Queen’s Park Oval saw a fit Viv Richards return to the team, and how! © Getty Images
Queen’s Park Oval saw a fit Viv Richards return to the team, and how! © Getty Images

April 19, 1988. In a nail-biting, knuckle-cracking finish, the second Test of that fascinating series between Pakistan and West Indies ended in one of the most riveting draws. Arunabha Sengupta remembers the captivating swings of the pendulum throughout the match.

The euphoria of beating West Indies in a Test match in their backyard had rejuvenated one and all in the Pakistan side  — from the regular players to the men on the bench.

The heroes of the victory, the two magnificent men of Pakistan cricket Imran Khan and Javed Miandad, sat out for the tour match that followed at Castries against the West Indies Under-23s. But the Mudassar Nazar-led touring team crashed the young Caribbean brigade by 211 runs, Abdul Qadir picking up nine wickets in the match. The 18-year-old skipper of the Under-23s, a stylish left-handed batsman by the name of Brian Lara, managed just six and 11 in the two innings.

Confidence was sky-high as the serious action resumed at the Queen’s Park Oval. The Pakistan spirits were hardly affected by the fact that the West Indians had been doubly bolstered by the return of a couple of gentlemen called Viv Richards and Malcolm Marshall. ALSO READ: Imran Khan comes back from retirement and ends West Indian home rule

Wickets tumble on Day One

The spectators, however, were relieved to see the familiar, majestic, gum-chewing figure of Richards walking out to spin the coin with Imran. The Pakistan captain called correctly and, perhaps buoyed by the sensational first day of the Guyana Test, asked the hosts to take first strike.

Perhaps the decision hinged on plenty of circumstantial parameters, perhaps it was merely bold without considering the traditionally turning Trinidad track with Qadir and Ijaz Faqih in the ranks. But Imran gambled, and by tea on Day One, it seemed that he had hit the jackpot yet again.

With Richards back in the side, Gordon Greenidge moved back to his familiar place at the top of the order alongside Desmond Haynes, but Imran sent him packing with the fifth ball of the match. At 25, the youthful, long-maned Wasim Akram dipped one past the bat of Haynes to trap him plumb.

An aggressive Richie Richardson and a sedate Gus Logie did repair the damage somewhat before they fell to Akram and Qadir respectively. The prodigiously talented Carl Hooper was all at sea against the turning ball and lasted just four deliveries against the leg-spinner. Captain Richards found himself musing at one end, the last of his specialist partners walking back and wicketkeeper Jeff Dujon coming in to join him at 89 for 5.

The master decided to retaliate in the way he knew best. Eight boundaries were blasted around the park as he raced to 49 from just 45 deliveries. Dujon, inspired by association, stepped down the track and lofted Qadir for six.

But it was that man again who had grabbed the ball. Imran ran in to swing one late and Dujon’s edge was pouched behind the wicket. Ten runs later Qadir snared Richards. The two master bowlers, with their different methods and brands of guile, made short work of the lower order.

By tea, West Indies were all out for 174 and Imran’s decision was vindicated. Pakistan fans were in raptures. They had not only tasted a rare triumph against the strongest side of the world, but they were dominating them like no team ever had.

And then, between tea and stumps, the celebrations were jerked to a sudden halt, the smiles faded and frowns etched the brows.

The great Marshall sprinted in. Rameez Raja was caught in the slips for just a single, Mudassar  was held at gully after nearly an hour’s battle. The balance had been restored and Pakistan were 25 for 2, just as their hosts had been in the morning.

In came Javed Miandad, his form impeccable, confidence sky-high after the superb ton in the first Test. He carried the calming influence, a message that the West Indian fast bowlers could be tackled. The methods were practical, safe, and effective. The wicket was guarded, and four boundaries came in quick time. But, as the shadows lengthened, there loomed the towering form of Curtly Ambrose, in just his second Test. He looked the spiritual successor of Joel Garner, and so did his bowling. The ball to Shoaib Mohammad rose disconcertingly and the fend was taken at first slip.

