From Alec Stewart's famous double to a Brian Lara classic against Australia, we look back at some of Bridgetown's finest moments
West Indies have rarely needed much incentive to raise their game against England, but when on the eve of the 2015 tour they were disparaged by Colin Graves, the incoming chairman of the ECB, as "mediocre", the temptation to ram that jibe straight back where it came from proved overwhelming.
Phil Simmons, their coach, duly pinned the quote to the dressing-room door to provide a constant reminder of their opponents' perceived arrogance, and in batting out the final day of the first Test in Antigua to salvage a creditable draw, West Indies showed from the outset that they were not going down without a fight.
England did, however, regroup to pull off a nine-wicket win in Grenada, and when Alastair Cook, their beleaguered captain, launched the decider with a six-hour 105 - his first Test hundred in almost two years - the stage seemed to have been set for England to close out only their second series win in the Caribbean since 1968.
James Anderson, fresh from becoming England's leading Test wicket-taker, certainly thought so. He was peerless in West Indies' first innings, claiming 6 for 42 to secure a 68-run lead that might have been much, more more but for an idiosyncratic 85 from Jermaine Blackwood that hinted at further upsets to come.
In their second innings, England imploded - for all the bravado from their chairman, this was a frail and unsettled squad, still reeling from their humiliation at the World Cup six weeks earlier, and distinctly unsure of their roles within the team. The top five were duly skittled inside 20 overs as Shannon Gabriel and Jerome Taylor led the line, and it took a brace of hard-hitting 30s from Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes to scrape England to 123 all out, setting a tantalising target of 192.
At 80 for 4, with Shivnarine Chanderpaul bagged for a duck, England believed the match was back in their grasp. But Darren Bravo demonstrated his Test-match pedigree as he dropped anchor for a chase-breaking 82, and his cool example drew hitherto unrecognised discipline from Blackwood, who shelved his natural impetuosity in a crucial stand of 108. Bravo fell with four runs needed, but Blackwood made no mistake, flogging Moeen Ali for the winning boundary over mid-on to finish 47 not out and seal a hugely satisfying win.
In 1994-95, Australia's bruising victory over West Indies had signalled the official end of an era. The Aussies were the new top dogs of world cricket, and when, four years later, they marked their return to the Caribbean by routing their hosts for 51 in the series-opener in Trinidad, the stage was set for humiliation.
Brian Lara, however, had other ideas.
Lara had been under extreme pressure in the build-up to the series. His status as a modern-day great was without question, but since assuming the captaincy from Walsh, his team's morale and results had gone into freefall. A historic maiden Test tour of South Africa had ended in a 5-0 drubbing, and the knives were out for a man whom many felt would serve the team better as a pure run-scorer, freed from the pressures of leadership.
His response was belligerent and captivating - a sparkling 213 turned the second Test in Jamaica on its head after West Indies had lost their first four wickets for 34, but his best was yet to come as the series switched to Barbados, locked at 1-1 and with the mood of the islands shifting like the winds.
Initially it seemed that the moment had been lost, as West Indies' batting folded once again, to 98 for 6 - Lara included - in reply to Australia's hefty 490. But after one of Barbados' own, Sherwin Campbell, had shored up the lower order with a plucky six-hour century, Walsh and Ambrose took their cue to rout Australia's second innings for 146. The target remained an imposing 308, but it was no longer insurmountable.
Lara joined the fray late on day four, after the loss of three wickets for six runs had undermined an encouraging 72-run stand from Campbell and Adrian Griffiths. But on the fifth day, Lara stood supreme, wielding his bat like a guillotine as his score mounted in harness with his adrenalin.
Lara's only real concern was what was happening at the other end. Jimmy Adams provided cool-headed support in a stand of 133, as the requirement was whittled down to 70, but when Glenn McGrath grabbed three quick wickets for 10, Australia were poised for the kill.
Lara, however, kept up his assault, adding 52 with Ambrose, who managed 39 balls of invaluable obduracy, before lacing the winning drive through the covers off Jason Gillespie to cue bedlam in Bridgetown. Walsh, at the other end, had seen off five strokeless deliveries to guard against West Indian heartbreak. It had arguably been the greatest innings of his life as well.
Even for a team used to crushing defeats in the Caribbean, little could have prepared England for their day of reckoning in the third Test in Trinidad. Chasing 194 for a victory that would have kept them alive in the series, they once again ran into that man Curtly Ambrose at his knee-pumping, nostril-flared best. A total of 46 all out in 19.1 overs left Mike Atherton's men shattered and strewn across the outfield during the post-match presentations. At 3-0 down after three, they were staring directly at their second blackwash in three Caribbean tours.
What happened next would have been extraordinary in most contexts, let alone against that sort of a backdrop. Another crushing defeat in a tour match in Grenada confirmed that England's morale was approaching rock-bottom, so when Richie Richardson won the toss in Bridgetown - a venue where West Indies had not lost for 59 years - he had no qualms about asking England to confront their pace demons.
