West Indies in England 1980Gareth Bland |
The second visit of a Clive Lloyd led West Indian team to English shores in 1980 is perhaps not as well remembered as the previous tour in 1976, or, indeed, as the subsequent “Blackwash” tour in 1984. It was, however, an important tour in the context of West Indies’ assent to their status as the global cricketing superpower. In a summer recalled largely for its dank, dark weather with the English climate thwarting the tourists every bit as much as English obduracy, together with the slow over rate of the West Indian quicks, 1980 has much less of the Murder in The Sun quality of Lloyd’s other two tours as leader. Meteorological images remind us that had it not been for the famed English summer weather in 1980, England would undoubtedly have suffered a defeat almost as great as that endured four years later against Lloyd’s tourists.
The West Indies were a team recently catapulted from their Australian Channel 9 World Series Cricket niche audience, newly crowned 1979 world champions in the limited overs format and were also de facto wearers of the crown at Test level, having defeated Greg Chappell’s Australians down under in an absorbing series. Lloyd’s team had come out conclusively on top in a battle between the teams that formed the mainstay of the Packer jamboree. With WSC disbanded questions still hovered over the West Indians, however. Following the clash with Chappells’ Australians, the West Indians moved on to New Zealand for a short three Test series in early 1980. In what was famously the only blemish on their Test record until losing to Mark Taylor’s Australians in 1995, the second half of their Antipodean voyage was a miserable affair and not simply due to their 1-0 series reverse. Seven years before the experiment with neutral umpiring began, it is perhaps difficult now to imagine a system whereby umpires were selected from a pool approved by the home team’s governing body. However, this being the case it resulted in a sense of grievance in the West Indian team responsible for some of the most iconic images of the Lloyd era. The photograph of Michael Holding’s graceful kicking out of two of John Parker’s three stumps, while the batsmen passively adjusted his gloves in the first Test at Dunedin is one of the most indelible of the past 35 years. Holding’s balletic removal of the stumps followed a loud appeal for a catch at the wicket, subsequently turned down.
In the next match, the second Test at Christchurch, Colin Croft had shoulder barged umpire Fred Goodall after being consistently no-balled and having had several appeals turned down. These scenes, together with Lloyd’s refusal to admonish his bowlers after being approached by umpire Goodall to do so, left a nasty taste in the mouth among New Zealanders and neutrals. Lloyd’s behaviour at both Dunedin and Christchurch and his open discourtesy toward Goodhall contradicts the cosy image of the great West Indies captain as a benign, bespectacled father figure. Richard Hadlee’s claim that his century in the same Test was of devalued currency due to the West Indian bowlers giving less than their all meant that Lloyd’s team had something to prove when they arrived for the five Test series in England. In his summary of the New Zealand tour in the 1981 Wisden, RT Brittenden wrote The West Indians, being badly led and managed, were the author of their own misfortunes. For a side described as the best in the world, and the strongest since the 1948 Australians, this was singularly disappointing. It was extraordinary that New Zealand, held in scant regard by the West Indians and everyone else, actually deserved their narrow victory, for they played better cricket and played as a team, whereas the West Indians sulked or stormed in turn.
Events on the field had also been inflamed due to the pronouncements of the touring team’s manager, Willie Rodriguez, off it. His less than diplomatic and conciliatory tone meant that he was replaced for the England trip by Clyde Walcott who had managed the team on their 1976 tour. They were a side, though, as Brittenden had observed, on the cusp of genuine greatness. Although their batting strength was not yet considered to be among the strongest in Caribbean history, not one which could yet hold a candle to Weekes, Worrall and Walcott and, subsequently, Kanhai and Sobers, they had the world’s greatest batsmen, Vivian Richards along with Clive Lloyd. Furthermore, Greenidge and Haynes took their Bajan opening partnership into the Test arena and were more battle hardened following successive seasons of WSC. Haynes was on his maiden tour of England as a Test player and was joined in this regard by Faoad Bacchus, the Guyanese right-hander who was also the only member of the touring squad not to have toured Australia the previous winter.