Ijaz Faqih, a Test hundred under his belt, an average of almost 30, was the obvious choice for the night watchman. But the fourth pacer of this fearsome quartet, Winston Benjamin — playing only because Pat Patterson was unfit — fired one fast and moving away, and Richards held another at first slip. Saleem Malik had to make his way into the middle even as minutes remained.

And a run later, there was another huge blow. Benjamin’s whippy delivery veered in and Miandad missed the line. The deathly sound of leather hitting woodwork, and the mainstay walked back. It was 50 for 5, and the 19-year-old Ijaz Ahmed must have had the sensation of vultures hovering above as he dragged himself to negotiate the last few minutes of this sensational day.

There were plenty of anxious moments but the two survived. The day ended with Pakistan precariously poised on 55 for 5.

The battle of attrition

The following morning, Richards opened with Benjamin. Ijaz found the hostile short pitched bowling too hot to handle. His fend lobbed gently in Logie’s hands in short-leg. Six runs later, captain Imran did little better against a Marshall ripper. Pakistan were 68 for 7, and with the pacemen breathing fire this was more like what the world had grown used to.

Saleem Yousuf, however, was a scrapper. In the first Test, his valiant 62 had been a crucial contribution to the victory. Now, with his score on 3, he edged, and Dujon, that safest of keepers, could not hold on. The Pakistan stumper made it count.

Malik rose to the situation with characteristic brilliance. The fire of the furious pace was doused by the coolness of his approach. The pair fought back, stitching together a vital partnership over a couple of hours. The cascading fall of wickets had been checked. By the time Marshall got Yousuf to snick to Dujon the score had been appended by 94.

It was an off-cutter from part-timer Hooper that managed to dislodge Malik after a gutsy 66 scored over almost three hours, and Pakistan were nine down, trailing by four runs. Qadir came in and flung his bat about, launching Hooper into the stands. The lead was taken and had extended to 20 when Akram was run out. Soon, Imran was standing at his bowling mark, the shining red orb in his hand, determination radiating from his face. He knew that this was the opportunity to clinch the series.

And he struck in the first over. Haynes continued to have a nightmare of a series, and Ijaz caught him at short leg for a duck. Greenidge and Richardson, cautious, correct, circumspect, slowly wiped out the deficit and inched the score past 50. But, Imran returned after a brief rest. Greenidge was caught for 29 made over more than an hour and a half. Two overs later, a ball dipped viciously in and cleaned up Logie. Richards walked out at 66 for three, the lead a scrawny 46. Imran had all the three wickets.

The great man and his protégé saw off the remaining period of the day. The score at the end of Day Two read 78 for 3.  The game was loaded heavily in favour of Pakistan.

Genius to the rescue

It became more so when early next morning Imran moved one off the wicket and found the edge of Richardson’s bat: 81 for 4.

And then it was all Richards. For the umpteenth time, he fired when West Indies needed him to. The initial period was not without drama. At 25, Imran brought one back and struck him on the pad. Umpire Clyde Cumberbatch remained unmoved when the chorus of Pakistani appeal split the air. Behind the stumps, Yousuf was not amused, and made his anger palpably evident with some choicest of words. Richards reacted, waving his bat threateningly. Both Imran and Cumberbatch had to step in to avoid a more heated altercation.

The game progressed. Hooper was content to be an admiring junior apprentice as Richards collected his usual quota of boundaries. But the young man stayed long enough, over two hours, helping the master add 94. He too fell to Imran, giving the Pakistan captain another five-wicket haul.

Dujon proved an ideal ally as Richards continued to produce yet another gem. The wicketkeeper had once been hailed as another in the line of great West Indian batsmen. However, after some spectacular showing in the early eighties, he had not really lived up to the promise with the willow. Now, with the game hanging on a knife’s edge, he proceeded to play one of the most important knocks of his career.

Richards, recently recovered from a haemorrhoid operation, and often suffering from cramps and nausea during the innings, reached his 22nd hundred in just 134 balls. The lead had crossed 250 and the partnership with Dujon stood at 97 when Akram trapped him leg-before. The legend walked back for a masterly 123.

