5th Test West Indies vs England, April 16 – 21, 1994

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The decade of the 90s proved to be a challenging one for West Indies cricket, as the established stars began to face the challenges of time. Younger players were being introduced, and supporters had the expectation that it should be business as usual.
Fast bowling still headlined the attack, but it is technology which appeared to be more challenging for West Indian batsmanship. The “corridor of uncertainty” seemed to be a mental challenge, and batting became somewhat indecisive.
Brian Lara made his long awaited debut towards the end of 1990 in Pakistan, when Viv missed the tour, but was still forced to wait a while longer for a permanent place.
The team lost a number of great players during 1991 for varying reasons, and cuts that had earlier been sighted had now become sores. It is around this time that there appeared to be a lack of interest in one-day cricket, highlighted by losing games from positions of authority.
Greenidge and Richards struggled through the home series versus Australia, but the former signed off with a double century in the Barbados test, which turned out to be his penultimate test. He was injured on the subsequent tour of England, and limped to the end of a great career.
The last test of the West Indies tour of England in 1991 proved to be the last for three legends of the team, and even though unknown at the time, Richards, Marshall and Dujon were playing their final test.
No team can afford to lose that level of experience in such short order, and move on unscathed.
Marshall made the team to the World Cup in Australia in early 1992, but despite indicating their interests Richards and Dujon were not selected.
Richie Richardson was appointed captain, a decision that did not sit well with everyone across the Caribbean. His performances at home versus Australia and in the away series to England, saw him become the team’s premier batsman. He scored a superlative 182 against the Australians in Guyana, when he put a trademark on his favoured square drives. His performances in England were most pleasing as he countered the moving ball, and remained his flamboyant self throughout the series.
Many felt that the captaincy should have rightfully gone to Haynes, in a transition period that would have seen Richie groomed to succeed him. The board and the selectors were ready for a new era, and plunged for Richie.
Richie’s first team was the squad to the Australia World Cup in 1992, and the non-selection of Richards created a storm, especially in Antigua. There appeared to be mixed signals on Richards’ retirement after the England tour, but prior to the team’s selection it became clear that he wanted to sign off his illustrious career at this marquee world event. The snubbing was particular galling, as his heir apparent and someone he had groomed was at the helm.
A lot of it was fuelled by the apparent sacrifices that Viv seemed to have made for Richie throughout his career, and the airwaves were awash with them. Viv’s “schooling” of Richie by taking him to Somerset to play second eleven cricket; Viv’s stepping down from his favoured number three to create a space in the batting order when there was none; Viv’s apparent orchestration of Richie’s inclusion in the final eleven in the Barbados test, when his neck was on the chopping block.
However, there was also a feeling that the ultimate decision was taken out of Richie’s hands, and it was the establishment who made the decision to move on!
The World Cup was not a great experience, with sporadic performances highlighting the team’s effort. Brian Lara, playing as an opener, showed the world glimpses of what was to come.
The World Cup was also the last hurrah for the great Malcolm Marshall, who bowed out amidst differences with the direction the team was taking.
Having been welcomed back into world cricket, South Africa paid its first official visit directly after the World Cup. Even though they did not play in Antigua, and with television being a feature, the series was closely followed here. The electrifying fielding of Jonte Rhodes certainly caught the eye.
The Barbados supporters did not agree with the West Indies team selection for the one-off test at Kensington, and boycotted the game because Anderson Cummings was not selected. Despite the historical nature of the game, and despite the pleadings of the rest of the Caribbean, protests actions were ordered. Empty stands were the order of the day.
This seemed to galvanise the West Indies team, and the celebratory lap of honour, hand-in-hand was very symbolic of what unity can do.
The West Indies returned to Australia at the end of 1992 for what was one of the most thrilling series between the two teams, since the 1961 Frank Worrell/Tied Test series.
Brian Lara made up for lost time with an innings of sublime excellence from start to finish, only ended by a run out. He found gaps with precision, scored runs at will, and his 277 was an innings that made a serious statement: “The Prince has arrived.”
Keith Arthurton and Richie had worthwhile contributions also. However, it was the incisive bowling of Curtly Ambrose, and to a lesser extent Ian Bishop, that tilted the balance. Ambrose captured a Man of the Series 33 wickets, including an astounding 7 wickets for 1 run at Perth.
It was during this tour that Richie’s calm and decisiveness as a captain stood out. His field adjustments were timely, and he had a team playing for him.
What an evening it was for those who had the nerve to watch the culmination of the Adelaide test. The West Indies won by one run, with a decision that still ranks as questionable, when McDermott was adjudged caught behind off Walsh, after a 40 run partnership that almost saw Australia home.
Pakistan visited during the home season of 1993, and Antiguans were fortunate to witness one of the best test innings played at ARG. Carl Hooper was supreme in footwork, elegance and power, when required. He did not put a foot wrong in his 178 not out.
A short tour of Sri Lanka at the end of 1993 preceded a full tour by England in 1994.
As usual, the excitement surrounding the economic opportunities that the tour would present was the main talking point. When England arrived in the Caribbean, the era of pure West Indies dominance had already ended. However, the home team quickly took a three nil lead, and there were talks of another “blackwash.”
Due to a drastic turn around in the Barbados test, where Alec Stewart scored a hundred in each innings, England hurt West Indian pride by winning that test.
Coming to Antigua for the final test, revenge was on the mind of the team. Batting first on a featherbed of a pitch, the
West Indies, and more so Brian Lara, batted on and on and on.
Sir Garry Sobers had set the then batting world record of 365 not out back in 1958, and as the innings went on, there was excitement that this record was within sights. Lara, a student of the game, must have been aware too. From a young age, he was accustomed to scoring big, and he wasn’t going to miss out. The year before he had come close in Australia, only to be run out.
As if destiny was his, on making the pull off Chris Lewis that brought him the record, his foot stepped on the stump, the bail left the groove and went back into place. Lara broke Sobers’ record!
Pandemonium occupied the ARG, the field was invaded. Sir Garry was escorted on to the field to congratulate Lara.
This was also the debut series of 19- year-old Shivnarine Chanderpaul, and he shared a big partnership with Lara in the process, and was at the crease when the record was broken.
The rest of the game was of academic interest, as the England batsmen helped themselves to a big score and the game ended in a tame draw.
Richie and Haynes sat out the game with injuries, and Walsh deputised.
The impact of Lara’s innings on world cricket could only be imagined at the time. It began a purple patch that saw him also score the highest first class score, 502, a few weeks after.
This was probably the game that confirmed to Lara and his handlers that he was ready for the next step, captaincy of the West Indies.
The plot thickened and the era of Brian Charles Lara had just begun!

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