As the winning runs were scored, I glanced at Allan Border – his shoulders sagging and slumped in cold resignation – and I felt the chill of sadness rise within me.
This was the first Test match to be played between the West Indies and Zimbabwe.
The Windies had endured a tough time in their previous Test series in New Zealand, which had resulted in a 2-0 clean sweep, and were looking to make amends on home soil. Brian Lara not only resigned from the captaincy in the aftermath, but also opted to take a break from the game. The reins were handed over to Jimmy Adams.
Zimbabwe had shown improvement as a Test side in the past two years. Their feats in the 1998-99 season included winning a home Test against India, and most notably, clinching a series in Pakistan by 1-0. They began their maiden Test tour of the Caribbean with two drawn first-class matches, before taking the field for the opening Test at the Queen’s Park Oval in Port of Spain, Trinidad on March 16, 2000.
The visitors’ wicketkeeper-captain Andy Flower decided to field first after calling correctly. Paceman Heath Streak, on his 26th birthday, had Adrian Griffith out LBW for a duck off the third ball of the match, with only four runs on the board. Rain played spoilsport for large parts of the day, and the West Indies were placed at 3-79 at stumps, having further lost debutant Chris Gayle and Shivnarine Chanderpaul.
Streak added the scalps of nightwatchman Curtly Ambrose and opener Sherwin Campbell early on the second day to reduce the score to 5-87. Wavell Hinds, like Gayle a Jamaican left-hander on debut, held the lower order together by top-scoring with a gritty 46 not out from number seven, but the final total was a modest 187. Streak finished with 4-45, while leg-spinner Brian Murphy, another debutant, took 3-32.
Zimbabwe had a disastrous start in reply, losing both their openers before the first run was scored. While Neil Johnson was out leg-before to Curtly Ambrose off the very first ball, Grant Flower was caught by Campbell off Courtney Walsh. Both Ambrose and Walsh were in the twilight of their illustrious careers, but the experienced speedsters were showing that they had enough gas in the tank yet.
Walsh also got rid of Murray Goodwin to send the score to 3-27, at which point Andy Flower joined Trevor Gripper. The pair steered Zimbabwe to 3-109 by the end of the day, with the skipper looking well set on 52 not out. The fourth-wicket stand had reached 117 the next day, when Gripper fell to Ambrose for 41. Ambrose (4-42) sent back Alistair Campbell and Stuart Carlisle as well, and Zimbabwe were now 6-164.
Flower found support from Streak through a seventh-wicket stand of 68, in the course of which he reached his seventh Test ton. Having got the benefit of a close caught-behind decision when on zero, he cashed in on some sloppy fielding to bat for 431 minutes in making 113 not out from 290 balls – the only 50-plus score of the Test. The last four wickets fell for four runs, three of them to the off-spin of Gayle (3-25).
Zimbabwe were hence bowled out for 236 at the end of the third day. Armed with a lead of 49, they soon strengthened their grip on the match. As was the case in Zimbabwe’s first innings, the first two wickets of the West Indies’ second dig fell without a run on the board. It was Streak once again who inflicted the damage, as he dismissed Griffith (LBW) and Gayle (bowled) in the space of the first four balls.
Chanderpaul and Adams came together at 3-37, and dug in to put on 78 until the former was trapped on the pads by Streak for 49, which triggered a meltdown of the batting to follow. Streak grabbed another two wickets to give himself 5-27 and excellent career-best match figures of 9-72, and was ably aided by fellow fast bowler Henry Olonga and Murphy. The Windies were all out for 147 early on the final day.
With only 99 runs to chase, the Test was Zimbabwe’s to lose. However, the West Indies pace quartet staged a remarkable turnaround on the deteriorating pitch. Johnson was the first to depart, caught by Adams off Walsh with the score at four in the fourth over. Gripper battled along with Grant Flower, but runs were difficult to come by. He became Reon King’s first victim, out leg-before to make the score 3-20.
Yet, at 2-37, Zimbabwe were beginning to settle in. Franklyn Rose had other ideas though. The tall Jamaican pacer rattled the middle order with the wickets of Goodwin and Andy Flower – both caught behind by Jacobs – to swing the momentum in favour of the hosts. In between, Walsh cleaned up Grant Flower for 26, the only double-digit score of the innings. At 5-51, Zimbabwe were staring down the barrel.
Rose (4-19) was not done yet, as he accounted for Carlisle (again courtesy a Jacobs catch) and Streak (LBW) in the same over. The scoreboard now read 7-57, and Zimbabwe’s faint hopes lay on Campbell. But Ambrose (3-8) added to the onslaught, and duly bowled Campbell. The Antiguan also had Olonga caught by Chanderpaul in the slips, before finishing things off in the same over by castling Pommie Mbangwa.
Much to the delight of the crowd and the West Indies contingent, Zimbabwe were bundled out for 63 – then their lowest Test total – in 47 overs to provide one of the most astonishing results in Test history. Only once before had a team failed to chase down less than 100 in a Test – back in 1882, England were all out for 77 while chasing 85 against Australia at the Oval, an outcome that led to the birth of the Ashes.
Ambrose was named man of the match for his match figures of 7-50. The West Indies secured the two-Test series with a ten-wicket win at Sabina Park in Kingston, but not before Zimbabwe called the shots for the first two and a half days. The Kingston Test also witnessed a piece of history, as Walsh became the highest wicket-taker in Tests at his home ground, going past Kapil Dev’s record of 434 wickets.