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Great Test Matches XI : West Indies v. England, Lord's 1950
by Gulu Ezekiel
Nov 21, 2008
Great Test Matches XI West Indies v. England, Lord's 1950

One of the earliest landmarks in West Indies cricket history came at Lord's in June 1950, powered by the magical spin bowling of Sonny Ramadhin and Alf Valentine.

The attack revolved round spin and spin alone with just one specialist fast bowler being used throughout the five-Test series. Who would believe it considering almost all previous and subsequent successes were built round the mighty Caribbean battery of fearsome fast bowlers?

This Test match was special for many reasons. It was the first time West Indies had beaten their colonial masters on their soil and that too at what was then considered the home of cricket. It was also a time when many West Indians were moving to the UK to make new homes for themselves and were suffering from the evil of racial prejudice in their adopted land.

The success gave these unknown masses tremendous pride and joy. If the black man could succeed at cricket--that too at Lord's--then they were surely capable of anything. Wrote Michael Manley, the late Prime Minister of Jamaica, himself a witness to the match: "To the Caribbean, the victory was more than a sporting success.

It was proof that a people had come of age. They had bested the masters at their own game on their home turf." England's batsmen did not know what hit them in the series with the two spinners both at the age of 20, making their debuts in the first Test at Old Trafford which England won by 202 runs. Valentine made an immediate impact with 11 wickets in the match including a record 8 for 104 in his very first innings. They were chosen for the tour with just two first-class games behind them and were promptly dubbed 'mystery' spinners by the English media.

'Spin Twins' the two were not, however. Ramadhin was the first player of Indian origin to represent the West Indies and was a short, roly-poly figure bowling his bewildering mix of off and leg spinners with cap firmly on and full sleeves always buttoned at the wrists.

Valentine was tall, skinny, forever squinting through his thick spectacles, twirling his fastish left arm spinners--a total contrast. Bowling in tandem though they had England's finest-including Len Hutton, Denis Compton, Bill Edrich and Godfrey Evans--perpetually perplexed throughout the dramatic series. This was also the first series in which the West Indies' mighty three 'Ws--Everton Weekes, Clyde Walcott and Frank Worrell--batted in all their glory and splendour.

The sub-standard pitch at Old Trafford for the first had caused much consternation. Now at Lord's captain John Goddard won the toss and took first strike. Powered by opener Allan Rae's watchful century spanning nearly five hours, West Indies finished the opening day on 320 for 7.

The highlight for the spectators though was a dazzling 52 by the young batting artist Worrell which had even the England fielders applauding several delightful strokes. Weekes chipped in with 63 before both were bowled by the tireless Alec Bedser. It was leg spinner Roly Jenkins however who proved most successful with five wickets, an ominous sign for England's batsmen.

They began the reply to the visitors' 326 confidently enough with Hutton and Cyril Washbrook putting on 62 runs for the opening wicket. Now the spinners struck. First Hutton charged at Valentine, was beaten by the viciously spinning delivery and easily stumped by Walcott for 35. Just 12 runs later and Washbrook also found himself stranded and stumped, this time to the bowling of Ramadhin.

From thereon it was a rout and it took an attacking 33 not out by ninth man Johnny Wardle for England to limp to 151 all out. Between them, the spinners had bowled 88 of the 106.4 overs-including 55 maidens--in England's innings and collected nine wickets, pace bowler Prior Jones claiming last man Bob Berry.

Ramadhin captured 5 for 66 from 43 overs and Valentine had 4 for 48 from 45. At one stage they bowled 44 maidens out of 76 overs. Such was their control and accuracy against such highly capable batsmen that it was pretty hard to believe that the two spinners were playing only in their second Test match.

The lead was a massive and unexpected 175. But Jenkins quickly removed Rae, Jeffrey Stollmeyer and Worrell and at 108 for 3, a batting collapse could have swung the match back England's way. That was not to be. Weekes was once again in punishing mood and moved to 63-the exact same score as in the first innings-when he was run out in a mix up with Walcott.

He had looked set for a century, such was the authority of his batting. But as if to make up for his mistake, it was Walcott who reached three figures as West Indies piled up the runs. His double century stand for the sixth wicket with Gerry Gomez (70) took the game away from England and he was unbeaten on 168 when the captain mercifully closed the innings at 425 for 8 on the fourth morning.

The 'target' was a ridiculously huge 601. England's only chance was to hold on for a draw.

But by the close of the fourth day they had already lost four precious wickets. Washbrook having reached his century was still batting on 114. Once again it was the spinners who had done the early damage. Hutton, Edrich and Hubert Doggart all failed while debutant Gilbert Parkhouse (48) offered some resistance before he too fell to Valentine's wiles.

Washbrook was bowled by Valentine without adding to his overnight score early on the fifth morning and after that it was only a formality. England fell for 274, West Indies had won a Test in England for the first time after 20 years and that too by the whopping margin of 326 runs.

Ramadhin and Valentine had captured 18 of the 20 England wickets. Their second innings figures make astonishing reading: Ramadhin: 72-43-86-6; Valentine 71-47-79-3.

As the last wicket fell, the West Indian supporters streamed onto the field to congratulate their heroes. Round and round the boundary they paraded with guitars in hand, singing and swinging to Calypso tunes. And the Lord's victory gave birth to one of the most famous of all time: 'Cricket, lovely cricket, at Lord's where I saw it. With Ramadhin and Valentine, those two little pals of mine."

Those two little pals continued to bamboozle England's best to clinch the next two Test matches at Trent Bridge by 10 wickets and at the Oval by an innings and 56 runs and lead their side to a 3-1 series victory. Valentine finished with 33 wickets in the series at 20.42 and Ramadhin 26 at 23.23.

Walcott wrote of the welcome when the team returned to Barbados. "Half the population seemed to be on the quayside when our ship returned home from England. The harbour was bedecked with flags and the governor was there to meet us, along with other dignitaries.

Hundreds of people had clambered up the masts of yachts and schooners. Steel bands played. It was a memorable day, especially for the Three Ws."

The legacy of Lord's would be carried on for the next 45 years by successive West Indian sides. But it is a pretty distant memory today as the team's fortunes go from bad to worse.

 
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