Malcom Marshall 1
Not only did Malcolm Marshall take nine wickets in the Test, he also made vital contributions with the bat © Getty Images

April 27, 1988. A breathtaking Test series came to an end when the West Indian late order, aided by some questionable umpiring, clinched a close victory on a fascinating final day at Barbados. Arunabha Sengupta looks back at the final Test of one of the most remarkable contests of all time.

Of blood and tears

Two undisputed greats of the game. Two iconic captains. A tale of blood and tears.  Epic struggle for supremacy.

There were actual blood and tears. One superstar captain took off his shoes to find the socks  rendered red with blood, they would not come off because of the clots. The other, a man known for his air of arrogant disdain on the field, shed tears of relief and joy when it all ended.

The end witnessed frayed tempers and dubious decisions. To add spice to the mix, a punch was thrown. But, nevertheless it was a titanic tussle, perhaps the best Test series of the 1980s.

The victory at Georgetown and the spine-chilling draw at Port-of-Spain had seen Pakistan going into the final Test  with the rare distinction of leading the West Indies 1-0. They were on the verge of what had been impossible for 15 years — beating West Indies at home.

Ian Chappell‘s Australians had triumphed 2-0 in 1973. That was the last time a visiting side had won a series in the islands. Mike Denness and his men had drawn 1-1 in 1974. That had been the last time any touring team had shared the rubber. West Indies had been victorious in the eight series that had followed over 14 years.

Imran Khan, back from retirement, was on the brink of creating history. The final frontier was there for the taking. But before that they had to get through a barrier of grass.

Fiery wicket and broken bones

With the stronghold of a decade and a half under threat, the groundsmen went to work. The sight that greeted the Pakistanis when they reached Kensington Oval, Bridgetown, was a green-top.

The visitors had to rearrange their line up. Out went the brave young Ijaz Ahmed and the pugnacious Ijaz Faqih, two men who had batted out of their skins in the effort to draw the previous Test. Imran understandably opted for pace in the form of Saleem Jaffar — although in the end the left-armer bowled just 12 of the 161 overs sent down by Pakistan. The other replacement, preferring Aamer Malik for Ijaz Ahmed, was perhaps due to the ability of the former to bowl a few overs of medium pace. It turned out to be a stroke of incredible luck, though not in the way intended. Aamer, a keeper of merit, ended up deputising for the injured Saleem Yousuf through the match.

It was Viv Richards who won the flip of the coin. One look at the surface, and he unleashed his fierce fast bowlers on the visitors. Malcolm Marshall tore in and greeted Rameez Raja with a bouncer that zipped past his head. To underline his intentions, Marshall followed it up with another.

Undeterred, Rameez counterattacked, going for his strokes with plenty of pluck.  Young Curtly Ambrose was running in hard as well, but the Pakistani opener hooked and drove for boundaries. When Mudassar Nazar’s adhesive defence was breached by an Ambrose ripper the score stood at 46.

The approach of Rameez and Shoaib Mohammad made it abundantly clear that Pakistan was in no mood to show deference to the hostile tactics. The barrage of fiery bowling was carried on by Winston Benjamin and Courtney Walsh, but the batsmen remained positive. By lunch, the score was into the 90s, for the loss of one single wicket. The early juice of the green wicket seemed to have been neutralised. This was a side that believed that they could win.

However, perhaps they were a bit too confident. Rameez played one shot too many, slashing Benjamin on resumption and finding gully. The West Indian bowlers put in a disciplined effort after lunch. The abnormal number of no-balls, a feature of the two previous Tests, was noticeably scarce. Marshall ran in, with searing pace, and induced a nick off Javed Miandad, the pillar of Pakistan batting in the series. A while later he brought one back to breach the defence of Saleem Malik.

Shoaib was playing the role of the plinth of the innings, having eased his way to a thoughtful, well-paced half century. But on the stroke of tea, he played a rash stroke off Ambrose. The advantage was back with the West Indians at 186 for 5.

There was a determined effort at consolidation by Aamer Malik and Imran, both eschewing risks and playing the ball according to merit. The 200 was reached, and slow and steady progress was made. Pakistan batted deep and a formidable total was still on the cards. At this juncture Benjamin struck, twice, removing both the batsmen within a space of three runs. The score read 217 for 7, and West Indies were on top.

And now followed perhaps the most scintillating period of the game, a rollicking partnership between Saleem Yousuf and Wasim Akram.

Throughout the series Yousuf had been a thorn in the fast bowling flesh of the Caribbean attack. He had been one of the most difficult batsmen to budge. However, now he turned into the destroyer mode.  The fast bowlers bounced and he kept hooking fearlessly. At the other end, young Akram was giving the ball a resounding wallop.

