The Islanders were undefeated at home for 10 years
West Indies had not lost a Test series in 15 years and a Test in 10 at home. Since their previous Test loss at home in 1978, West Indies played 25 Tests at home, won 15 and drawn 10. They had won all the Test series in the span of those 10 years and the latest to their name was their spectacular 5-0 whitewash of England. They were brilliant away too; out of the 50 Tests abroad, they won 19, lost 7 and drew the rest.
Talking of their previous loss at home, it came on April 5, 1978, when the West Indian side, led by Alvin Kallicharran, had failed to defend a target of 359 runs at Georgetown.
Fast forwarding the scene by 10 years, West Indies were back at the same Guyanese ground. This time they had Pakistan as their opponents. The same team they had drawn against 1-1 during their three-Test series on the Pakistan soils a couple of years back. But, this time, the series was going to be played at home. They had a bunch of scary bowlers in Malcolm Marshall and Courtney Walsh as well as the equally scary-group of batsmen who could blow apart any bowling attack.
However, this was going to be Pakistan’s Test. It would mark the return of one of their best Test captains, Imran Khan, their promising batsman Javid Miandad would finally conquer his insecurities about scoring overseas and Pakistan were about to something any team had never come even remotely closing to doing it. Pakistan’s road to glory on the Caribbeans Islands was not a cake walk. They were struck with one hurdle after another before they scripted history on April 6, 1988.
Initial setbacks for Pakistan
To begin with, they had lost Imran Khan to retirement. As the fortunes turned around for the good of Pakistan, Imran Khan came out of retirement, sometime in mid-January, 1988, after he was put under the immense pressure of the public and a personal request from the President of Pakistan, General Zia-ul-Haq. He certainly did not regret his decision of reversing his retirement. If that problem was solved, there were other issues awaiting the Pakistan team, that was due to fly in a couple of months.
Wasim Akram was suffering from groin and hernia injuries, which needed surgery before the tour, and spinner Abdul Qadir’s recurring kidney ailment was troubling him.
The tour, anyway went underway with the five-ODI series, while Akram and Qadir were regaining match fitness. The worse happened when their economical spinner Tauseef Ahmed was sent back home just after two matches because of an injury. Akram played in two ODIs, Qadir in three as Pakistan commenced their tour on a negative note losing the 50-over series 0-5.
However, as soon as Tests started, Pakistan bounced back like never. West Indies without their captain Viv Richards, who was recovering from an operation for haemorrhoids and their spearhead Malcolm Marshall, who was out with a knee injury, were led by middle-order experienced man Gordon Greenidge. The stand-in-skipper won the toss and opted to bat first on the newly laid pitch and immediately saw his team in trouble. Imran drew first blood, as he dismissed the opener, Desmond Haynes, to leave West Indies at 7 for 1. After a bowling change, off-spinner Ijaz Faqih bowled Simmons on his very first delivery in the Test and that left West Indies at 41 for 2. Then the No. 3 batsman Richie Richardson along with the captain did some repair work as they added 54 runs for the third wicket.
It was not fully fit Akram who broke that stand by dismissing Greenidge. That was followed by sensible partnerships between Richardson and Gus Logie and Carl Hooper and Logie that took West Indies to 219 for 4 by tea on the opening day. From there on began Imran’s spell that would go on to be remembered for a very long time. The final partnership between Curtley Ambrose and Patterson ensured West Indies reached 292 before being bowled out. The final five wickets went to the Pakistani skipper, including a spectacular spell of 4 for 9 in three overs.
Pakistan’s innings started on Day two and their opener Rameez Raja did not last at the crease for a very long time. Patterson made the first breakthrough for the hosts with Raja’s wicket to leave Pakistan at 20 for 1. Mudassar Nazar batted for some more time before he was ‘yorked’ by debutant Ambrose for his maiden Test wicket. That saw Javed Miandad joined the No. 3 man Shoaib Mohammad in the middle. When Malik scored his first seven runs, he touched 2,000 Test runs. He and Miandad went on to frustrate the hosts for almost three hours as they piled up runs for the third wicket.
Walsh removed Mohammad but Miandad carried on. He was caught off a no-ball when he was on 27 and dropped by Dujon when he was on 87. The pressure of no wickets was getting on the nerves of an aggressive West Indians so much that their bowler Winston Benjamin was also warned by the umpires for intimidating bowling. By stumps of the second day, Miandad was on 96 and he had Ijaz Ahmed on the other end. Next day, having batted on 99 for 38 minutes, Miandad finally reached the triple figures – his first Test hundred against the West Indies – his innings ended after batting for over six hours, facing 234 balls and he had scored 114, including 12 fours.
Pakistan were bowled out for 435 runs and had taken a lead of 143 runs. West Indies ended Day three on 25 for 1 with Simmons and Richardson on the crease. An infected toe did not allow Imran to bowl more than two overs in the final session. However, he was being treated with antibiotics and which is why he was able to bowl on the fourth morning. Qadir hardly wasted time on the fourth day’s first session before he dismissed Simmons and Richardson. Following the duo of Greenidge and Logie once again showed excellent resistance as they added another 65 runs to the score. With Imran’s return to bowling, he dismissed both the batsmen.
After lunch, Imran played his trump card of the part-time spinner, Shoaib Mohammad, who occasionally delivered with his off-breaks. On that day, he once again proved his worth, as he took two wickets in successive balls. Qadir bagged his final wicket of the day by removing Hooper before Imran wrapped up the West Indian innings by dismissing Walsh and Patterson in two balls in a row. All West Indies could do is set Pakistan a target of 30 runs with more than a day remaining in the Test.
Pakistan sealed the Test even before the tea, inside four days, courtesy of their skipper Imran Khan’s 11-wicket haul. It was the sixth time Imran had bagged 10 or more wickets in a Test match. His 14 wickets against Sri Lanka in Lahore remained his best bowling match figures when he ended his career in 1992.
The three-Test series ended in a draw after the second Test was drawn and West Indies won the final match. Imran ended with 23 wickets to his name, while Miandad clinched two centuries. These two heroes almost won the series for Pakistan. The result would have gone in Pakistan’s favour had there not been any umpiring goof-ups in the final Test where the ninth wicket stand of West Indies of 48 runs between Jeff Dujon and Winston Benjamin took the hosts to a victory, helping them draw the series 1-1. “We would have wrapped up the game but a couple of crucial umpiring decisions robbed us of victory,” Miandad later on said.
It indeed was unfair on Pakistan and the statement from West Indian Benjamin was the testimony to that. “I thought Pakistan were a bit unlucky not to have got the benefit of that Dujon bat-and-pad catch,” Benjamin said.