5th Test West Indies vs England, April 12 – 16, 1990

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Insularity has been a perennial bone of contention in West Indies cricket, and Antiguans certainly remember the days before their players were “accepted” into the team or the days when their very presence and longevity was second-guessed.
Now that our players were leaders in the West Indies dominance of world cricket, here came Curtly Ambrose.
By the time the Leeward Islands arrived in Trinidad for their four-day regional game, Ambrose had already been making everyone take notice, and his path into the West Indies team seemed a formality.
Early in the game, international umpire, Clyde Cumberbatch, no-balled Ambrose for throwing! The Caribbean was astonished, as there was never any question about Ambrose’s action.
The plot thickened. Although never officially acknowledged, the call is traced back to the fact that Trinidadian, Anthony Gray, was injured at the time, and Ambrose appeared like a ready-made replacement for him. It is a logical conclusion that the plot may have been hatched over drinks at the Queens Park Oval, and Cumberbatch may only have been the executioner.
The equally tall Gray had a brilliant start to his international career and picked up 22 wickets in 5 games at an average of 17; sensational, to say the least. He also played county cricket for Surrey, and was viewed as a long-term replacement for Joel Garner; until Ambrose arrived.
During the Pakistan test match in Trinidad, a delegation from the Antigua Cricket Association was invited to meet with the West Indies Cricket Board of Control to discuss its intent and application for Antigua to “go it alone.” The delegation was led by President, Kenrick “Hutton” Isaac, and included his Vice President, Victor Michael.
The Parish League organisers had also been busy taking its offerings to another level. Taddy Arrindell maintained his differences with the Antigua Cricket Association, and accused them of lacking vision in not selecting players from the Parish League for the national team.
Since 1983, Parish League International had been undertaking annual tours of the USA, aimed at exposing its players. This was extended in 1987 when a Bermuda leg was added. Taddy approached Richie and asked him to come on the tour as Captain, so that “he could learn to Captain West Indies.”
Richie’s stock had been rising, and by 1989 he had become one of the more dominant players in the West Indies team. His improved proficiency against spin bowling was highlighted on India’s tour of the Caribbean in 1989, when after scoring two centuries and a 99, he tallied over 600 runs.
By the time England arrived in the Caribbean for their 1990 series, the West Indian players who had gone on the Rebel Tour of South Africa had been welcomed back to play first-class cricket and therefore were eligible to play for the West Indies.
When injuries started to impact the West Indies team, fast bowler, Ezra Moseley was selected to make his debut in the third test in Trinidad. He was the first former rebel cricketer to be welcomed back to the fold.
It didn’t go down well with all Caribbean politicians or supporters, and here in Antigua, a lot was said about potentially boycotting the game. This was at a time when “talk radio” was beginning to take root, and Bobby Reis was hosting the very popular “Talk to Me” on ZDK Radio. In addition, on a weekly basis, Tim (Hector) was still “Fanning the Flame” in the OUTLET.
Moseley had proven to be a seasoned professional in the two tests he played, breaking Graham Gooch’s hand at a critical time in the Trinidad test. Desmond Haynes, stand-in captain for that test, came in for some harsh criticism for his team’s time wasting tactics as the West Indies faced the possibility of defeat.
Moseley picked up a surprising injury towards the end of the fourth test in Barbados, which gave credibility to the story that an Antiguan boycott was of serious concern.
The series was the first to be aired live on television in the Caribbean, and the sight of small sets in offices was a regular sight around Antigua. Everyone was hooked to the live coverage, and of course, absenteeism also became a big game.
It is my humble opinion that live television, and the work of analysts played a major part in the declining West Indian batsmanship. The voice of former England opener, Geoff Boycott, referring to “the corridor of uncertainty” began to paint negativity into the heads of our batsmen.
