Going back to the 20th century, West Indies were among the biggies in Test cricket. Their glory years were between the 1970s and 1980s. Some of their best years came under the leadership of Sir Viv Richards, who captained West Indies in 50 Tests, having won 27, lost 8 and drew 15 Tests. The first time West Indies locked horns with England in the long form was in 1928. Initially, both England and West Indies took chances to dominate the other before the Caribbean’s triumphed in seven consecutive series against England from 1976 to 1989-90. There were two occasions when the English side was 0-5 “black-washed.”
April 10, 2017, marked the 27th anniversary of West Indies’ victory over England in the fourth Test of the Wisden Trophy 1990. Viv Richards’ side won the series and it was West Indies’ seventh consecutive series victory against the same opponent. It was a five-Test series where the momentum shifted from one side to another, right from game number one. The opening Test of the series was played at Kingston. It was a low scoring game that went in favour of England, who took an advantage of 1-0. The second match was abandoned without a ball being bowled due to rain that saw the hosts still trailed 0-1.
England won the toss in the third Test and put West Indies to bat first at Queen’s Park Oval. The visitors’ excellent bowling once again put them ahead and a 2-0 lead was just around the corner for them. However, heavy rains came as a saviour of Richards’ men and the match ended in a draw.
The fourth Test was played at Kensington Oval, Bridgetown, Barbados, where the West Indians finally did justice to their potential.
England skipper Allan Lamb won a second successive toss and put West Indies to bat first yet again as he aimed to overlook them like the previous game. Nevertheless, what awaited them was completely different. Although English pacer Gladstone Small picked four wickets; their wicketkeeper Jack Russell was on fire, who clinched five catches behind the wickets; they could not stop West Indies from piling up 446 runs in the first innings. The majority of the runs came off Carlisle Best’s bat, who scored 164 off 245 balls. Richards also chipped in with 110-ball 70 runs.
In reply, the English captain, Lamb, stepped up with a composed century; his second in the series. A collective effort from the West Indian bowling attack, led by Ian Bishop, bundled England out for 358 runs. The hosts were 88 runs ahead as they came out to bat for the second time. They declared at 267 for 8 and set England a target of 356 runs with almost two days remained in the Test.
It took Sir Curtly Ambrose 22.4 overs to get rid of eight English batsmen, while the rest of the job was done by Ian Bishop and Ezra Moseley who picked a wicket apiece. It was Bishop who drew first blood when the English side had only one run on the board. England had then just added another nine runs and were hit by Ambrose’s brilliance, who removed the one-down English batsman, Rob Bailey and reduced England to 10 for 1.
At the same score, Ambrose struck again dismissing the new man in, Glandstone Small. England in no time lost three wickets with two new batsmen at the crease. England opener, Alec Stewart along with Russell, took the score from 10 for 3 to 70 for 3. As the visitors looked to recover, Richards threw the Ambrose card and yet again, the fast bowler did not disappoint him. He broke the fourth-wicket stand of 61 runs by sending Stewart back to the dugout.
A few overs later, the other pacer Moseley made a breakthrough by dismissing the English captain, Lamb and that dismissal left England 259 runs behind the target with six wickets in hand. Russell was the lone warrior for England and his fighting inning was brought to an end by Ambrose. The wicketkeeper-batsman got his stumps rattled and by doing so finished England’s hopes to draw the game. England were bowled out in the next 25 runs, courtesy of Ambrose’s vicious spell. He finished with career-best figures of 8 for 45 in an innings.
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Regardless of West Indies outclassing England in every department and Ambrose’s classic spell, England managed to leave a mark in the Test forever. The gripping resistance displayed by Russell and Robin Smith on the final day left the cricket fraternity in awe. Smith joined Russell at the crease when England struggled at 97 for 5. The duo added another 69 runs before the wicketkeeper-batsman became one of the victims of Ambrose.
While Russell batted for 306 minutes and scored 55 off 238 balls, Smith remained unbeaten on, 40 off 150 balls as England lost the Test by 164 runs. With the victory in the fourth Test, the series was locked at 1-1 before the West Indians won the decider Test at St John’s and clinched the five-Test series 2-1.