Thirty years ago, a furious battle of raw pace was fought under the hot sun of Bournemouth. Arunabha Sengupta looks back at the day that saw Malcolm Marshall of Hampshire take on Joel Garner of Somerset in a contest of unparalleled speed and skill.
It was a sight for the gods, but limited to deities of a very special kind. Zeus or Thor would have enjoyed the exchange of thunderbolts. Vulcan would have revelled as fire scorching the turf, lit by a hurtling red streak. Artemis and Diana would have relished the spirit of the hunt, as batsmen were stalked and torn apart. And Shiva might have stepped gleefully into his dance of destruction.
However, both Vishnu and the Lutheran concept of divine providence would have been shaken to the core. The end of the world has seldom seemed this near on a cricket ground. As stumps rattled under the hot sun of Bournemouth, drum rolls seemed to be announcing Judgement Day.
Fire versus fire
Pace pervaded throughout the eighties, as a menace for the batsmen who kept weaving, swaying and ducking out of the way. But the balance of world cricket was tilted way too heavily in favour of the sunny islands of Caribbean. Fiery missiles singed the wickets wherever the West Indians played – but almost always from one side, the bombardment seldom returned in kind. It was only in the English summer, with a county spread dripping with oodles of talent, that one saw both sides brandishing high quality imported weaponry, shelling each other over three day encounters.
And on a pitch that was dusty and uneven, where seamers found movement and bounce, and the outfield was as quick as the bowling, Joel Garner kept sending his streaks of lightning at the toe and chin of the batsmen of Hampshire, while Malcolm Marshall responded by sprinting in to make the Somerset men hop and hustle.
Garner was at the peak of his phenomenal powers in 1982. However, Marshall had been out of the West Indian side for a couple of years, and this was as good an opportunity as any to prove that he was as good as the rest, if not better.
At the end of the first day on July 31, the match was precariously poised. Put into bat, Hampshire was bowled out for 119, with Garner, virtually unplayable, picking up six for 23. Gordon Greenidge top scored for the hosts with 24. Yes, many West Indian greats plied their trade during the English summers in a world that had not heard of the Indian Premier League (IPL).
Without Viv Richards (he opted out of the match) and Ian Botham (doing national duty against Pakistan), Somerset were soon getting it back as fast as they had dished it out. Marshall bowled frighteningly quick and was well supported by ideal medium-pacers for the conditions, Kevin Emery and Trevor Jesty. When stumps were drawn, the visitors were 130 for seven.
As per the curious schedule, the Sunday was spent in a John Players League encounter between the two sides. The players regrouped on the following morning for what would turn out to be a sensational day of cricket.
July 2, 1982
The last three Somerset wickets put on 64 more, Garner top scoring with an unbeaten 40, which included two straight sixes. The lead of 75 certainly seemed a lot in such a low scoring game.
When Hampshire batted again, Garner - dubbed by skipper Peter Roebuck as the “Long Black Telegraph Pole” - got into the act immediately. Greenidge was dismissed for 20. His partner, John Rice, according to Alan Gibson of The Times, “was painstaking to use a kind word,” and lobbed one to the short-leg for two. Mark Nicholas, according to Gibson again, “batted 87 minutes for two as I am reliably informed though it seemed longer”. Jetsy, who turned out for England in One Day Internationals, played a brave innings of 50, but Garner kept coming at them and blasting them out. The innings folded for 157, with the “Big Bird” picking up five for 57.
That left Somerset with just 82 to win, but Marshall was about to provide a preview of the mayhem that he would wreck for the next decade or so. Roebuck had his stumps knocked out of the ground at nine, and the innings never recovered. Jesty provided excellent support while the Barbados fast bowler charged in like a man possessed. Only one batsman, Nigel Felton, reached double figures, as the ball zipped across the turf, bringing the life and limb of the county professionals into unaccustomed peril.
With the end of the day in sight, wicketkeeper Derek Taylor tried to hook a super-quick delivery, prompted more by survival instincts than calculation, and was caught at fine leg to make it 44 for six. The seventh wicket went down at 55, eighth at 58, and Garner could not repeat his heroics, being ninth out at 60. The half hour extension was opted for another quarter of an hour. With minutes to go, in the 31st over, the 16th of his unchanged spell, Marshall had Colin Dredge snicking to the keeper, and Hampshire won by 10 runs.
Twenty three wickets had fallen on the last day, most of them surrendered to bowling as fast, furious and fantastic as ever seen before or since.
Hampshire 119 (Garner 6-23) and 157 (Jesty 50, Garner 5-57) bt Somerset 194 (Garner 40*, Marshall 3-47) and 72 (Marshall 5-37, Jetsy 4-8)
(Arunabha Sengupta is trained from Indian Statistical Institute as a Statistician. He works as a Process Consultant, but purifies the soul through writing and cricket, often mixing the two into a cleansing cocktail. The author of three novels, he currently resides in the incredibly beautiful, but sadly cricket-ignorant, country of Switzerland. You can know more about him from his author site, his cricket blogs and by following him on Twitter)