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The best of Seymour Nurse


Seymour_Nurse_West_Indies_CricketSeymour Nurse, who passed away on May 6 at the age of 85, was one of the finest batsmen to have emerged from Barbados. A powerful middle-order batsman, Nurse made 29 appearances for the West Indies in a Test career that lasted nine years, scoring 2,523 runs at a commendable average of 47.60 with six hundreds and ten fifties. He scored 70 on Test debut against England at Kingston in 1959-60, but it was only in 1964-65 that he became a regular fixture in the eleven.

Here is a look back, in tribute, at some of Nurse’s best batting performances in Test cricket.

201 v Australia, Fourth Test, Bridgetown, 1964-65

This was the first time that Nurse played a Test at his home ground, the Kensington Oval. The West Indies held an unassailable 2-0 lead in the five-match series, but Australia still had a chance to draw the rubber and retain the Frank Worrell Trophy. The visitors rode on a monumental opening stand of 382 between Bill Lawry (210) and captain Bob Simpson (201) to rack up an imposing 650/6, and then had the West Indies at 99/2 when Nurse walked out to bat.

With Rohan Kanhai (129) for company, Nurse built towards his first Test century. The duo added 200 for the fourth wicket, at which point Conrad Hunte, who had earlier retired hurt, returned. Nurse put on a further 146 for the fifth wicket with Hunte, and had the satisfaction of notching a double hundred in front of his home crowd. His 201, which included 30 fours and took 382 minutes, saw to it that the hosts reached 573, thus confirming the safety of a draw.

93 v England, Third Test, Trent Bridge, 1966

With England desperate to draw level in order to keep their hopes of winning the Wisden Trophy alive, the West Indies could not afford to give them a sniff. Nurse arrived at the crease with his team wobbling at 80/3, but the situation brought the best out of him as he dominated a fourth-wicket partnership of 60 with opener Peter Lashley to neutralise England’s early advantage. He proceeded to strike 11 fours in a knock of 93 from 142 balls, shepherding the West Indies to 235.

This crucial innings was described by Wisden as “a fine display on a fast true pitch which encouraged the fast bowlers”. Despite being reduced to 13/3, England managed to take a first-innings lead of 90. However, a much-improved collective batting effort saw the West Indies amass 482/5 in the second attempt, with Basil Butcher’s 209 being the cornerstone. Nurse contributed again, this time with 53. Left to chase a steep 383, England were beaten by 139 runs.

137 v England, Fourth Test, Headingley, 1966

Though he missed out on a hundred at Trent Bridge, Nurse made amends in the next Test at Headingley, playing a key role in setting up a series-clinching win for the West Indies. Nurse was joined by his captain Garfield Sobers at 154/4, after which the pair extinguished English dreams with a fifth-wicket stand worth 265. If Sobers, who creamed 174 in 260 balls, was the aggressor, Nurse was the anchor, constructing a 323-ball 137 in 341 minutes, with 14 fours and two sixes.

Nurse was eighth out at 489, soon after which Sobers declared at 500/9. England folded for 240 and 205, with Sobers collecting eight wickets across both innings. The final margin of the series read 3-1 in the West Indies’ favour, following England’s consolatory win in the final Test at The Oval. Nurse finished the series with a tally of 501 runs at 62.62, second only to that of Sobers (722 at 103.14), and was deservedly named one of the Cricketers of the Year by Wisden in 1967.

95 and 168 v New Zealand, First Test, Auckland, 1968-69

During the preceding Australian tour, Nurse had conveyed to the team his decision of retiring from Test cricket. Thus, the three-Test series in New Zealand was his final outing for the West Indies. Intent to bow out on a high, he scored 95 in the first innings of the opening Test at Eden Park, batting for a little over three and a half hours in the course of a second-wicket stand of 172 with Joey Carew (109) that gave the West Indies a solid platform in reply to New Zealand’s 323.

However, Nurse’s dismissal led to a capitulation from 197/1 to 276 all out, handing New Zealand a lead of 47. New Zealand declared their second innings at 297/8 early on the final (fourth) morning, thereby setting the West Indies a challenging target of 345. As was the case in the first innings, Nurse batted at number three, coming in at 50/1 at the fall of Roy Fredericks’ wicket. He raised 72 runs for the second wicket with Carew, before the latter was out for 38.

With the score now 122/2, Nurse found ideal support from Butcher (78*). Their third-wicket stand left New Zealand clueless, as they put on 174 to completely turn the tide towards the West Indies. Nurse went on to score a sparkling 168 in 215 minutes, studded with 22 fours and two sixes, and by the time he was out, the visitors needed only 49 more to win. Nurse’s fantastic showing led to a five-wicket win for the West Indies – at the time their highest successful chase.

258 v New Zealand, Third Test, Christchurch, 1968-69

Nurse confirmed before the start of this final Test of the series, which was locked at 1-1, that it would be his farewell appearance for the West Indies. He made the occasion memorable by sending New Zealand’s fielders on a leather hunt, as he walked out to bat at 16/1 and was eighth out at 413. In between, he batted for a little close to eight hours for a delightful 258 – not only his highest Test score, but also his highest first-class score – that featured 34 fours, besides a six.

Once again, Nurse thrived with Carew (91) at the other end, as the pair added 231 for the second wicket. New Zealand responded to the West Indies’ 417 with only 217, but showed fight in reaching 367/6 while following on to draw the match. Since the West Indies did not bat again, Nurse’s 258 became the highest score by a batsman in his last Test innings, a record that stands as of today. He thus ended up with a staggering tally of 558 runs at 111.60 in his last Test series.

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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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