Alec Stewart dominated a strong West Indies bowling attack led by Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh not once, but twice in the Barbados Test of 1994. Jo Harman revisits the opener’s brilliance, and how it gave England something to cheer about.
Expectations were rock bottom. England were already 3-0 down in the series when they took on the West Indies in the fourth Test at Bridgetown, and with only pride at stake, not even the local chaplain would give them a prayer.
Fresh off the back of a humiliating 46 all out in the third Test at Trinidad, there were audible murmurs of ‘here we go again’ from the English contingent as Richie Richardson won the toss and put England in to bat on a bouncy Kensington Oval track. Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh limbered up.
Only the inevitable didn’t occur, as Alec Stewart and Michael Atherton took the attack to the West Indies bowlers in an opening stand of 171. Atherton eventually fell for 85, but Stewart cut and pulled his way to an admirable 118.
The middle-order capitulated but with 355 on the board a vociferous English crowd got behind their side. After all, it was 309 runs better than last time. Then Angus Fraser’s heroics with the ball further lifted the away support as he took 8-73, the best analysis ever by an Englishman against the West Indies.
With a narrow advantage going into the second innings. England’s batsmen badly needed to deliver to give their bowlers something to defend. Stewart took guard once more, and, not content with his first innings century, produced a masterful 143 to become the first England player to score a hundred in both innings against the West Indies.
If Stewart’s first innings effort was gutsy, this knock was sublime. He countered Ambrose – England’s destroyer in the previous Test – to leave the giant Antiguan wicket-less, and waded in against the others, hitting 19 fours to enable England to declare on 394-7, leaving West Indies a mammoth target of 446.
This time it was Andrew Caddick’s turn to step up, devastating the West Indies top-order with 5-63. West Indies were bundled out for 237, giving England a 208-run victory.
The series may have been lost, but a huge dollop of pride had been restored, as England inflicted the first defeat on the West Indies in Barbados for 59 years.
First published in 2008.