For all that, West Indies’ hopes depended, as did the media’s focus, on the men who were required to take the twenty wickets per Test to ensure victory: the pace quartet in its original, and possibly finest, form. At this stage, in early 1980, the line-up was headed by the great Antiguan, Andy Roberts, then aged 29. The wise owl, the Caribbean Lillee and the man, famously, with two bouncers: one blisteringly quick, the other less so, delivered from a run up, delivery stride and action indistinguishable from one another. His regular new ball partner, Michael Holding, then 26, was unquestionably the world’s quickest and his long run, the height of aesthetic beauty, was still in regular operation. Joel Garner of Barbados and Somerset, then 27, was, if anything an attacking stock-bowler. Contradictory as that epithet seems, he was singularly able to contain and attack simultaneously, so difficult was he to get away, all from a height of 6′ 8″. England’s middle order had been blown away by the Big Bird the previous summer in the world cup final at Lord’s as the run rate increased and the pressure piled up, so they were acutely aware of his threat. Last, but by no means least, came Colin Croft, the 27 year old from Guyana. Possibly the nastiest of the foursome, his wide-angled delivery caused problems for the world’s best batsmen and he was not shy with the bouncer either.
This was the first full Test tour that both Croft and Garner would make to England and, though difficult to believe in retrospect, it was one that many observers believed would be a true test of their mettle as constituent parts of a four prong pace machine. In Dunedin the previous winter the quartet had failed to adapt to and make the best of conditions which would be similar to those found in England. Damp weather, comparatively soft pitches and abundant seam movement would be the order of the day if England failed to deliver a summer as freakishly hot and dry as it had in 1976 when Holding ran riot at The Oval. Roberts, of course, was vastly experienced in English conditions, having plied his trade with Hampshire from 1973 to 1978. Garner was a vital cog in the Somerset machine, too, but as a unit this West Indies had played just two Test matches outside Australasia since WSC’s inception in 1977/78 when the West Indies were signed up en masse. Those Tests, against a touring Australian team decimated by Packer defections, saw Bobby Simpson’s green, untried team routed before the Caribbean authorities turned tail and objected to the presence of their own Packer players in a paroxysm of administrative misunderstanding, paranoia and bungling which so typified the WSC era. Returning down under for the remainder of the 1977-78 summer, Lloyd’s team continued to grow, develop and ultimately dominate WSC. The fast men had destroyed all opposition on their way to the Prudential world cup in summer 1979, however, so there was perhaps undue optimism that English conditions could curb their effectiveness. They were a formidably fit unit, too. The Australian, Dennis Waight, had been introduced to them by Packer himself and was now a permanent member of the set-up. Running, not gym work, Waight argued, was the secret to their fitness.
The home side, meanwhile, were in a period of transition following the unsuccessful Australian tour the previous winter, with Brearley having announced his retirement from international cricket. The summer of 1980 would be the first test of the new Botham captaincy. Then just 24, the Somerset allrounder appeared the least worst option, with other potential candidates either being too inexperienced, unsure of their place in the team or, in the case of Boycott, simply seen as too divisive a figure. So, “the crown of thorns” as Brearley himself called it in Phoenix from The Ashes would be placed on the head of Botham. This was to be no gentle introduction to the job, nor would it get easier; England, after all, would travel to the Caribbean in early 1981 for a full Test Series. Still, Botham did not lack confidence in himself or in his ability to lead the side. He had triumphed personally in the previous winter’s Melbourne Test with a fine century against Lillee and Pascoe and, then in India for the Jubillee Test, had reached yet another personal milestone with a century and 10 wickets in the match. As the team’s “lad” his jocular attitude and bonhomie had suited life in the ranks as a young allrounder. How, though, would that outlook translate to leading a team with many senior figures and with many disparate personalities? This was a team, let us not forget, that at the turn of the 1980s maintained many figures from the early 1970s, and in the case of a certain Yorkshireman, a national institution who had been part of the England team, on and off, since the mid-1960s. Characters such as the eccentric Knott, the loner Willis and the experienced Hendrick, Old and Underwood had all been part of the England set-up long before Botham had even worked on the Lord’s ground staff. In addition, Underwood, Knott and Bob Woolmer had all played in World Series Cricket and therefore had experiences of the game – and possibly an outlook – that their skipper did not. One character in particular, though, may have represented the ultimate challenge to Botham’s leadership skills. That man, Geoffrey Boycott, had once again been overlooked for the captaincy of his country.