But, from the very outset of the innings, Atherton and Alec Stewart set about transforming the narrative. Ambrose's first spell was seen off without alarm, and when Courtney Walsh was no-balled for three consecutive bouncers, two of which were hooked for four by Stewart, it was clear that England's spirit was more resilient that appearances might have let on.
England's first wicket eventually fell at 172 shortly before tea, when Atherton was caught behind for 85, and West Indies hit back, inevitably, with a trio of scalps for the aggressive Winston Benjamin. Stewart, however, powered on through to his fifth Test century, and first in two years, and though England's first-innings 355 was not the riches they might have anticipated, it was a world away from their Port-of-Spain woes.
West Indies responded with predictable intent through Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes, but when Haynes - on 35 - was forced to retire hurt with a badly cut index finger, England had their opportunity to regroup. Angus Fraser, his tall, probing action extracting every last semblance of seam movement, grabbed two quick wickets in four balls, then a further 4 for 1 in 17 balls after tea, en route to his then career-best figures of 8 for 75.
If England could avoid slip-ups, retribution for Trinidad was in their grasp. Stewart duly obliged with a magnificent 143, making him the first visiting batsman since Sunil Gavaskar in 1970-71 to score twin Test hundreds in the Caribbean. Andy Caddick then applied the coup de grace with five second-innings wickets, as England pulled off a result that counted for little in terms of the series scoreline, but was nevertheless one of the most stunning turnarounds in their history.
This was a pulsating, desperate context, flecked with controversy but decided - in the bitterest of denouements for England's battered batsmen - by a giant among West Indian fast bowlers.
Against every expectation, the tourists had not merely competed but bossed the key moments of the series to date. Under Graham Gooch's hard-bitten leadership, they had won sensationally in Jamaica before being denied, cruelly, by rain in Trinidad. Then, a washout in Guyana had pushed West Indies back to the brink, and left them with two Tests in which to preserve an unbeaten series record that had extended for the best part of a decade.
Their opponents were weary. Gooch had suffered a broken hand in Trinidad that ruled him out of the final matches, and England's most disciplined seamer Fraser had gone lame as well. But Allan Lamb, the stand-in skipper, stepped up with another hundred to keep his side afloat in the first innings, before Rob Bailey's dismissal in the second, erroneously given out caught off the thigh pad, lit the blue touchpaper.
England limped to the close of the fourth day on 15 for 3, their target of 356 beyond reach. But, after a rest day dominated by off-field recriminations, they returned emboldened, and determined to finish the job they had started. Fundamental to their resistance was the dogged, idiosyncratic wicketkeeper, Jack Russell, pushed up to No. 5 as a nightwatchman and charged with digging in for the long haul. With Robin Smith alongside him, the pair stretched England's rearguard into the 70th over
On 55, and after more than five hours of resistance, Russell had no answer to a wicked shooter that smashed into the base of his off stump, and little more than an hour later it was all over. Technically 12.2 overs remained in the match when Ambrose claimed his fifth lbw of the innings for figures of 8 for 45, but with the bad light encroaching, England surely would have been safe within minutes. Instead they decamped to Antigua to be crushed by an innings inside four days, a bruising 2-1 series defeat leaving them little to show for one of the greatest challenges that West Indies had ever faced in their glory years.
Few teams of the 1980s had the talent or tenacity to mount a sustained challenge to the West Indian Mean Machine, but Imran Khan's Pakistanis came closer than anyone to toppling the titans in a monumental tussle in the spring of 1988.
With Imran in full cry as a bone fide allrounder, Javed Miandad nearing the top of his game as a batsman, and Wasim Akram and Abdul Qadir peerless in their fields as left-arm quick and legspinner respectively, Pakistan had a range of weapons to rattle the very best. They duly cantered to a 1-0 series lead with a nine-wicket win in Guyana before clinging on in a thrilling draw in Trinidad a fortnight later. The unofficial World Championship was at stake as the teams converged on Barbados for the decider.
Fittingly, there was a fig leaf between the teams at the halfway stage of the third Test as the big guns traded blows: four wickets for Marshall in the first innings, three apiece for Imran and Wasim in the second, even if West Indies were indebted to the unlikely batting talents of Winston Benjamin at No. 10 as they reduced their deficit to a meagre three runs.
With Marshall steaming in once again, Pakistan had Imran's coolly compiled 43 not out to thank as they recovered from a wobbly 182 for 7 to 262 all out. But that looked like being plenty when, on the fifth morning, West Indies slumped from 154 for 5 to 201 for 8, with Viv Richards, crucially, among the victims, bowled by Wasim for 39.
However, Jeff Dujon, in his 50th Test, refused to be budged, and with Benjamin emboldened by his first-innings batting, West Indies barrelled towards their total - Benjamin in particular seizing the initiative with two flogged sixes off Qadir, followed by the winning boundary to finish 41 not out.
Despite their disappointment at failing to seal a maiden series win in the Caribbean - a feat that would elude them until 2017 - Pakistan were able to take pleasure at their role in one of the most overlooked classics in Test history.
"It was real tit-for-tat, in your face, no-holds-barred cricket," wrote Miandad in his autobiography. "It probably represents some of the best cricket that's ever been played anywhere."
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