When Malcolm Marshall played the one-armed bandit
Malcolm Marshall… defied pain and doctor’s orders to come out and bat with his left-hand in plaster to help Larry Gomes get his hundred, and then register career-best figures of 26-9-53-7 to mastermind West Indies’s victory © Getty Images
July 14, 1984. Malcolm Marshall came out with left hand in plaster and batted one handed to help Larry Gomes get to his hundred. Marshall then came back to bowl England out with seven second innings wickets. Arunabha Sengupta remembers the day at Headingley when the Barbados fast bowler defied pain and doctor’s orders to perform his sterling act.
Third day at Headlingley. Larry Gomes did a double take. He had resigned himself to walk back to the pavilion, unbeaten on 96. He had pushed Bob Willis past the vacant mid-on and had called for two. At the other end, the giant hulking form of Joel Garner had made the cardinal mistake of looking at the ball over his shoulder when running down the wicket. The huge strides of those gigantic legs had not been able to carry him fast enough to beat the throw.
West Indies had been nine down for 290. The unflappable Gomes had done his utmost to push the lead to 20, by virtue of an 80-run eighth wicket association with the swashbuckling Michael Holding. The Jamaican fast bowler had raced away to 59 from 55 balls with five sixes, particularly severe on Willis.
However, now, the left-hander from Trinidad was stranded four short of a highly deserved century. Malcolm Marshall was indisposed, having broken his thumb in two different places trying to field a stroke from Chris Broad on the first morning. He had gone off the field and been advised not to play cricket for at least ten days. It was assumed that the innings had come to an end.
Yet, as Gomes turned towards the Headingley pavilion, his eyes fell on the Barbados bowler running down the steps, the left arm in plaster, an amused smile on his face, and reverent applause on his back.
Marshall cheerfully walked to the non-striker’s end as Willis ran in to bowl again. Gomes pushed the ball on the on-side and charged down the pitch. Marshall responded and ran hard. Derek Pringle could not pick it up cleanly in the deep and the batsmen were back for two.
The field was brought up for the next ball and Gomes, for the first time in the innings, hit it in the air. It went down the ground and past the bowler to bring up his hundred. Marshall’s face broke into a delightful smile.
He was almost doubled up when the next over started, not in pain but in laughter. Holding the bat in his right hand, he had swung at an outswinger from Paul Allott and had missed. And more than anyone else, he himself had seen the funny side of it.
Then there was the memorable moment when Allot pitched short and Marshall opened the face of the bat, one handed, and steered it past gully for four. Even the Yorkshiremen in the stands broke into applause.
The miracle did not last long. Soon, Marshall opened the face of the bat again and it flew off the edge. Ian Botham, flinging himself to his left, brought off a neat catch in the slips. Marshall walked back, with just four on the board appended by truckloads of admiration. Gomes remained unbeaten on 104. The West Indian lead was 32.
That was not the end of the Marshall story for the match. He was back on the field as the English second innings commenced, taking the new ball from the Kirkstall Lane End. A pink strapping on his white plaster was displayed like decoration. There was no transfer of the ball from the left to the right at the top of his run up. Whatever grip he wanted had to be fixed with that solitary hand. Yet, he did charge in, his angular run up as hostile as ever and proceeded to bowl with pace like fire.
The man whose stroke had broken his thumb went first. A ball reared up nastily and Broad could only fend it. At backward square leg Eldine Baptiste held the catch. At the other end Garner made quick work of debutant Paul Terry. England were precariously placed at 13 for two. Already two down in the series, the series looked all but lost.
The two left handers, Graeme Fowler and captain David Gower, steadied the ship. There were some excellent and elegant strokes, played mostly square, on both sides of the wicket. England soon wiped the deficit and started looking strong. By tea, the score was 85 for two, with both batsmen looking set on 37.
It was spin which got the breakthrough. Roger Harper hopped, leaped and turned the ball just enough to get the edge of the graceful Gower willow. It was 104 for three. And Marshall was back at the Kirkstall End.
And soon, the fairy-tale started. Fowler had just completed a fighting fifty when a ball cocked up at him. The surprised batsman could only push back and Marshall held the return catch with his only operational hand. By now he had made runs, taken wickets and held a catch with one good hand.
A run later, a ball nipped sharply back at first innings centurion Allan Lamb. It struck him on the pads on the crease, and the finger went up. From 107 for five, Botham and wicketkeeper Paul Downton put their heads down to bat for stumps. But just before close of play, a bouncy leg cutter from Garner got the edge off the bat of his Somerset teammate. The legendary England allrounder departed and the home team ended the day at a disastrous135 for six.
When Peter West of BBC got hold of Marshall at the end of the day, the fast bowler remarked that in all fair honesty he had not expected to play. “But, with Larry close to his hundred I thought I would give it a go.”
The Sunday was spent in pain, for both Marshall and England, for contrasting reasons. And when Monday dawned, the fast bowler demonstrated the canny side of his bowling. The pace was cut down, and the ball swung prodigiously. Nick Cook snicked to first slip. Pringle and Allott found the pitched up in-swingers too hot to handle. And finally he sent one searing that cut through Downton and took the inside edge on the way to Jeff Dujon behind the stumps.
The England innings ended at 159. Marshall walked back with what were then his career best figures of 26-9-53-7. The bowler, smiling in ecstasy through the excruciating pain, walked back to an ovation of unadulterated admiration and awe.
West Indies needed 128 to win, and the celebrated opening duo of Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes took them to the brink with a 106 run partnership. And Viv Richards, the jaw chomping down on the gum, settled the issue with an18-ball 22. West Indies were up 3-0 and on their way to the first of a barrage of blackwashes.
England 270 (Allan Lamb 100, Ian Botham 45; Michael Holding 4 for 70) and 159 (Graeme Fowler 50, David Gower 43; Malcolm Marshall 7 for 53) lost to West Indies 302 (Larry Gomes 104*, Clive Lloyd 48, Michael Holding 59; Paul Allott 6 for 61) and 131 for 2 (Gordon Greenidge 49, Desmond Haynes 43) by 8 wickets.
(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)