Test cricket couldn’t get any more exciting than the third Test played between West Indies and Pakistan back in 1988 at Bridgetown. A game of cat and mouse, where the momentum swung like the pendulum of a clock, this Test was undoubtedly one of the best games every played. After a scintillating victory at Georgetown and a nerve-wracking draw at Port-of-Spain, Pakistan moved to Bridgetown with a priceless lead of 1-0 in the three-match series.
Pakistan were on the brink of breaking a 15-year-old record of beating West Indies in their backyard. Australia defeated West Indies by 2-0 in 1973, which was also the last time the Caribbean side lost a Test series at home. Since then, they’ve not provided any major room for error in next nine Test series, out of which they won eight and drew a solitary one.
Cricket has often witnessed doctored pitches coming into play as soon the home side is under the pump. And this Test was no different. West Indies won the toss and elected to field first on a surface, which had a green top and looked conducive enough for seam bowlers. The surface forced Imran Khan to make a couple of changes – Ijaz Ahmed and Ijaz Faqih were replaced by Saleem Jaffar and Aamer Malik.
Malcolm Marshall and Curtly Ambrose were bowling at a sheer pace to the Pakistani openers, who came out hard on a tricky surface. Pakistan looked solid with Rameez Raja attacking but Ambrose soon drew the first blood in the form of Mudassar Nazar for 18, when Pakistan were placed at 46. In came Shoaib Mohammad and rescued the Pakistani ship but Raja, on the other end, fell on 54 to Winston Benjamin.
Javed Miandad, the spine of Pakistani batting in that series, joined Nazar out in the middle but Marshall bowled a beauty to end his innings on 14 and put the opposition on the back foot. West Indies bowlers managed to pick wickets at regular intervals and didn’t let the momentum drift away. Saleem Malik’s stumps were uprooted by Marshall after which, Shoaib Mohammad’s persistence was ended by Ambrose on a well-played 54. Aamer Malik looked good for his 32 and was negotiating the West Indies bowling attack with utmost care with Imran Khan. But Benjamin produced two key wickets out of thin air as Pakistan were precariously placed at 218 for 7.
Saleem Yousuf and Wasim Akram were doing a tremendous job and building a crucial partnership at a brisk pace. Yousuf counter-attacked but a bouncer from Marshall struck his face after a fine edge. Yousuf had to leave the field after which, Pakistan were bundled out for 309.
West Indies got off to a shaky start, losing Gordon Greenidge and Richie Richardson early. Wasim Akram and Imran Khan steamed in and managed to get their side off a solid start. Carl Hooper and Desmond Haynes weathered the early storm and rescued the West Indian ship out of choppy waters. Hooper played brilliantly for his 54 after which, Imran Khan cleaned him up with a peach of a delivery.
Haynes, after a marathon innings, was dismissed by Mudassar Nazar for 4 but Vivian Richards stood firm at the other end. Moments later, West Indies suffered another blow in the form of Gus Logie, who was undone by Nazar once again. Things went from bad to worse when Jeff Dujon was run out for a duck as West Indies slipped to 199 for 6 after being in a commanding position at 198 for 3.
Marshall got the ball rolling but Wasim Akram got rid of Richards and put West Indies in all sorts of trouble. Marshall and Benjamin accounted for some priceless runs lower down the order as West Indies managed to reach very close to Pakistan’s total, they were bowled out for 306 in the first innings.
At the end of first innings, both the teams were evenly poised. No one was ahead but West Indies had to bat in the fourth innings, which gave Pakistan an edge. Pakistan once again lost an early wicket but this time it was Raja, was had to walk back on 4 as Marshall got the better of him. Shoaib Mohammad continued his good form and smashed another half-century. Carl Hooper provided Pakistan a much-needed breakthrough with the wicket of Nazar, which brought Miandad to the centre.
Vivian Richards got Mohammad Caught and bowled after which, Marshall ended Miandad’s run as Pakistan were reduced to 165 for 4. In no time, Pakistan’s fortunes changed as they lost a couple of more wickets in the form of Aamer Malika and then Saleem Malik. After adding 13 more runs to their existing total, Wasim Akram lost his wicket to Marshall as Pakistan were running out of options at 182 for 7. Imran Khan stepped up and was well supported by Yousuf, who had a fractured nose. Yousuf played a good hand for his 28 while Imran remained unbeaten on 43 as Pakistan were bowled out for 262.
A target of 266 was set for the West Indies, as Pakistan’s crippling batting collapse denied them a big total but had enough to challenge the big guns. Pakistani bowlers had enough runs on the board to battle and they did reasonably well but some brilliance from West Indian lower order turned out to the key juncture.
Wasim Akram chipped in with the wicket of Haynes and set the tone for a thrilling battle. Greenidge was taking the game away but Saleem Jaffar got the key wicket on 35. Richardson came out all guns blazing and showed his intent of going hard at the Pakistani bowlers. He played a match-wining knock of 64 and laid the foundation for a successful run-chase. But the middle-order barring Richards had an awful stint, which brought Pakistan back in command.
Hooper was run out for 13, followed by Richardson’s dismissal for 64. Gus Logie, Ambrose and Richards were all undone with just 180 runs on the board and West Indies were seven wickets down. Marshall looked determined but was trapped leg before by Akram for 15.
Then came the match-winning, unexpected and heroic partnership between Dujon and Benjamin.
The duo worked extremely hard for their runs and snatched an improbable victory from imminent jaws of defeat and denied Pakistan a golden chance to script history. West Indies didn’t lose any further wicket as Dujon with his 29 and Benjamin with his 40 carried the team over the line. West Indies squared the three-match series and the fortress was yet ton be breached.
The game had emotions, drama, intensity and in the end, cricket was the winner. Marshall for his all-round performance was awarded the man-of-the-match award while Imran grabbed the man-of-the-series award for his consistency throughout the series.