Third Test Match

West Indies v England

The third Test was virtually a replay of the second as England again escaped with a determined and skilful batting performance on the last day after four days of running second to West Indies.

Whereas at Kingston Amiss had dominated the closing stages, in Barbados it was Fletcher whose third century in Test cricket created a draw out of a match England seemed to have lost.

It was a match that started in English uncertainty, a factor which as much as the early moisture in the pitch encouraged Kanhai to put them in for the second time in three Test matches. After much debate Boycott, accepted as one of the world's best opening batsmen, emerged as the new number four -- a move designed to keep him away from the new ball bouncers (although not at his request) and at the same time add muscle to the soft underbelly of the side.

The theory added up to nothing because when the team need to be saved, as almost inevitably happened in the first innings, Greig and Knott did it, batting in their normal positions.

They came together at 130 for five and added 163 runs before Knott was bowled for 87 cutting at Gibbs' off-break. After a long time of disappointing batting for England that had put place in the side in jeopardy, he played with great assurance and certainty.

Greig stayed to be ninth out after an innings of 148 that was his first major contribution to a match he was to dominate from an England point of view. He enjoyed one piece of luck when at 82 Sobers dropped him off a straightforward chance at second slip.

So England reached 395, a total not big enough but still much higher than had seemed likely. The modesty of it became apparent on a remarkable third day which produced the largest crowd ever seen in Bridgetown and far beyond the capacity of the ground to hold. Security broke down outside the ground, people swarmed over the walls, occupied the seats of ticket holders and perched on the roofs of the stands.

Yet with the exception of two invasions of the field when Rowe, the opening batsman, reached his first hundred and then his second hundred, they were splendidly behaved despite their real discomfort.

Rowe, who had not previously scored a century outside Jamaica, provided the master performance of this match. He scored 302, the highest innings for West Indies against England, an honour previously held by George Headley (270 not out, Kingston 1935). It was the eleventh triple century in Test cricket.

Rowe batted ten hours and ten minutes, a duration of only 140 overs, for England's over-rate was, as usual, laggardly, and hit one 6 and thirty-six 4's. If the statistics were impressive, the style was even more so.

On this sort of pitch there was languid ferocity about him that owed everything to his timing and his perfect balance. His cutting, driving and hooking were fearsome, yet there was always more poetry than brutality about his play.

With Kallicharran, the left-hander who had already made a century in the first Test and who now reached 119, he put on 249 for the second wicket, another record for West Indies against England. It surpassed 228 by R.K. Nunes and George Headley at Kingston, 1929-30.

When Kanhai declared at tea-time on the fourth day at 596 for eight, he had a lead of 201. The only England player who will recall this West Indies innings with any sort of pleasure was Greig, who claimed six wickets for 164, bowling mostly off-spinners, and who thus became the first England player to take five wickets and score a century in a Test match.

In addition, he had taken a catch at second slip to dismiss Sobers for nought, which in itself should have qualified for a prize. It was the first time Sobers had been dismissed for a duck in a Test Match on his home ground.

By the end of that day Greig was engaged again, for England lost their first four wickets, including that of Boycott, for 40. To negotiate the last day with the pitch apparently worn and certainly cracked, seemed a formidable task. Yet England accomplished it, largely through Fletcher's diligence and skill in playing slow bowling, through the resurgence in Knott's batting -- they put on 142 together for the sixth wicket -- and possibly through the inability of Gibbs to bowl properly because of a leg injury. Nobody can know what that cost the West Indies. Altogether 99 no-balls were called -- 79 not being scored off by the bat -- a record.

© John Wisden & Co