The two put on fifty in a furious period of five overs, and it included three sixes, two struck by Yousuf and one by Akram. The stand had progressed to 67 in less than an hour and the battery of West Indian bowlers were looking rather dazed when the tragedy occurred.

Marshall ran in and bounced yet again, Yousuf swished his bat in another fierce hook shot, the ball flew off the edge of the bat and struck him on his face. Yousuf’s cameo, amounting to a 26-ball 32, had promised a lot more, but he had to go off, a horrid sight of streaming blood. The nose was fractured in two places. It turned out to be a blessing to have Aamer Malik in the side.

Akram and Abdul Qadir got a few useful runs before Marshall dismissed both. Pakistan’s first innings came to an end with the day, the total of 309 leaving the game in balance.

Hard-earned runs and flurries of wickets

The following morning, Imran and Akram made the ball hasten through on the green pitch. The former, on the wrong side of 35, was not as quick as he had once been, but still got plenty of nip. And he was in the midst of supreme bowling form. His protégé, on the other hand, sprinted in and hurled them down as fast as the West Indians.

Imran and Akram did not have the luxury of quality back-up bowlers, the depth that had made the West Indians so lethal over the years. However, both bowled long and hard, relying more on Qadir’s guile and Mudassar’s experience to back them up rather than Jaffar’s rather uninspired offerings.

Imran mixed his away swingers and in-cutters, trapping Greenidge leg-before at 18. Three runs later, Akram slanted one across Richie Richardson, getting his outside edge, Aamer behind the stumps throwing up the catch.

Desmond Haynes, going through a nightmarish series, plodded along, scratching for runs. Young Carl Hooper, at the other end, played fluently, negotiating the spearheads and targeting the others. The hundred was brought up in the second session for the loss of two wickets when Akram moved one off the wicket to bowl Hooper.

As Haynes continued to graft along his search for form, Richards came in to unfurl his usual majestic array of strokes. The green was scorched by blazing trails of red, as he brought up his half-century off just 51 balls. In the process, he completed 7,000 runs in Test cricket.

Haynes, on the other hand, did not look the least bit comfortable, even after several hours at the wicket. But the score was nearing 200 with just three wickets to show for the Pakistani effort. The advantage was steadily shifting to the home side.

And then came a sudden slide. It was started by Mudassar, the man with the golden arm, in one of his last crucial performances with the ball. Haynes, having batted close to five hours for his 48, edged to the keeper. And with his very next ball he had Gus Logie caught in the slips.

Amidst all this confusion, Jeff Dujon, centurion of the previous Test, was run out. Finally, the hard-working Akram got his just reward when he ended the destructive innings of Richards — Mudassar in the thick of things again, holding on to the catch. From 198 for 3 the hosts had collapsed to 201 for 7. And as the shadows lengthened and the clock ticked towards the end of the day, Imran ran in and squeezed his late swing past the bat of Ambrose to trap him leg-before. Stumps were drawn with West Indies on 226 for 8, the advantage back with Pakistan.

However, the following morning the Caribbean tail wagged. Marshall struck the ball fiercely and Benjamin, in what would not be the last time in the game, gave him entertaining company. They put on 58 at the brisk rate of a run a minute, Marshall pummelling 6 fours and a six in his 48 before being caught at the wicket off Imran. Benjamin continued to make merry in company of Walsh, the latter’s forays with the bat not yet as ridiculous as they would become some years down the line. Ultimately it took a run out to end the innings and West Indies trailed by just three runs.

The Pakistan captain, bowling 25 overs in spite of an infected toe, had picked up three more wickets, bringing his tally in the series to 23. His socks were soaked in blood.

Guts and Glory

For much of the rest of the day, it looked as if Pakistan were about to work their way to a considerably advantageous position. Batting in the first two sessions had proved rewarding so far in the match, and an early loss of Rameez notwithstanding, Mudassar and Shoaib played with composure and calm, extending the lead beyond 100.

The fast bowlers had been blunted; Richards forced to turn to Hooper for his off-cutters. And just as it had been in the first innings, another blossoming Pakistan partnership was cut short by a poor stroke. Mudassar steered Hooper straight to Greenidge.

Miandad joined Shoaib and the next hour and a bit saw further consolidation. A little after tea, Pakistan were past 150, both the batsmen looking solid at the wicket. And having negotiated the fast bowlers with plenty of panache and aplomb, Shoaib hit an innocuous off-break back to Richards.

As on the first two days, wickets fell in a flurry in the final session. Miandad, a hundred apiece in the first two Tests, nicked Marshall at 34. The great fast bowler got Aamer Malik to fend and Logie flung himself to his left to bring off a spectacular one handed catch at short-leg. Marshall softened up Saleem Malik too, with a couple of hair-scraping bouncers, before Benjamin trapped him leg before. The three wickets had fallen in the space of four runs. Pakistan ended the day tottering on 177 for 6, the captain still at the crease.