In his 40th year, Boycott was still indispensible to the side. By his own admission, he then had to work harder at his batting due to the inevitable dulling of the reflexes. He did, however, reckon himself to be a better player at 40 than he had been at 25, having said as much to Mike Brearley. He was still the consummate technician, though. A year later, on the testing surface at Headingley, Brearley himself had said he was “full of admiration for Geoff’s skill” in keeping out Lillee, Alderman and Lawson. Though Boycott was, in Brearley’s words a “complicated, convoluted character” he also had great respect for his fine cricket brain and great tactical insight. It would prove a test for both the new captain and the veteran opener as to how each would respond to the landscape post-Brearley. Although much has always been made of the supposed bad blood between the two, stories such as Botham deliberately running out Boycott in New Zealand in 1977-78, are probably apocryphal. Each could be candid with the other, though, and there was no doubt a certain respect because of that. Boycs had accused Botham of being a “bully” on the ’79-80 Australia tour when he had played a prank on him on the team bus. Each man was known to take a joke from the other for the most part, however. Botham had offered Boycott his mega-weight Fearnley with the advice “get a bat like this Fiery and you might just get it off the square” and he would invite the Yorkshireman to have a bowl at the West Indians later in the summer with the instruction “they won’t dare get out to you!”. For his part, Boycott respected Botham’s cricket brain and for the fact that he had publicly defended him against criticism for alleged slow scoring in that summer’s Centenary Test, while the Somerset allrounder argued that Boycott was the “the best made batsman” he had ever seen and the one player he could rely on to bat for his life.
Although they were polar opposites as players, Botham and Boycott bore many similarities, too. Neither was an establishment figure, nor more importantly, saw themselves as belonging to the “club”. Similarly, neither had extensive formal education and Boycott in particular saw this as evidence that he himself had been prevented from landing the top job in English cricket. Each man had also attained a fame and attracted a level of press intrusion that they had, at times, found acutely discomforting. Some years ago, Simon Barnes had observed how the passion that each man had for the game manifested itself in different ways. With Botham this took the form of on-field flamboyance, while, with Boycott, it appeared as an introverted will to succeed which, to his critics, manifested itself as near total self-absorption. So absolute did Boycott appear in maximising his talent – and minimising risk – that he at times resembled a batting machine hell bent on breaking individual records. In the book 500-1, published on the twentieth anniversary of the Headingley 1981 Test, one unnamed team mate had remarked that, for all the jokes about the great opener’s pursuit of technical perfection, it was “an education to watch him from the other end”. Furthermore, whereas Boycott has made a second career as one of the most lucid and perceptive commentators in the game, ever ready with trenchant criticism and bold opinions, Botham’s broadcasting skills have been lambasted by Barnes as “obvious, oafish and banal”. At the beginning of the 1980 season, Geoffrey Boycott knew that he would need all the experience that he had accumulated in the game in the year ahead. As he came down from his Fitzwilliam fiefdom at the beginning of that international summer he had in front of him a full year – two Test series – against the most formidable bowling machine that the game had ever seen. This would present him with perhaps the greatest challenge of his career at an age when most of his contemporaries had long since retired. The Yorkshireman’s battles with the West Indian quicks over the course of 1980 and 1980-81 would forever gain him the respect of his peers and opponents and, for many reasons, would go on to become part of the Boycott legend.
After the early season international pipe-opener of a drawn two match limited over series, the Test series began in earnest at Trent Bridge. England went in to the first Test in Nottingham with, on paper at least, a strong, experienced batting line-up. With APE Knott coming in at number 8, there would surely, it was hoped, be sufficient depth and diversity of technique and approach to thwart the fast men. Gooch and Boycott opened, were followed by Tavare and Woolmer, both Kent men, then the left handed flair of Gower broke up the skipper’s aggressive approach followed by, at number 7, the open stance of the Northamptonshire hard man, Peter Willey, who would attempt to shore up the home team’s batting and protect the tail. The bowling line-up reads like something from an already bygone age with Willis, genuinely fast, being backed up by Derbyshire’s Mike Hendrick and Essex’s John Lever, the left-arm seamer. For the West Indies, the usual suspects took up the quick bowling spots with the exception of the injured Croft, who was replaced by a promising 22 year old Bajan called Malcolm Marshall. Batting berths would be granted to Alvin Kallicharan and to Faoad Bacchus, with at the age of 37, the stumper’s spot going to Deryck Murray.
