to who was the Assistant Manager on this tour; none other than RGD Willis MBE.
There’s a lot of bellyaching over this tour. I’m trying to read some additional information but it is not that simple to find. We all remember the issue of “optional nets” but more than one source is quoted as saying the practice facilities offered to the players were not even good enough to be sub-standard. However, in the eyes of the media, and very much like our eyes today, the fact that Gower and Botham were on the record as hating practice meant that not using these facilities gave the critics rope to hang them with.
I remember vividly at the time that Bob Willis was seen as being too close to the players and a disaster as Assistant Manager, but the manager always seemed to escape criticism (Tony Brown – maybe being rewarded for India the winter before).
More of this to follow in the next parts…
Ian Botham transcended the sport, and was probably, along with people like Seb Coe, the leading sports personality at the time. The fact that Botham liked a drink, a smoke, and seemed like the sort who really liked a good time, he was gold to the tabloids.
Botham says, and he’s not alone, that there were the “straight media” out there – the cricket writers who were extremely critical but focused on aspects like nets etc. – and then there were the scandal rags looking for stories. Botham was going through his Hudson phase. It was they that got the Lindy Field story.
Some of the editorials at the time were wonders to behold. I’ll be coming to them, don’t you worry!
From my fading memory, I seem to recall that this series was notable because the travelling press normally kept the occasional misdemeanour by the cricketers to themselves. Not any longer. Botham, like Georgie Best, Paul Gascoigne, Beckham, Rooney, KP, sold newspapers – the more outrageous the story, the better.
Interesting thought Mark about WI v Aus. I tend to think that, while the Aussies were brilliant, the West Indies were just impossible to beat, mainly due to that bowling attack, as you suggest.
In other news The Times of India is reporting the following ….
“DDCA sports secy Sunil Dev claimed that India England test was fixed.”
Now there are always loads of accusations floating about in Indian cricket, but it will be interesting to see how this story will be reported. Probably nothing in it, but my, my how embarrassing this might be?
Manchester? And not Southampton or The Oval?
The Manchester test was going on with the whole Jimmy Anderson discipline issue in the background. The media were more interested in that. Relations between the teams seemed pretty fraught at the time. Can’t see anyway the two teams got together to fix the match.
But the notion that India might have thrown it is pretty damming to the sort of ludicrous over the top reporting of how great Engalnd were, and the desperate desire to tell us how great dear leader was.
The individual making the accusations doesn’t, from what I’ve read, come at this with “clean hands”. But we’ve also been pretty clear on here, and plenty elsewhere, that after Lord’s, India pretty much mailed the rest of the series in. If you were making an accusation, you wouldn’t have far to go to think of what might be looked at.
His evidence seems to be that he was surprised what Dhoni did when he won the toss. Not exactly an open-and-shut case and certainly no suggestion of collusion between the teams. However maybe there’s more to come out?
Regardless of this specific case, the argument that very rich cricketers wouldn’t match-fix because they are… very rich seems to be ridiculously naive. Because that’s how human avarice works, right? There’s a very good section in Robert Frank’s ‘Richistan’ where he finds that at every level among the super-rich they never think they have enough and are always just that bit short of what they need for complete security.
“To be thus is nothing/But to be safely thus”.
Simon (and Rufus),
This bloke appears a loud-mouth and you need better contentions than he is putting up. Also, I’m still of the view that team-wide fixing is too hard to do. But a lot of us contrasted the gutsy efforts at Lord’s with what followed. That was human nature, not an accusation that a whole team was bent.
Simon you only have to look at bankers to see the folly that rich people won’t continue to steal, fix, and launder money. They have more money than they will ever need. It’s like a drug. The argument that rich sportsman won’t cheat is just as stupid.
The establishments attitude to match fixing is complacent. Always has been. Too many people simply don’t want to believe it. Indias complete capitulation in that series has always left a nasty smell in my mind. I would prefer to put it down to a lack of caring. But who knows? As Dmitri says they pretty much mailed it in after Lords.
There is a much more sinister conspiracy theory here. But I won’t say it for legal reasons. Doesn’t mean I can’t think it though.
Personally, I think the claims seem rather far-fetched. Dev’s accusations are based entirely on his surprise (along with Geoffrey Boycott’s) that Dhoni chose to bat first at Manchester when it had apparently been decided in a team meeting beforehand that they were going to bowl should they win the toss, as they did. He offers precisely zero evidence for his claims beyond his own surprise at the decision, when there could be plenty of logical reasons as to why Dhoni seemingly changed his mind at the last minute – remember that Cook wanted to bat first as well, so there were certainly other schools of thought who could have found the decision acceptable. Captains make misinformed, innocent mistakes sometimes: Edgbaston 2005, anyone? Of course you have to remain absolutely vigilant against fixing and report obviously suspect activity, and hopefully this prompts at least an official response, but to jump to conclusions like Dev has done on very little tangible evidence isn’t especially helpful.
Southampton was the match that made me suspicious.
And match-throwing doesn’t have to be about money. It can just be conveyed to players that it would be better if they didn’t try too hard in the next game, as a loss right now would suit the purposes of those higher up the food chain.
[replaces tinfoil hat in cupboard]
I agree with Dimitri, this sort of thing is just to difficult to pull off nowadays isn’t it?
Escort, you would hope so.
But you don’t need everyone on board. When England beat SA all those years ago they had no idea the game had been fixed. It was only years later they found out. At the time they left the pitch thinking they had won an honest contest.
I’m not sue this guy has any real solid evidence.. I doubt anything will come of it. But nothing surprises me these day regards any kind of match fixing in any sport.
Was that West Indies side the #greatestever?
Here’s another one for you, Dmitri!