See-saw battle

Marshall could not read Qadir and played all over one. It gave the leggie his 200th wicket in Test cricket. He celebrated the landmark by fooling Ambrose, whose long, long stride remained unused as he was caught in the crease.   Dujon pushed the score along almost single-handedly. The day ended with the Jamaican wicketkeeper on 70, and West Indies eight down, leading by 309.

There was some spirited batting by the Caribbean tail on the fourth morning. Benjamin hung around for over an hour before being trapped leg before by a Qadir top-spinner. Courtney Walsh, perhaps unaware in his formative years that with time he would become one of cricket’s celebrated bunnies, resisted for almost a full hour. At the other end, Dujon completed his century. The stand with Benjamin yielded 56, and when Walsh ambitiously jumped down the track to Qadir to be stumped, another 34 runs had been put on. West Indies ended their innings at an imposing 391, setting Pakistan a steep 372 to win.

Of the 124.4 overs in the second innings, Imran and Qadir had bowled 92.4, the former’s five wickets coming in exchange of 115 runs in 45 overs and the latter’s figures reading 47.4-6-148-4. Strangely, with the wicket slower and offering turn, Ijaz Faqih sent down just four overs and Shoaib Mohammad three. Were they underbowled? Did Pakistan miss an effective off-spinner? One wonders.

The target was 70 more than the highest Pakistan had ever scored in the fourth innings till then. But this was a side determined to create history.

Rameez started with a flurry of elegant strokes, laying a brief but important foundation. At the other end veteran Mudassar was his dour self. The initial burst of the fast bowlers was neutralised, the score cruised to 60 at a relatively brisk rate. And then three wickets went down in the space of seven runs.

It was Benjamin who made the dents. Mudassar was caught behind after an 85-minute vigil for 13. This rendered the free stroking Rameez surprisingly overcautious, and Pakistan’s cause was not really helped when Shoaib came in without any hint of confidence. The latter scratched around for 26 minutes, a period that produced just two runs, before losing his stump to Benjamin. Rameez, his flow stemmed by the wickets, pushed at Marshall tentatively and was held at slip by Richards. Pakistan were 67 for 3.

The seasoned duo of Miandad and Malik steadied the ship, taking the score past 100, the onus on survival rather than runs. They added just 40 in almost a full session. The day ended with Pakistan on 107 for 3, with 265 needed to win, the stage set for a riveting final day.

The day of rest that followed was spent in nervous tension. The series was proving to be an epic struggle for supremacy and both the teams knew that the following day was going to be pivotal.

Edge of the seat

As expected, the morning that followed saw attritional cricket. With relatively less experience in terms of specialist batting to follow, Miandad and Malik were prepared to bide their time, and occupy the crease for as long as possible. The wicket was slower, and the fast bowlers lacked the spite off the pitch. Not that they did not try; they bowled their hearts out, their zeal making them overstep frequently enough. When the persevering Walsh trapped Malik leg-before, the batsman had scored 30 over three hours and ten minutes. Pakistan were 153 for 4.

Imran promoted himself ahead of the 19-year-old Ijaz Ahmed, and walked out at No 6. The move had mixed results, predominantly negative. He used up quite a while, 44 minutes to be precise, but scored just a solitary run before nicking Benjamin. The slow progress had almost taken a Pakistan win out of the equation. With the score on 169 for 5 and the youthful Ijaz walking out, not too many gave the tourists a chance.

Things changed during the second session. Miandad was batting in a different zone, looking more and more impregnable. Ijaz displayed plenty of talent and, more importantly, temperament as he spent nearly two and three quarter hours at the crease. And as the partnership went from strength to strength, the option of a win re-emerged, becoming more and more prominent with time. Less than 100 remained to be scored, and there was enough time to score them. A few minutes remained before the 20 mandatory overs would begin. The fast bowlers were looking rather worn, tired, the lack of wickets becoming increasingly frustrating. Miandad was nearing another hundred, this one as flawless as they come. Ijaz was into his 40s.