In cool, cloudy conditions, England first innings 263 was a disappointment given that the top seven all made a start. The captain chipped in with 57, including two sixes, while Woolmer and Boycott made 46 and 37 respectively, though in more sedate, controlled style. In West Indies’ reply, their 308 owed much to the 64 of Richards and the identical score made by the keeper, Murray. Willis took 5-82 and bowled at times sharply and awkwardly on one of Trent Bridge’s early ’80s result orientated cricket pitches, cultivated with loving care by Nottinghamshire’s ground staff, with, no doubt, Hadlee and Rice in mind. England’s second knock, coming on the back of a not insurmountable 45 run deficit, was built around a Boycott 75 in a total of 252. Willey had been aggressive and assertive in making 38 while Woolmer had compiled a painstaking 29. Needing just 208 to win, West Indies appeared to be cruising home at 109-2 with Haynes and Bacchus at the crease. Willis then precipitated a collapse which left the visitors reeling at 180-7 and England in with a realistic chance of victory. Eventually, with Roberts and Holding at the crease, West Indies crept home by two wickets. It had been a brave performance by England and, although the batsmen had been on the back foot – literally – for most of the game, they had mixed it with the world’s best side and lost narrowly on the final afternoon. A spirited bowling performance in helpful conditions had meant that they had achieved a position of near parity when the two great fast bowlers inched toward victory on the final afternoon. With the new captain having almost pulled off a famous first Test victory, England and West Indies focused on Lord’s and the second Test of a five match series.
Botham elected to bat on winning the toss and despite the early loss of Boycott with the score on 20, the home crowd were treated to one of the best performances by an English batsmen in recent memory. Indeed, Wisden argued that during his 123 Gooch played with an authority and power seldom seen from an Englishman in the last fifteen years or so. When he was dismissed 165 runs were on the board, so heavily had he dominated the scoring with Tavare almost static at the other end. Sadly for the home team, the platform provided by Gooch did not result in the big score that the team would have hoped for. England’s eventual 269 fell way short of the hopes of the afternoon session on the first day when Gooch was in full cry.
If he had been warming up so far in the tour, Richards chose this innings to remind everyone just exactly who the world’s greatest batsmen was. Joining Haynes with the score on 37, he departed the scene with the score on 260 having produced, even by his own exalted standards, one of his finest innings. His 145 came with 25 fours and one six at a rate of a shade over 91 runs per hundred balls. For all that, this did not seem as brutally destructive as some of his other performances. In the commentary box, Benaud purred at the great man’s timing and placement. This was, for the most part, an orthodox and classical performance, albeit one of high tempo. Haynes’ 184 was no less useful to the cause but was compiled in a shade over 8 hours. West Indies’ eventual 518 was only really prevented from becoming a winning total by the North London weather. Boycott remained resolute and undefeated on 49, while Gooch had earlier made a punchier 47. England defended to the end to make 133-2 but despite over 8 hours being lost to rain in the last two days, West Indies strength in depth and quick bowling superiority were beginning to impose themselves. England’s supporters, however, came away from the Lord’s Test in the knowledge that after a lacuna in the production of great opening batsmen, their country had now produced another. A month shy of his 27th birthday, Graham Alan Gooch, with his maiden Test century, had made his latent talent public with that opening day mastery of the Caribbean’s finest.
With his 123 at Lord’s, Gooch racked up his 1000th run of the season. More than that, he had announced his intentions and began a career of being at his best – and often besting – the West Indies pace bowlers. Where most batsmen were at best able to survive, Gooch revelled in the challenge and seemed one of the few players capable of carrying the attack to Roberts, Garner, Holding, Marshall, Croft et al. The resounding clonk as his gigantic Fearnley blade cracked a Roberts half-volley to the cover point boundary was just one of an array of aggressive strokes that June Thursday 32 years ago. He also continued a habit, first established in his truncated innings in the world cup final a year earlier, of thumping Colin Croft around the ground. He would continue that into the ’80-81 winter with, in particular, an innings of 153 in the final Test in Jamaica where he was especially severe on the Guyanese speed merchant. He continued to perform great deeds against these opponents throughout his career, climaxing over a decade later in 1991 with his masterpiece 154* against Marshall, Ambrose, Walsh and Patterson at Headingley. His 123 in June 1980, however, was a warning to West Indies that here was an opponent who was willing and able to do more against them than merely survive.
For the third Test at Old Trafford, Marshall came in once more for the injured Croft. England in turn exchanged Woolmer and Tavare for Brian Rose and Wayne Larkins. Gower, out of form, had already been jettisoned after the first Test at Trent Bridge. With the exclusion of the Kent duo, England signalled that more aggression, more sense of purpose was needed to take on the fast bowlers. With Boycott obdurately defending at one end the batting could hardly afford the kind of stasis that would likely occur if the “Greatest Living Yorkshireman” was partnered by either Woolmer or Tavare.