That corridor was an imaginary line between twelve to eighteen inches outside the batsman’s off stump; an area where the batsman is not sure whether to play or leave alone, and often ended up in “no man’s land.” It led to West Indian batsmen developing a new shot, “the leave alone,” whereas previously those deliveries would have been cut, square-driven or driven off the back foot in true West Indian style.
Live television brought up close emotional reactions from the players, and also put umpires under more scrutiny. It also led to the decline in quality radio commentary and the genuine commentator. So instead of hearing how the bowler’s shirt was “fluttering in the breeze,” we were left to see it for ourselves. Instead of hearing the words “……………….the bowler runs in, jumps and delivers,” we were left to view the replay for anything we may have missed. A new world was dawning.
It was Boycott’s on-air reaction to Viv’s appeal in the Barbados test for a Robert Bailey dismissal that led to him being heckled by the assembled crowd at the V.C. Bird Airport when the teams and officials arrived. As was the norm, the crowd had gathered to welcome the team and to offer a special “welcome home” to Viv, Richie and Ambi. Eldine was also selected to join the team, but he was already in Antigua.
Eldine’s selection, after a good run in the regional tournament was in some ways seen as a makeup for the Moseley situation. However, Marshall was also injured and replaced by Courtney Walsh.
Unfortunately for Carlisle Best, who in the Barbados test scored his first and only test century, he suffered an injury in the game and was replaced by Carl Hooper.
Andy Roberts was in charge of the pitch preparations for this test, and contrary to the opinion of others, chose the most easterly pitch at the Recreation Ground as the test pitch.
That pitch did not line up with the sightscreens, and at the pavilion end, it lay between the pavilion and the double-decker stand, in line with the gate. A temporary sightscreen had to be erected, and with all the activities taking place with the Chikie Hi Fi Posse at the same end, it created a constant distraction during the game.
Andy was adamant that the pitch chosen was the hardest and fastest available, and reasoned that the West Indies fast bowlers needed to get all the support that could be mustered.
This turned out to be, easily, the fastest test pitch ever produced at the ARG (the shortened term that commentators had started to call “Parssa”), and to this day, Ian Bishop still speaks fondly of the pace and bounce extracted then.
The second day of the game, being Good Friday, was unusually appointed the Rest Day. On the third day, Greenidge and Haynes easily surpassed the England first innings score of 260, and only a brilliant run out from the boundary by Gladstone Small ended the partnership on 298.
With a lead of 186, the West Indies fast bowlers unleashed their fury on the English batsmen late on the fourth day, in front of a packed Sunday crowd. It resembled most of the first innings, where Bishop was genuinely hostile. Walsh, returning to the team after being dropped was simply nasty!
The West Indies easily won by an innings. It proved to be Eldine Baptiste’s final game for the West Indies in any format, and created a unique record that he still holds; played 10 tests, won 10 tests. Eldine never played in a drawn or losing test!
On the second morning, an off-the-field incident which took place in the press, turned out to be one of the major highlights of the game.
The horde of English journalist had been giving Viv a tough time after the appeal incident in Barbados, and James Lawton of the Daily Express wrote a piece that met with Viv’s disapproval.
When Viv was notified, just after his team’s warm up. He made his way to the press box to “sort out” Lawton. It is reported that Viv advised Lawton that only his age saved him, and left him in no doubt that “Vivi was angry!”
Whilst all this was happening, Haynes led the West Indies Team onto the field, and Brian Lara substituted for Viv.
An incident, not seen by many, but one on which I can give firsthand account, probably signaled the beginning of Brian Lara era.
Lara had captained the West Indies Under-19’s to the first Youth World Cup in Australia in 1988, and had scored hundreds against the visiting Indians the previous year, and against this England team in a tour game. He was yet to make his test debut.
Lara walked out to substitute for Viv, and positioned himself at first slip. Gordon Greenidge physically lifted and shoved him away to find another fielding position. It appeared to be the “Young Pup” being put in his place by a senior pro, and seemed to earmark the type of relationship that Lara enjoyed with his teammates throughout his career.

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