Feature: 5th Test West Indies vs England, April 11 – 16, 1986

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“Now that the ship has well and truly sunken, and lying somewhere off Deep Bay…” the words of England Captain, David Gower, at the awards ceremony at the end of the fifth test match in Antigua. The result signalled the second consecutive “blackwash” of England by the all-conquering West Indians.
In an Ian Wooldridge documentary Calypso Cricket, aired in the UK in “The World About Us” series, local taxi driver and cricket enthusiast, Dennis Friday reminded the English fans, “in England, we whitewash you, in the Caribbean, we blackwash you”.
The documentary, filmed during the tour but released after the series, aimed to portray that the West Indies domination by the use of fast bowlers was brutal, unfair and “just wasn’t cricket”. It was a part of an orchestrated plan to dismantle the power base of West Indies’ domination, which subsequently lead to rule changes, limiting fast bowlers to one bouncer an over.
There was a lot of pre tour activity, with huge interests from British tour groups, as it was expected to be a bumper season for the Caribbean tourist trade. Personally, in addition to being interviewed for the Ian Wooldridge documentary, I was also involved in promotional shoots for British Home Stores with the England batsman, Alan Lamb.
The promotions were extensive and some of the footage showed glimpses of the inaugural Semi-Pro League in Antigua, from the Factory Cricket Ground. That tournament was the brainchild of Fitzroy Brann, who was of the opinion that Antigua’s cricket needed to undertake a more professional outlook, and possibly the inclusion of other regional players. Visionary, indeed.
The English press had built up the impending tour as such a physical battle, with great potential for England’s batsmen to be maimed. The Englishmen’s preparation was overly centered on ducking, hindered by an excessive amount of protective gear.
Unlike today’s international tours, this was a long tour. The England team arrived in the Caribbean towards the end of January and concluded in the third week of April. The regional teams and young players had the opportunity to showcase themselves in the tour games and four one day internationals complemented the five test matches.
During their second tour game against the Leeward Islands, played in Antigua, the Englishmen got a taste of what was to come, as George Ferris and Winston Benjamin allowed them to utilise their pre-tour practice skills. A lot of that footage is captured in the Ian Wooldridge documentary. However, after Ferris picked up an injury and was unable to bowl in the second innings, a spell of swing bowling at military medium pace by Richie Richardson saw him pick up his only five wicket haul in first class cricket.
“Parssa” was being given a facelift, and new facilities were being installed for the expected influx of visitors. A new scoreboard was constructed, the stands and players’ pavilion were also enhanced.
Towards the end of 1984, an Antiguan team including Viv and Andy had toured Bermuda on a goodwill tour, and a relationship had been reestablished with the cricket loving people of that island. Bermuda is the only place in the world that has two public holidays, at the start of August, for cricket. Cup Match is a huge Bermudan tradition.
Clarvis Joseph was the president of the Antigua Cricket Association, and developed a rapport with the President of the Bermuda Cricket Association at the time, Ed Bailey of Antiguan heritage. Their initiative built on what had been previously developed by the Rising Sun Cricket Club, when they toured Bermuda.
The England tour of 1986 started what became an annual pilgrimage of Bermudans, in large numbers, supporting cricket in Antigua. They were fun loving people who really knew how to have a good time, and very appreciative of good cricket.
At the same time, the Antigua Cricket Association also swelled its membership numbers with people living outside of Antigua. Most of whom were Antiguans living in the USA, who made it a duty to return home for international cricket. However, that privilege was not confined to Antiguans only, as the Antigua Test Match quickly became the “must attend” test match for regional supporters. The people of the Virgin Islands also became a vital source market.
Antigua’s geographical location has always been a major tourism advantage, but with LIAT’s home base also being here, and Bee Wee’s daily stops further connecting the islands, it was easily accessible. The variety of food and the general party atmosphere made for great camaraderie.
Antigua invented “party cricket”, and in the process took cricket viewing in a new direction; a spell that world cricket has remained under to this day. Whenever you see or hear a DJ playing music at a cricket game, and the crowd reacting to the various commands, its DNA is in Antigua.
As an example, what is now the Mound Stand in Jamaica was the response of Chris Dehring and his friends to what they were exposed to in Antigua. They came every year, enjoyed themselves in the Double Decker Stand, and religiously ordered dozens of fry dumplings from Aunt Tess at the Bassa Sports Club Booth for their return trip home.
Chikie Baptiste of Chikie’s Hi Fi, first brought his sound system to the Recreation Ground from as early as our first test match. Gradually, as the authorities trusted him to control his interaction so as not to interfere with the cricket, more and more equipment were introduced. Once Chikie got the knack of the requirements, he became an integral part of the Antigua cricket scene.
Antiguan calypsonians had always been the producers of top quality music, and they upped their game with the international exposure. As if test cricket was a competition, they started to compete for the attention. Chikie was the master of mixing the right songs for each occasion, and he was revered for his artistry. He now had sponsors, provided all inclusive packages, and made it into a business. Sports Entrepreneurism at work!!
When the England team arrived in Antigua for the fifth test of the series, being four nil down, Chikie had to find music that complimented this stage of the tour. He aptly pounced upon a Gypsy classic, “Captain, the Ship is Sinking”. The song was current, as it was used during Trinidad Carnival to send a message to then Prime Minister, George Chambers.
With the mood of the English supporters following their team around the Caribbean and receiving a hammering, the song became an anthem from them to their Captain, David Gower. His spontaneous response at the awards ceremony when the die had been cast, was absolutely brilliant and stole the moment.
The International games of the tour had started off horribly for the Englishmen, when Mike Gatting had his nose smashed by a Patrick Patterson bouncer. The fact that he was able to return to the UK, have his nose reconstructed and return in time to play in the Antigua test, was simply astonishing.
Patterson, nicknamed Rambo, was a muscular Jamaican who had a moderate start to his first class career. Previously appearing under the name, Balfour Patterson, no one had taken any serious note of him. Except for Clive Lloyd, who had arranged for him to play at Lancashire in the county championships.
He literally ran Caribbean batsmen during the 1986 Shell Shield, and his selection to the West Indies team was a formality. He also created a few injuries, and his fellow Jamaican, wicketkeeper Jeff Dujon, has gone on record as saying it is the fastest bowling he has seen in his entire career.
Adding his raw pace to the experienced Holding, Garner, Marshall and Walsh, the English batting were exposed, and the fear initiated before the start of the tour was manifesting itself. Likewise, their bowling lacked teeth and was never able to put the West Indies batsmen under consistent pressure.
Richie had two hundreds in the series entering the final test, including a blistering assault on the English bowlers on the opening day. Arriving at the crease on the stroke of an hour’s play, Richie took Greg Thomas to pieces, and was not out sixty at lunch.
Viv had scored two half centuries coming into the game, and as if saving the “best for last”, he scored the fastest test century in the history of world cricket in terms of balls, fifty-six. World Record for Antigua!
The game was set up for the West Indies, seeking quick runs to force a declaration. Seven sixes and seven fours later and with Viv on a 110 not out, the declaration came. There were a few sixes that the English commentator, Henry Blofeld thought were going to Montserrat. Viv even had time for a one-handed six over midwicket.
The formality of bowling out England and completing the “blackwash” brought the series to a crushing end for the Englishmen.
The spectators had an early Carnival, and Chikie was holding school. The crowd made its customary invasion of the ground. The celebratory drinks were varied in colour and potency. Many who missed it claim to have been there.
It was now over to David Gower!

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