Put in to bat by Lloyd, England folded dramatically to 150 all out in the 49th over of their innings. Rose, with an aggressive 70 and Gatting, with 33, produced the only significant contributions. West Indies 260 was built on Lloyd’s 101, on his home ground, and a particularly aggressive 65 from Richards. Though any mention of a rift between Richards and Willis was strenuously denied at the time, the Antiguan’s “vendetta” at Old Trafford resulted in him taking 53 of his 65 runs off the bowling of the Warwickshire man. Willis’s figures – 14 overs at a cost of 99 runs – in an era long before 4 runs per over became a norm in Test cricket, were a reflection of the malevolence on the batsman’s part evident to those who witnessed it on television and in the flesh. Though, again, this was denied by the protagonists, some eight years later Imran Khan published his second autobiography. In it, Imran said that he had asked Richards about the innings. Richards claimed that years earlier, in a county game, Willis had racially abused him and he had attributed his spectacular innings to that incident.
With no play because of bad weather on the Saturday and a rest day on the Sunday, England set about their second innings with purpose. Their eventual game saving 391-7 was a result of determined batting throughout the order including a particularly solid 86 from Boycott, an unbeaten 62 from Willey and 56 from Gatting. With an injury to Roberts, who had only bowled 14 overs in England’s second innings, Holding, Garner and Marshall had all bowled in excess of thirty overs each. Having escaped once more thanks to a rearguard batting display and gloomy weather – of the Mancunian variety this time round – England prepared for the fourth Test at The Oval.
The pattern of a weather interrupted contest followed both teams back down to the capital. Again, there was to be no play on the Saturday. In between the gloom, however, was an absorbing contest. Gooch got England off to a firecracker start, batting with the kind of aggression he had shown at Lord’s. Botham had chosen to bat and his troops did not let him down. England’s eventual 370 was scored at just under 3 runs per over and featured contributions from all of the top six bar Larkins. Boycott, hit in the face when Croft went round the wicket and pitched short to him, left the field at 9-0. Resuming when Gooch was dismissed at 155-1, Boycott, both eyes blackened, went on to make 53 and be fourth out at 269. Marshall, replacing the injured Roberts, helped mop up England’s tail and the tourists responded with a total of 265 which owed much to Bacchus, Marshall and Garner. Graham Dilley had been fast and aggressive and had made Murray tread on his stumps to be out hit wicket. With a lead of 105, England’s second knock was in tatters as they collapsed to 92-9 in seemingly no time at all. With Gooch and Boycott both back in the pavilion with the score at 10-2, it seemed that West Indies must surely grasp the initiative and leave The Oval 2-0 up. In one of the great recoveries, Peter Willey led England away from the abyss with a brilliant attacking century. His 100* contained 16 fours and he was aided by a brave Bob Willis with a then Test best 24*. With Croft sustaining an injury once again, Holding, Garner and Marshall probed for over after over until stumps were drawn and the game had been saved. Incredibly the weather had saved England in this and the preceding two Test matches. Surely that kind of fortune could not follow them up to Yorkshire and the final Test at Headingley?
For the final Test of the summer, England replaced Knott with David Bairstow, in the process giving the Yorkshire crowd three of its own sons to cheer. Knott had appeared palpably out of form with the bat all summer and his legendary cheek and inventiveness at the crease appeared to be a thing of the past. Like his compatriot Greig and the Pakistanis Majid Khan, Mushtaq Mohammed and Zaheer Abbass, he appeared worn down by the constant rotation of express pace which had been their staple diet since WSC. On the first day at Headingley nobody saw anything of the speed men at all as the whole day was washed out. The same scene was replicated on the fourth day so that, once more, England were saved from the looming threat of humiliation by the weather. When play was possible and after acting captain Richards had inserted England into bat, the home team was rapidly reduced to 59-6. That they managed to stagger on to 143 all out was thanks largely to the skipper’s quickfire 37 at a run a ball and an aggressive 40 – much to the home crowd’s delight – from David Bairstow. In a scenario which would be replicated throughout much of the first half of the 1980s and beyond, West Indies had reduced the opposition to 143 all out in 47 overs. The four quick bowlers – none of whom bowled more than 14 overs in the innings – shared the 10 wickets evenly.