There followed a pensive day of rest.  No one felt quite at ease as the match hovered on a knife’s edge. Imran, his toe under serious medication, weighed the permutations and combinations. One thing was clear. He himself had to stay at the crease as long as possible, the toe notwithstanding.

The morning after, Marshall sprinted in and Akram was late in bringing his bat down on a straight one. At 182 for 7, one saw the bandaged form of Saleem Yousuf bravely making his way to the wicket. Nose fractured in two places, this sterling character braced himself to face the terrifying pace of Marshall.

He edged the first ball, it flew to first slip, and of all people the great Vivian Richards put him down. This initial bit of luck running his way, Yousuf now refused to budge. It was not easy. The stint at the wicket made him dizzy. Saleem Malik appeared as the runner. But he batted on.

At the other end, Imran knew that his feet were about to give up on him. The splendid bowling in the series was now a thing of the past. He would be lucky to send down a few overs. And so, he was keen to come good with the bat, make them chase as many as possible. For an hour and 20 minutes, the two defended dourly. As many as 52 runs were added, worth their weight in the most glittering of gold. Yousuf even found the boundary four times. And then he edged Benjamin, and this time Richards made no mistake. The bravest of cricketing warriors tottered back for 28 runs of immense character.

Qadir and Jaffar did not manage too many between themselves, but did survive long enough to ensure another hour’s company for their captain. It resulted in 85 runs in the morning, before Ambrose ended it all by leaving Jaffar’s stumps spread-eagled. Imran remained unbeaten on 43, and West Indies needed a tricky 266 to win. Marshall had picked up 5, making it 9 for the match.

Wasim 1
The series catapulted Wasim Akram to the level of greatness; he would never look back from there © Getty Images

Cut to the chase

Imran, face twisted in grimace, blood seeping out with each step, tried his hardest to send down a few overs. But the pain was too acute. That spectacular run-up was compromised, the length and direction were not quite there, he was taken for runs. He soon knew he had to depend on his mates to win this for him.

Akram stepped up magnificently. The pace at which he came off the pitch unsettled Greenidge and dismissed Haynes. Richardson walked out to play with typical Caribbean flourish, counter-attacking with gleeful abandon. The score progressed fast, almost at a run a minute. Again batting was much easier in the first two sessions.

With Imran’s bowling out of the equation, he fell back on Akram and Qadir to do the bulk of the work. The remaining bowlers were rather ordinary Jaffer rendered to a bundle of nerves after subjected to planned attack by the canny batsmen. However, there was one stroke of luck when the shaky pace of the young left-armer accounted for Greenidge. Richardson was joined by the steadily maturing Hooper and the two took the score past 100.

Once again things started happening after tea, but this time it had little to do with change of conditions. Hooper fell to a fatal misjudgement of a run. Ten runs later, Richardson stepped out to counter Qadir’s spin, was beaten in flight and Aamer Malik effected his first stumping as substitute keeper. At 128 for 4, Pakistan was back in the game.

Logie, never too comfortable against top-class spin, struggled against Qadir for nearly half an hour before failing to read a googly. Captain Richards saw through till the end of the day in the company of the towering night-watchman Ambrose.

The score stood at 155 for 4, and it was still anybody’s game.

After a tense night the players reassembled for the final day of the nerve-racking series. The situation was fraught with anxiety. Both sides knew that a small ten-minute period could prove decisive. No one was ready to surrender an inch.

And almost as soon as the day started, Akram got one to cock up, forcing a hurried heave from Ambrose. Jaffar held the catch. It was five down for 159.

Dujon and Richards had struck centuries in the previous Test to pull West Indies from the brink of defeat to the tottering edge of victory. This was the last recognised pair Pakistan had to get through. Dujon put his head down, looking a nervous wreck. Even Richards seemed to have sacrificed his debonair style in favour of circumspection. There was simply too much at stake.

The score inched along slowly, the West Indian captain waiting for the loose balls. And then young Akram, an intoxicating cocktail of talent and zest, broke through the great man’s defence.   It was 180 for 7. The ecstatic Pakistanis converged in unbridled celebration.

There was still work to be done. Marshall could be dangerous with the bat. Dujon was still there.  Akram had his tail up, was coming in with extreme pace. Qadir plugged one end, full of infinite variation.

The leg-spinner ran in, with his curious contortions, his springing steps, his characteristic release, his bizarre follow through. This time it was a flipper that struck Marshall on his back-foot. Up went the fielders again, in unison. Umpire Archer remained unmoved. Qadir’s face showed enormous frustration. At the end of the over he trudged back to the square leg boundary. According to his later comments, the chants he heard were “Paki cheats, Paki cheats.”

