If you’re someone who thinks test cricket is a tedious and futile endeavour, the recent series between the West Indies and Australia will hopefully go some way towards convincing you otherwise.
The West Indies haven’t won a Test match in Australia in 27 years, not since the elegance and velocity of Brian Lara, Ian Bishop, and Curtly Ambrose permeated the side. Failures such as this and being unable to qualify for the ODI World Cup only served to cement the view that West Indian cricket was dying a slow death.
So when, at the beginning of the year, they travelled to Australia to play a two-test series against the number one side in the world, no one had particularly high hopes. The first Test went as expected, as the formidable Aussies won by ten wickets. In the second test, a respectable 311 runs for a first innings score seemed to give the West Indies a fighting chance. But a meagre 198 scored in the second innings set Australia a very achievable 216 to chase and with Shamar Joseph (their exciting young fast bowler) having retired hurt, the chance for a West Indies victory seemed to be slipping away. The day ended with Kemar Roach, the veteran West Indian quick, managing to pocket two wickets but with Australia only in need of 156 runs, and a mechanical Steve Smith still at the crease, I had little hope.
The next morning, the battered and bruised Shamar Joseph arrived at the ground ready to support his team only to be told to get changed and ready to play. Only one problem, he’d forgotten his kitbag! So as the injured Joseph sat in nothing but his cap waiting for a replacement kit to be found, I can only imagine what was running through his head. The only thing that was certain was that there was no sense of giving up!
Australia started the fourth day confidently, picking up a few nice boundaries until an invigorated Joseph was brought on to dismiss Cameron Green, and then Travis Head the very next ball. With two absolute firecrackers, Joseph had changed the dynamic of the game, and it didn’t take long for both Marsh and Carey to suffer the same fate.
Mitchell Starc, a belligerent fast bowler, provided some resistance to the Shamar Joseph onslaught by slapping a few deliveries to the boundary rope. But the second attempt at an audacious cut shot sent the ball flying straight up, and then down into Kevin Sinclair’s hands. With only three wickets remaining, and 75 more runs to get, could Captain Cummins swing the game in Australia’s favour? No; an outside edge sent the dejected captain back inside and brought Nathan Lyon to the middle. It only took a few uncomfortable looking boundaries, and Australia needed just 25 runs. Alzarri Joseph then eventually found the edge of Lyon’s bat to put the West Indies only a wicket away from victory.
But whilst his team crumbled around him, a determined Smith racked up more and more runs in an increasingly daring fashion to bring the total within touching distance. Nine runs, that’s all he needed to win the game and give him his first century as an opening batter. With all to play for, the West Indies managed to get Josh Hazelwood on strike and then… ‘BOWLED HIM!’ With an almost perfect delivery, Shamar Joseph sent the number eleven’s leg stump cartwheeling.
It was a spectacle and a story for the ages. A year ago, Shamar Joseph was a security guard, playing amateur cricket, before quitting his job to play for Guyana. At the beginning of this year, he hadn’t played a single Test match for the West Indies, or even met the captain, Kraigg Brathwaite. Now, only a month later, Joseph was named player of the series and had helped to steer the West Indies to one of the greatest victories in cricketing history. Anything can happen in this funny old game, and Shamar Joseph and this West Indian side are the proof!