West Indies’ 245 featured a 42 from Haynes and consistent contributions all the way down the order without any single batsmen really asserting himself. Dilley once again proved sharp by taking four wickets, including Bacchus, Kallicharran and Murray. England went into bat once again with a 102 run deficit which was almost completely erased by the time Marshall trapped Gooch lbw for 55. From a position of 95-1 England slid to 203-6 when Bairstow joined Brian Rose to steer England to the finish line for yet another draw. Incredibly England had managed, once more, to come away from a Test match with honours even. However, the series went the West Indies’ way, with the visitors notching up a 1-0 series victory. Garner was awarded the man of the series award and, on this occasion, Desmond Haynes came away with the match award. 1980 does not resonate in much the same way as the tours of 1976 and 1984 do. A combination of a foul English summer and occasional displays of doughtiness from the home team obscures the fact that, under normal circumstances, England would almost certainly have emerged on the wrong side of a 3-0 or even 4-0 scoreline.
The West Indies had been reintroduced back in to the official international arena in summer 1979 where they had triumphed in the Prudential world cup. An Australasian tour in 1979-80 had seen them rout the Australians and then suffer a surprising 1-0 defeat to Geoff Howarth’s New Zealanders. That early New Zealand defeat turned out to be an anomaly in a decade and a half period of dominance in the five day game. Back in summer 1980, however, West Indies were establishing and refining a mode of attack that only the WSC Australians and Rest of the World XI had previously been subjected to. The consistent quality of the attack in 1980 meant that no single bowler enjoyed a ten wicket match and, in the entire series, only two five wicket hauls, those enjoyed by Roberts at Trent Bridge and Holding’s 6-67 at Lord’s. Just as in 1985-86 where England were blitzed 5-0 without a single West Indian bagging a five wicket haul, the 1980 vintage had no weak link in the chain. The consistency of approach, line, speed and hostility ensured equal distribution of wickets among the pack. There was no escape route for the batsmen towards easy pickings. In this gloomy summer Garner took 26 wickets at 14.26 with a best of 4-30; Roberts, missing two tests through injury, bagged 11 wickets at 23.81 with a best in the Trent Bridge opening Test. Michael Holding, in 5 Tests, claimed 20 scalps at a cost of 31.60 while Croft, injured for two Tests, was slightly more expensive with 9 wickets at 34 each. Capitalising on injuries to the regulars, Malcolm Marshall played 4 Tests, proved slippery and took 15 wickets at a cost of 29.06 each. Garner, the player of the series, was almost irresistible. His economy rate of 1.74 per over topped a list where none of the quicks was hit for more than 2.94 and that was, in Croft’s case, a testament to the bravery and aggression of Gooch, and latterly, Willey.
West Indies’ batting ensured that, with Richards, they could quickly take the game away from the opposition. The Antiguan’s series total of 379 runs at 63.16 came at a strike rate of 75.80 and included an innings at Lord’s where he batted with a mixture of text book orthodoxy and uncanny placement. His tsunami 65 at Old Trafford, destroying Willis in the process, demonstrated just how quickly he could change a game in West Indies’s favour. Haynes and Lloyd backed Richards up, while Greenidge disappointed. The left-handed Kallicharran would not play on too much longer and neither would Bacchus, whose last test would come on the 1981-82 Australian tour. Experiments in the batting line-up with the likes of Everton Mattis would not last beyond the ’80-81 winter which followed the England tour, while in that same Caribbean home series the Trinidadian left-hander Larry Gomes would be reintroduced to the fold, remaining in the team until his retirement in 1986-87. Thereafter, Lloyd and his selectors were constantly refining the unit to achieve the settled combination in the batting line-up that we would see from 1983 onwards and which would become unquestionably one of the great teams. Eventually, Greenidge returned to the finest form of his career and the keeper-batsman Jeffrey Dujon was introduced to the team in 1981-82 where he would replace the two Murrays – Deryck and eventually David – as permanent stumper. On this England tour, Lloyd continued the work he had begun the previous winter of retuning and refining West Indies towards absolute international dominance, eventually reaching the peak in terms of personnel and performance during the international year 1983-84
What of England, though? This series highlighted different approaches of dealing with a constant four man pace attack. The openers, Gooch and Boycott, were consistently the most successful. Gooch topped the run chart with 394 at 39.40 with a best of 123. The Yorkshireman compiled 368 at 40.88 with a high of 86. Each, however, employed markedly different modus operandi. Gooch’s strike rate throughout the series was an impressive 63.96, while Boycott’s was almost exactly half that with 32.13. Of the other batsmen used during the series, David Gower was dropped after just one Test, the first, at Trent Bridge. Tavare and the late Bob Woolmer were both dropped after the Lord’s Test, their scoring – particularly in Tavare’s case – being painfully slow. Brian Rose with 243 runs at 48.60 had shown that aggression could work, as did David Bairstow when introduced towards the summer’s end. Peter Willey, too, had prevailed at The Oval with an attacking approach, hitting out in his unbeaten 100. It was easier said than done, of course, to go on the attack against an outfit of this class. With no weak link and four bowlers of roughly equal skill, England’s batsmen, like all others around the world, were becoming asphyxiated. The slower over rates increased the pressure but batsmen simply could not prevail thanks to defence alone.