Richards put himself on. The innocuous off-breaks were tossed up. The zealous Ijaz stepped out, trying to maximise on the juicy offerings. The downswing failed to connect and Dujon whipped off the bails. 282 for 6.

It is a shame that the name of Saleem Yousuf got lost somewhere in the annals of the sport © Getty Images
It is a shame that the name of Saleem Yousuf got lost somewhere in the annals of the sport © Getty Images

There emerged that scrapper once again, Saleem Yousuf, walking out as a walking personification of guts and gumption. With his assuring presence at the other end, Miandad brought up his hundred, a superb effort of cautious pacesetting, scored over 240 deliveries.

Ambrose had the ball, in the final over before the 20 mandatory overs were scheduled to begin. Miandad was on strike. Pakistan required 84 to win. That made it a rate of four an over, with four wickets in hand. Possible.

And the huge blow was struck. Ambrose got one to move away, Miandad flirted, and Richards snapped up another catch at slip.

The end of the Pakistan challenge? But Wasim Akram was walking out ahead of Ijaz Faqih. Yes, all the late order Pakistan batsmen were handy with the bat, but on the one hand Ijaz averaged a good 11 runs more per innings than Akram, and on the other the left-hander was one of the biggest strikers of the ball. It seemed Pakistan was still attempting a win.

However, if going for the runs had been the thought behind Akram’s promotion, the innings that followed was rather strange. He stuck around for 39 minutes, facing 18 balls and scored two. When Marshall had him caught in the slip cordon, there were still 13 overs left and the score read 311 for 8. The only option now was survival, and as Ijaz joined him Yousuf sucked life out of his blade, intent on offering only the dead bat.

The West Indies could not lose now, but were desperate to win. The pace bowlers ran in, trying in vain to topple the last couple of wickets, overstepping every now and then, but the two late order batsmen remained firm. Over after over was negotiated, the enormous tension having little visible bearing on the duo in the middle. Finally, with the wicket offering assistance to spin, Richards decided to have a go yet again.

The 18th over went by without success, the 19th over was negotiated. The final six balls remained to be bowled. The West Indian captain gave the ball a thoughtful tweak as he walked to his bowling mark.

The first ball was tossed up. Yousuf, who had batted for 108 minutes with unwavering concentration, almost four hours in the match, now missed the line and was struck on the pads. The appeal was loud, vociferous, with thousands of Trinidadians in the stands joining in chorus. The head nodded and the finger went up. Yousuf departed for a supremely important 35. And Abdul Qadir walked in, the last man, with the task of playing out the last five deliveries.

Well, with three Test half-centuries, more than 800 Test runs and two First-Class hundreds, Qadir was hardly the man to come in at No. 11. It was more due to the exceptional batting depth of the Pakistan side that he was slotted at the end. The depth now paid off. Richards trotted up to bowl the last five balls, trying every trick suggested by his years and years of experience. And Qadir, with exemplary poise, kept them out. After five days of gruelling tussle, the match ended in one of the most tantalising stalemates.

Pakistan had preserved their lead, West Indies had once looked like losing the series, but had fought back and come close to drawing level. Two evenly matched sides, each determined to win. The end result was some of the best cricket seen in the decade.

The eyes of the cricketing world were focused with untold excitement as they moved to Bridgetown, Barbados, for the final Test.

Brief scores:

West Indies 174 (Richie Richardson 42, Viv Richards 49; Imran Khan 4 for 38, Abdul Qadir 4 for 83) and 391 (Richie Richardson 40, Viv Richards 123, Jeff Dujon 106*; Imran Khan 5 for 115, Abdul Qadir 4 for 148) drew with Pakistan 194 (Saleem Malik 66, Saleem Yousuf 39; Malcolm Marshall 4 for 55) and 341 for 9 (Rameez Raja 44, Javed Miandad 102, Ijaz Ahmed 43, Saleem Yousuf 35, Extras 61).

Man of the match: Viv Richards.

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)