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Best of the Tests at Sabina Park

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Sabina_Park_Kingston_West_Indies_Cricket_GroundAfter a woeful outing in the first Test at North Sound, Bangladesh will look to make amends with a much better display at Kingston’s Sabina Park. One of the most iconic venues in the Caribbean, Sabina Park has hosted 50 Tests so far, of which the West Indies have won 23 and lost 13. It was the scene of the first Test triple-hundred - Andy Sandham’s 325 back in 1929-30 - and also Gary Sobers’ epic 365* against Pakistan in 1957-58, which stayed a record for 36 years.

As the wounded Tigers face the arduous task of reviving their Caribbean sojourn, here is a look back at seven noteworthy Test matches played at the home of Jamaican cricket.

West Indies v Pakistan, Third Test, 1957-58

The West Indies held a 1-0 lead in the five-match series, Pakistan’s first in the Caribbean. Imtiaz Ahmed (120) built a strong platform after the early loss of Hanif Mohammad, but the bowlers, led by seamer Eric Atkinson (5/42), fought back to limit the visitors to 328, the last six wickets falling for 41. In reply, opener Conrad Hunte and 21-year-old left-hander Garfield Sobers joined forces for a colossal stand of 446 for the second wicket, before the former was dismissed for 260.

Sobers carried on relentlessly, converting his first Test century into a triple, and breaking the Test record for the highest individual score, held by England’s Len Hutton, who scored 364 at the Oval during the 1938 Ashes. The declaration came at 790/3 - the West Indies’ highest total - with Sobers on 365*. Despite a sixth-wicket stand of 166 by Wazir Mohammad (120) and captain Abdul Kardar, Pakistan were drubbed by an innings and 288 runs on the final (sixth) day.  

West Indies v India, First Test, 1982-83

India recovered from 127/7 to 254 after being asked to bat, thanks to an eighth-wicket stand of 107 between Yashpal Sharma (63) and Balwinder Sandhu (68). Captain Kapil Dev and Ravi Shastri then took four scalps each to restrict the hosts’ lead to just three runs. Rain played spoilsport by washing out the fourth day, and when India were 165/6 at tea on the last day, a draw looked certain. Soon after, Andy Roberts (5/39) mopped up the tail to enliven proceedings.

The West Indies were thus left with a target of 172 from only 26 overs. Openers Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes accepted the challenge, adding 46 at a fast clip. But it was Vivian Richards who dealt the biggest blow, creaming 61 in just 36 balls from number four, including four sixes. When Richards was fifth out at 156, the West Indies needed 16 off 15 balls. Thanks to sixes from Jeff Dujon and Gus Logie, they crossed the line with four balls remaining.

West Indies v Australia, Fourth Test, 1994-95

The series was locked at 1-1 coming into this final Test. At stake for the West Indies was not only the Frank Worrell Trophy, which they had held since 1977-78, but also their standing as the best team in the world. Having been undefeated in 29 series since 1980, the West Indies were in danger of finally being knocked off their perch. And so it proved, as Mark Taylor’s Australians produced an assertive performance to win by an innings and 53 runs before tea on the fourth day.

The West Indies failed to build on the foundation built by a second-wicket partnership worth 103 between captain Richie Richardson (100) and Brian Lara (65) and were bowled out for 265 on the first day. Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh reduced Australia to 73/3 early on the second day, setting up the match nicely. However, the Waugh twins, Mark and Steve, rose to the occasion and proceeded to combine for a clinical fourth-wicket stand of 231 to deflate the hosts.

Mark’s dismissal for 126 towards the end of the second day did not stop the West Indians’ misery, as Steve added a further 113 for the fifth wicket with Greg Blewett (69). Steve was last out at 531, batting with resolve for nine hours and 15 minutes to compile a career-best 200. The West Indian batting caved in without much of a fight, with Paul Reiffel and Shane Warne taking four wickets each. The result was seminal - Australia have held the Frank Worrell Trophy since.

West Indies v England, First Test, 2003-04

The Test was in the balance after the respective first innings, with England scoring 339 in response to the West Indies’ 311 (Devon Smith 108). But beanpole fast bowler Steve Harmison had other ideas, as he demolished the West Indian batting line-up in a single session, the first of the fourth day, with a searing spell of 7/12. The West Indies were embarrassingly shot out for 47, their lowest Test total, and moments later, England were celebrating a thumping ten-wicket win.

West Indies v India, Fourth Test, 2006

After three draws, it all boiled down to the decider, which produced a result in three days. India, on the back of two masterly innings from their captain Rahul Dravid, emerged victorious by 49 runs on an unpredictable pitch to win their first Test series in the Caribbean in 35 years. Jamaican pacer Jerome Taylor starred for the Windies on the first day, taking 5/50 to help bowl India out for 200. Dravid, coming in at a precarious 3/2, held the innings together with a solid 81.

Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh derailed the West Indian reply with a haul of 5/13 in just 4.3 overs, as the score dramatically nosedived from 72/2 to 103 within ten overs. Taylor (4/45) and Corey Collymore (5/48) threatened an Indian implosion in the second dig, but the tireless Dravid stood tall again, this time with 68. A target of 269 was always going to be tough on this surface, and after the fast bowlers’ early strikes, the leg-spin of Anil Kumble (6/78) sealed a hard-fought win.

West Indies v England, First Test, 2008-09

Five years after their infamous 47 all out, the West Indies evened things out by subjecting England to a similar humiliation. Kevin Pietersen’s 97 took England from 94/4 to 318, before Chris Gayle (104) and Ramnaresh Sarwan (107) defied Stuart Broad (5/85) to give the West Indies a 74-run lead by lunch on the fourth day. What followed was mayhem, as Jerome Taylor wowed his home crowd with the most memorable spell of his Test career.

Taylor (5/11) scythed through England’s top order, taking five of the first six wickets to fall in nine breathtaking overs and reducing the score to 26/7. Left-arm spinner Suleiman Benn (4/31) hastened the end, and had it not been for Andrew Flintoff’s 24, England would have had finished with an even lower total than the 51 they tallied. This ultimately turned out to be the decisive match in the five-Test series for the Wisden Trophy, which ended 1-0 in the West Indies’ favour.

West Indies v India, Second Test, 2016

The off-spin of Ravichandran Ashwin (5/52) condemned the West Indies, down 1-0 in the four-match series, to the meagre total of 196 on the opening day. Centuries from Lokesh Rahul (158) and Ajinkya Rahane (108*) further strengthened India’s position, powering them to 500/9. The West Indies were staring down the barrel at 48/4 in their second innings, when rain came to their rescue by wiping out the last two sessions of the fourth day.

On the final day, Roston Chase, who earlier took 5/121 with his off-spin, helped the West Indies script a remarkable escape. Batting at number six, he remained unbeaten on 137, sharing in stands of 93 with Jermaine Blackwood (63), 144 with Shane Dowrich (64) and an unbroken 103 with captain Jason Holder (64*) for the fifth, sixth and seventh wickets respectively. The entire day saw only two wickets in 88 overs, as the West Indies kept frustrating India to finish at 388/6.

 

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Rustom Deboo is a cricket aficionado and freelance writer from Mumbai. He is an ardent devotee of T...

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