In cricket, there are very few things are as fascinating as sheer fast bowling. For many cricket purists, the sight watching a fast bowler steam in and bowl at menacing pace gives immense pleasure. Few decades back, West Indies were a force to reckon. With some world-class pace bowlers, West Indies’ bowling attack inspired massive confidence.
For any bowler, the initial stages in international cricket are akin to walking on a cliff, the pressure is humungous and he is expected to justify his selection. On March 4, 1977, Colin Croft scripted history in his only second game in the second Test against Pakistan at Port of Spain.
After a drawn first game, where two debutants – Joel Garner and Colin Croft impressed with the ball, West Indies moved to Port of Spain for their second encounter. Both, Michael Holding and Vanburn Holder were out due to injury as a result of which, Garner and Croft were roped in to accompany Andy Roberts.
Pakistan got it right at the toss and opted to bat first. When Majid Khan and Sadiq Mohammad walked out to bat in the middle, none had an idea of the storm, which was about to strike Pakistan. Croft was putting in the hard yards with immense confidence; he looked quick and was dead right with his accuracy.
Sadiq Mohammad got hit on his forearm by a brutal delivery from Croft, which took off from a good length and had to retire hurt without troubling the scorers. This was just a glimpse of the upcoming tornado. Haroon Rasheed walked in to replace Sadiq but Croft had no intentions of wasting any time with the new ball. He induced an outside edge as Rashid was caught by Clive Lloyd in slips for four. Skipper Mushtaq Mohammad came in but Croft had him walking for 9 as Sir Viv Richards cupped another outside edge in slips. Moments later, Asif Iqbal was caught behind for a duck and Pakistan found themselves in hot water at 21 for the loss of three wickets and a pumped Croft at the other end.
Croft was making the ball talk and creating problems for the Pakistani batsmen, they were running out of options and had no clue on how to confront him. Wickets kept tumbling like nine pins but Majid Khan stood firm at one end. Wasim Raja joined Majid as Pakistani ship were floating in troubled waters and had a task in hand. The duo weathered the early storm and negotiated Croft with utmost care. Raja came out hard as a result of which, Croft was taken off after putting eight fruitful overs.
Raja and Majid accounted for 82 runs between them before the latter fell prey to Garner’s persistence on a determined 47. Garner caught him leg-before and the crucial partnership was broken after which, Imran Khan took guard. Raphick Jumadeen bagged the wicket of Imran for a solitary run and put Pakistan in all sorts of trouble at 112 for 5. Sadiq, who was retired hurt before, walked out to bat
The duo stitched a 38-run stand between them and started to look good when Croft chipped in with a beauty of a delivery to get rid of Raja. Croft uprooted Raja’s stumps on 65, in which, he belted seven boundaries and two sixes. Moments later, Croft had Sadiq caught and bowl on 17 and claimed his maiden fifer in Test cricket. It was a huge milestone achieved by Croft, but he wasn’t done yet and was hungry for more.
Croft once again charged in and ripped through Intikhab Alam’s defended to pick his sixth wicket of the innings. Croft then left Saleem Altaf bewildered as he got the better of him for 1. Wasim Bari counter-attacked and did well for his 21 but eventually, Croft produced an edged straight to Deryk Murray. Pakistan were done and dusted for 180 and a hero was born. History was scripted as Croft recorded the best figures (8 for 29 in 18.5 overs) in an innings by a West Indian fast bowler, a record which stands tall till date. Croft bettered Michael Holding’s record of 8 for 92 and engraved his name with gold.
West Indies too got off to a shaky start but Roy Fredericks came out all guns blazing at the top and scored a brilliant ton to guide West Indies to 316. Pakistan bowlers did well in chipping wickets at regular intervals but the Fredericks innings made the difference. West Indies gained a crucial 136-run lead in the first innings. Pakistan did a commendable job in the second innings and fought back riding on half-centuries by Majid, Sadiq and Wasim. Wasim once gain played hard and belted seven boundaries and a couple of sixes for his 84.
Pakistan were bowled out for 340 setting a target of 205 for West Indies. Andy Roberts had four wickets to his name while Garner had three; Croft managed just a solitary wicket in the second innings as his imminent peers inflicted most of the damage.
West Indies chased down the target with ease, they gunned down 205 with six wickets to spare as Fredericks continued his impressive form in the second innings as well and smashed a tenacious 57. Gordon Greenidge top-scored in the run-chase with his 70 and the duo stitched a much-needed 97-run stand at the top. Croft’s heroics helped West Indies gain a precious 1-0 lead in the series. The man of the match award was shared between Croft and Wasim Raja.