When the under-fire West Indies side take the field on Friday for the second Test against England at the Headingley Cricket Ground in Leeds, it would be the 76th time a Test match will be played at the famous venue. Over its 117-year history, the stadium hosted many memorable clashes involving many legends of the game.
Starting from Don Bradman's the then Test record of scoring 334 runs in an innings to Ian Botham's magnificent counter-attacking knock of 149 at the 1981 Ashes, Headingley had its fair share of brushes with cricketing glory. But in the context of West Indies cricket and the kind of crisis their Test team is in, the players would find it apt to draw inspiration from Malcolm Marshall's heroics in 1984.
For the West Indies, things were remarkably different then.
Headingley was the venue for the third Test between the West Indies and England. The visitors came to Leeds having gained a 2-0 lead in the five-match series. The team was at the peak of their powers thanks to the likes of Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Viv Richards, Clive Llyod, Michael Holding, Joel Garner aside from Marshall himself.
Winning the third Test would seal the series for the West Indians, and England's David Gower was desperate to avoid being the first captain since 1921 to lose first three Tests of a series.
England won the toss and elected to bat first. Against the fearsome attack comprising of Holding, Marshall and Garner, English batsmen put up a decent total of 270 and received more good news when Marshall got injured, his left thumb broken at two places.
In response, the Windies were in some sort of trouble, losing six wickets for 206. But then the team found a hero in the diminutive Larry Gomes. The southpaw played a valiant knock, and his century helped his team to go past the 300-run mark.
But his innings was overshadowed by the gritty gesture from Marshall. The tailender walked out to bat with a plaster around his arm, just to help Gomes, who was on 96, reach the three figures mark. He batted one-handed and on top of it, he even smashed a boundary.
Marshall lasted eight balls and the Englishmen thought that was the last of Marshall on field.
Except that, it was not.
Marshall built his career by not just taking wickets but by also spreading fear among the batsmen. His vicious bouncers from an ultra-quick action would mess up the minds of even the mightiest of batsmen. But this time, even before he bowled, Marshall created panic among English players as they saw him on the field, gearing up to unleash fury.
With broken bones in the body, Marshall bowled 26 overs and ended up with figures of 7/53. England bowled out for a paltry 156, setting up a target of 128 for the Windies to chase down.
As expected, the Windies didn't break much sweat as they won the Test by eight wickets, and with it, the series.
Both teams played two more Tests in the series and England lost both of them to suffer a terrible humiliation. The press famously termed the 5-0 sweep by West Indies as a 'blackwash'.
Those were the halcyon days for West Indian cricket, and it couldn't be any more different for them now.
Ahead of their second Test against England, the badly-battered Windies side might want to look into the past, to 1984 and Marshall, for a perfect source of motivation.
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