Gordon Greenidge cuts during his epic 214 not out in the 2nd Test match against England at Lord’s © Getty Images

On July 3, 1984, England captain David Gower sensed victory over West Indies at Lord’s and declared early on Day 5, setting the visitors a target of 342 runs in only 78 overs. Surely there were only two results possible — a draw or an English win. At least that was the popular belief. But what actually transpired boggles the mind as Gordon Greenidge chose the Mecca of cricket to produce one of the most brutal double hundreds in Tests. Shrikant Shankar revisits that day when West Indies accomplished the unthinkable.

England were 1-0 down in the five-match series and had the rare chance of beating the mighty West Indies at Lord’s in the second Test. England had posted a modest total of 286 after being sent into bat by Clive Lloyd. Graeme Fowler and debutant Chris Broad put together a 101-run opening stand. Broad was dismissed by Malcolm Marshall for 55. Fowler went on to make 106 before being sent back into the dressing room by Eldine Baptiste. Marshall had figures of six for 85.

Ian Botham’s eight for 103 bowled out West Indies for 245 as England took a first innings lead of 41 runs. England were at 300 for nine early on Day 5 when captain David Gower felt that it was the opportune moment to declare and go for an unlikely win. It was a brave decision. England were going in for the kill. Most sides would have settled for a draw looking at a target of 342 in 78 overs on a fifth day pitch. But this was not just any side; this was West Indies in their pomp. They felt England had given them a chance to win the match. That attitude is what made them a champion side.

Greenidge’s masterclass

Gordon Greenidge limped throughout the innings, which makes the knock even more special. Gower had kept a very aggressive field for Greenidge — three slips, two gullies and a forward short-leg. The Barbadian powerhouse got off the mark with a textbook leg glance of the bowling of Bob Willis and later cracked a delightful square-cut towards the point boundary.

Then followed a mix-up as Desmond Haynes knocked a Derek Pringle delivery towards the leg side and set off for a single. Greenidge sent him back, but it was too late as Allan Lamb, fielding at square-leg, engineered a run-out with a direct hit. But that did not deter Greenidge as he unleashed a couple of cracking square-cuts and brought up his half-century with two to third-man.

A master of the square-cut and the pull, Greenidge also scored heavily in front of the wicket. The crowd at Lord’s saw some brilliant strokes through covers and midwicket. One particular cover drive on the up to a swinging ball from Neil Foster was exquisite. Greenidge got to his century in 135 deliveries with that trademark cut. He exulted by throwing both his hands in the air to acknowledge the applause.

Greenidge knew the job was only half done.  At the other end Larry Gomes gave him the perfect support.
Over pitched deliveries and short deliveries were being swatted away with ridiculous ease. The left-handed Gomes got to his half-century with an on-drive off the bowling of off-spinner Geoff Miller. Greenidge then lofted a Botham delivery over the head of the square-leg fielder for a six.

Greenidge then got to his 150 off just 189 deliveries with another cut in front of square on the off side. He then dispatched Pringle with utter disdain for two fours — one towards wide long-on and the second right past the bowler. The umpire had to quickly get out of the way as the ball sped straight down the ground.

Foster dug one in short, but Greenidge’s swivel on the back foot was followed by that legendary hook as the ball sailed over the fine-leg fielder for another six. That shot hoisted his double-centuryin only 233 deliveries. The reality of the situation was clear and when only two runs were required and Botham decided to bowl gentle off-breaks while casting his eyes on the field as the crowd was raring to enter the ground. When Gomes hit the winning runs to cover point, it was sheer pandemonium. As the crowd ran inside the field, the players made a frantic dash to the pavilion.

West Indies had won the match by nine wickets in 66.1 overs, something few would have envisioned just a few hours back when Gower had declared. The England captain was heavily criticised for his declaration, but there was little he could do. The England bowlers failed to take a single wicket for themselves. There was hardly anything anyone could have done. Gower, who became only the second England captain since Norman Yardley in 1948 to declare in the second innings and lose, deemed that it was a shame to lose the match.

Greenidge finished unbeaten on 214 from 242 deliveries with 29 fours and two sixes. Before that he had only got 144 runs from his previous eight innings in England. Gomes added 92 runs from 140 deliveries with 13 fours. Haynes’ wicket was the first second innings wicket lost by West Indies in seven Test matches. The result still remains as the highest successful run-chase at Lord’s.

Wisden said, “It was Greenidge’s day, the innings of his life and his ruthless batting probably made the bowling look worse than it was.”

Chris Broad recalled saying, “As far as the result was concerned it was a disaster ; we lost a game we should have won… Things did not go too badly for the first four days, just on the last day things fell apart — or rather Greenidge pulled a big one out the bag. That innings taught me a bit about being a Test match opener.”

Wisden Cricket Monthly’s, Scyld Berry had written, “Greenidge made it look like a Sunday League romp at Southampton”.

West Indies went onto win the remaining three matches. They had completed a 5-0 whitewash and thus the first part of the “Blackwash”. This still remains as the only ever five-match whitewash inflicted on the home team by a visiting. Greenidge was the Man-of-the-Series. Including all the five results against England, West Indies had won eight Tests in-a-row. They would go on to win the next three Tests as well en route to setting a world record of 11 wins on the trot. The record would be surpassed many years later by Steve Waugh’s Australia. England then toured the Caribbean for the 1985-86 series. West Indies again won the five-match Test series 5-0 and hence completing the “Blackwash”.

It was innings like the one Greenidge played at Lord’s that made West Indies dominant. The mastery and brilliance of the innings from Gordon Greenidge still lives in the memory on the few lucky ones who witnessed it.

Brief scores:

England 286 (Graeme Fowler 106, Chris Broad 55; Malcolm Marshall 6 for 85) and 300 for 9 decl. (Allan Lamb 110, Ian Botham 81; Milton Small 3 for 40, Joel Garner 3 for 91) lost to West Indies 245 (Vivian Richards 72; Ian Botham 8 for 103) and 344 for 1 (Gordon Greenidge 214*, Larry Gomes 92*) by 9 wickets.

(Shrikant Shankar previously worked with Mobile ESPN, where he did audio commentary for many matches involving India, Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20. He has also written many articles involving other sports for You can follow him on Twitter @Shrikant_23)