Those batsmen who did succeed took the approach of sensible, controlled aggression. Gooch was pretty much an anomaly throughout his career as being consistently successful against the quartet, actively seeking at times to go after the bowlers and take the attack to them. However, as Allan Lamb discovered in 1984 and in 1989-90, the ability to capitalise when the bad ball came his way paid dividends. Kim Hughes at Melbourne in 1981-82, Mohinder Amarnath in 1982-83 and Peter Willey in the Caribbean in 1980-81 had all triumphed through a refusal to don the hair shirt. Consequently, a balance of batting styles was required in order to stymie the fast bowlers. After all, some of Sunil Gavaskar’s finest innings against West Indies came in 1983-84 when he openly went on the attack. His 90 at Ahmedabad and rapid 121 at Dehli in that series were prime examples of aggression reaping rewards. England, therefore, could ill afford more than one Boycott, as the knowledge that a killer delivery would inevitably be on its way at any moment rendered a purely attritional approach redundant. Besides, the man himself, at age 40, performed his role brilliantly in 1980 and ’80-81, being the perfect foil to Gooch, Willey and the returning Gower in the Caribbean. The previous winter in 1979-80, his series of innings against the same opposition in the inaugural Benson & Hedges World Series Cup gave the lie to the myth of Boycott as the strokeless blocker. Topping the run charts and the averages, he also scored at a rate surpassed only by Gower. Therefore, even though he was slower in Tests, he was still able to adapt his accumulative game enough to pick off the bad ball when it came.
The question of approach is even more pertinent when we assess the England captain’s performance that summer. In his first genuinely lean series since making his debut in 1977, Botham made 169 runs at 18.77. Moreover, he had been picked up lbw in four of his nine innings, showing an alarming tendency to “fall over” towards off stump while playing genuinely fast bowling. Although he scored briskly while he was at the crease, he failed to adapt his game sufficiently to accumulate runs, to knuckle down and wait for the stray delivery. Aggression worked in the case of Gooch and Willey. However, Botham demonstrated injudicious shot selection allied to a technical flaw which made him susceptible to leg before dismissals. Furthermore, has he himself has said on many occasions, it was probably partly a case of him being out of form at the wrong time. As a bowler, too, he appeared to lack the confidence of old, despite taking 13 wickets at 29.61. In only one of the five Tests, the second at Lord’s, did he open the bowling himself. As the series progressed it looked as though he saw himself as stock bowler, rarely bouncing in with the verve of days gone by.
The 1980 home series also witnessed the return of two of England’s great players from the pre-WSC era. Derek Underwood was used in only one Test and Alan Knott appeared in all but the final game at Headingley. Although he would reappear in the summer of 1981 for the final two Tests against the Australians, games in which he would be effective with the bat, the Kent ‘keeper appeared to be a husk of the impish, innovative batsman of old against the West Indians. Underwood, like Knott, did not make it to the Caribbean in ’80-81 but went on to make one last tour, to India, in 1981-82. Old, Hendrick and Lever had all appeared briefly in 1980 but the most effective English bowlers had been Willis, who had bowled England close to victory at Trent Bridge, and Dilley, who had been genuinely sharp when called up.
England enjoyed some respite at the end of the 1980 summer with the Centenary Test against Australia at Lord’s. It was a brief shaft of sunlight, however, as they then prepared for their winter travels to the West indies for a scheduled 5 Test series. In the Caribbean, there was to be no happy ending for England as the home side were about to get even better and things for Botham’s touring party much, much worse in a series where the result reflected the genuine disparity between the two sides.