With the passing time, the shorter version of cricket has been gaining popularity among the cricket fans of current generation. With the glamorous Indian Premier League (IPL) underway at present, the T20 fever has spread across the cricket-playing nations in no time. When T20 cricket is being discussed, the world champions West Indies, involuntarily come into the picture. While the popular names like Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard and Sunil Narine and a few others have been making news in the cash-rich tournament, the rest of the team are back home preparing for the important three-match Test series against Pakistan.
No matter how much the shortest format of the game has touched big heights in a small span of time, it has not influenced the end of Test cricket, the ‘purest form of the game.’ Even today, a cricketer’s potential is judged by his numbers in Tests, rather than in T20s. There will still be several fans who will follow the upcoming Test series between West Indies and Pakistan, amidst the IPL. The three-Test series is scheduled to begin from April 21 and the opening Test will be played at Jamaica’s Sabina Park.
The Test rivalry between West Indies and Pakistan goes back to 1958. Pakistan toured the Caribbean and both the sides had locked horns for the very first time in the whites. Following that they played two more series before the epic 1977 series in West Indies. Prior to the five-Test series in 1977, West Indies and Pakistan were locked at 1-1 after their three previous Test series. Both the sides were determined to take the lead at the end of the 1977 tour.
While West Indies fielded a Clive Lloyd-led powerful side that included the likes of Roy Fredericks, Gordon Greenidge, Sir Viv Richards, Joel Garner, Sir Andy Roberts and Deryck Murray, Mushtaq Mohammad’s Pakistan squad was no less. The visitors’ team boosted with the likes of Majid Khan, Asif Iqbal, Javed Miandad, Imran Khan, Wasim Raja, Sadiq Mohammad and Sarfraz Nawaz.
Strong starts from both sides
Considering the pitches at Bridgetown, the venue of the first Test, are generally fast and bouncy but are usually favourable for batsmen, Pakistan Captain Mushtaq won the toss and had elected to bat first. Majid and Sadiq opened the batting for Pakistan and West Indian fast bowler Andy Roberts bowled the first over of the Barbados Test in the 1977 series.
Pakistan started their first innings with a bang. They posted 148 runs on the board before they had lost their second wicket. The opening batsman, Majid, looked in a great touch before he fell to Garner after he had batted for more than four hours.
Following the derailment of the top-order, West Indies’ new fast bowling duo of Garner and Colin Croft caused a collapse that left Pakistan at 269 for six at the stumps on day 1.
The middle-order batsman, Wasim Raja, came out to bat when Pakistan struggled at 207 for 5. Raja fluently managed to attack the West Indian bowlers as he received good support from the tail-enders. They revived Pakistan’s innings and led them to an excellent score of 435 before being bowled out. While the West Indian bowlers like Croft, Garner, Foster and Andy Roberts gave the Pakistani batsmen a tough time, they failed to shake a young 25-year-old Raja’s confidence. He eventually scored his second Test ton and remained unbeaten on 117. The knock that lasted 260 minutes, included one six and 12 fours.
In reply, the hosts trembled as they were restricted to 183 for 5 before the West Indian skipper, Clive Llyod, rescued his side with a captain’s knock. He walked into the field to bat when West Indies were three down and had only 120 runs on the board. Lloyd, along with his deputy, Murray, resuscitated West Indies with their 151-run stand for the sixth wicket. Lloyd made an error when he was on 42. However, he was lucky that Sarfraz Nawaz dropped his catch at the slip. From there, Llyod made no mistake before falling for 157 runs after he had batted for 290 minutes.
West Indies posted 421 and by negating Pakistan’s huge total in the first innings and the hosts were in the driving seat. The 24-year-old West Indian pacer, Colin Croft, removed the Pakistani openers and left Pakistan reeling at 68 for 2. After a few overs, Pakistan lost two wickets in a span of one run. The duo of Croft and Andy Roberts wrecked Pakistan’s line-up as the ninth wicket fell at 158 in mid-afternoon of the fourth day.
Since Pakistan had managed a mere lead of 172 runs, a win in the Test seemed certain for the hosts.
West Indies give away Test
However, fortunes changed in a few hours.
The hosts spilled catches and displayed sloppy fielding on several instances, left aside atrocious wicketkeeping from Murray, who gave away 29 bye runs. The centurion from the first innings, Raja’s catch was dropped thrice, who eventually added 133 for the last wicket and that happened to be a new Pakistan Test record. Pakistan pulled the game back when they posted 291 runs that included 68 unbelievable extras. With a little more than a day left in the Test, West Indies needed 306 runs to win.
Pakistan’s pacer, Sarfraz Nawaz, made an early breakthrough and the hosts ended day 4 at 41 for 1, still 265 runs behind for a terrific victory.
However, the final day saw a momentum change and Fredericks and Richards re-stitched West Indies’ innings with their stand of 130 runs for the first wicket. The session between lunch and tea witnessed more drama when Pakistan’s bowling attack of Sarfraz, Imran and Salim frustrated Fredericks and Richards with slow rate and that led to the dismissal of the two when they tried to catch up some pace.
Then, a collapse followed.
West Indies’ eight-wicket fell when the commencement of the final 20 overs was about 15 minutes away. Pakistan were inches away from sealing the match but what followed next was simply incredible. Andy Roberts and Vanburn Holder were in the middle, giving everything they could to rescue the game. Holder’s 45-minute long fight was ended by Imran Khan and that left Pakistan a wicket away from a triumph.
The Test was mesmerising where 39 wickets fell, 1398 runs were scored. At the end, West Indian tailenders, Roberts and Croft’s astonishing defensive innings denied Pakistan a victory and the epic Test ended in a draw.