The score inched past 200. In ran Akram, bowling full, fast, zipping the ball back into the batsman. It struck Marshall on the pad, his feet frozen on the crease. The Pakistanis went up yet again, the appeal split the air. This time the finger went up. 207 for 8. There remained 59 to get. Just two wickets.

It was a blisteringly hot day. The sun beat down on the fielders, intensifying the heat of the game.  The fielders kept taking unofficial breaks for drinks and refreshments. The umpires intervened.

At the wicket, Dujon was pushing and prodding, managing to survive by luck, chance and designs of fate and the umpires. Benjamin, having played some crucial knocks in the series, had instructions of giving the strike to the wicketkeeper. But, with the Jamaican struggling to middle the balls, he decided to take the initiative himself. Qadir flighted it, the Antiguan swung hard and high. It landed among the ecstatic crowd.

The leg-spinner bowled again, Dujon came forward, the ball popped to silly-point, after a rather telltale sound signifying a healthy nick. Qadir appealed, vociferous, pleading. The Pakistanis were convinced. The batsman did not budge. Neither did the umpire’s arm. David Archer shook his head again. Later even Benjamin admitted Dujon was lucky with that decision.

Qadir walked back to the square-leg boundary at the end of the over. The spectators, thoroughly partisan, continued to pass comments that did not really amount to eulogies for Pakistan.

As Benjamin struck the ball cleanly, Dujon continued to struggle. Akram kept beating him, without getting the vital edge. He shaved the timber twice without hitting it. But, at the other end runs were being added. In a desperate final throw of the dice, Imran limped back to his run up.

The ball seared in, struck Benjamin on his pads, it was as adjacent as it gets. No, said the umpire. The Pakistanis emitted a synchronised groan. Till date most of the tourists who participated in the game maintain that they would have pulled it off had the umpires not turned patriotic in these final stages.

Qadir was there again, approaching with his curious run. And this time there was reaction from the umpire. A full-throated ‘No’ and an extended arm. Qadir looked puzzled, confused. This happened again, and then again. Benjamin played a couple of slogs into the unpatrolled regions of the outfield. Vital runs were added. The batters were getting closer and closer.

The leg-spinner fumed as he walked to the square-leg boundary. The same chant was heard behind him. The same voice taunted.

Qadir could take it no more. He leapt across the advertising boards and into the crowd, zeroing in on the heckler. His fist flew out, the man was hit. Others intervened and Qadir was persuaded to return to the field of play. But the ugliness had taken place. It would take a hefty fine and an expensive out of court settlement for the Pakistani leg-spinner to fly out of Barbados.

De-codifying the sequence

In the meantime, Dujon and Benjamin were eating away at the remaining runs. The latter slammed another six.

In an interview given to ESPNCricinfo, Benjamin later said, “I heard the ‘keeper repeatedly calling out to Qadir: ‘Come on, leg-break, googly, flipper.’ So I started repeating it to myself, in that order… Maybe if Qadir had changed his sequence, I would have ended up looking like a clown. Luckily, I emerged the winner.”

And so he did. He managed to strike four fours and two sixes in his match-winning knock of unbeaten 40. From the chants of Aamer Malik, he had worked out that it would be a googly. He hit it straight down the ground, watched it speed across the outfield into the fence, and ran down to embrace Dujon.

The Pakistanis had come close, extremely close to beating the mighty West Indians in their backyard. But, they had been stopped. By Benjamin and some questionable umpiring.

The victorious batsmen entered the dressing-room to find the great Viv Richards in tears of relief and joy. There was simply way too much at stake.

A great, great series had come to an end. The honours had been shared. The memories had been permanently etched. The pages of cricket had been filled with some of the most remarkable script. Legends had been made, some sublime reputations had been indelibly reinforced.

In his comeback series after retirement, Imran had not managed to conquer the final frontier, but he walked up to receive the Man of the Series award. The smile was strained — almost a grimace with each step rendered painful by the infected toe. That smile would have perhaps dazzled the world if his side had pulled it off during that gruelling final day.

Brief Scores:

Pakistan 309 (Rameez Raja 54, Shoaib Mohammad 54, Wasim Akram 38; Malcolm Marshall  4 for 79) and 262 (Mudassar Nazar 41, Shoaib Mohammad 64, Imran Khan 43*; Malcolm Marshall 5 for 65) lost to West Indies 306 (Desmond Haynes 48, Carl Hooper 54, Viv Richards 67, Malcolm Marshall 48) and 268 for 8 (Richie Richardson 64, Viv Richards 39, Winston Benjamin 40*, Wasim Akram 4 for 73)  by 2 wickets

Man of the Match: Malcolm Marshall.

Man of the Series: Imran Khan.

(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)