Gordon Greenidge was never under-rated. But the brilliant exploits of a certain Vivian Richards prevented the pundits from rating the Barbadian as the best batsman in the world that he deserved to be called at times. The hardest hitter in the game was the only title he got.
This day 30 years ago, Greenidge played one of the finest, if not the best innings at Lord’s, the spiritual home of cricket. England skipper David Gower, through his declaration on Day Five, set the West Indies 342 to win in five and a half hours.
Greenidge strode in with regular opening partner Desmond Haynes, who was run out after the West Indies reached 57. Greenidge and lefthander Larry Gomes put an incredible 287 runs but Greenidge’s contribution was a colossal 214 not out.
This day 30 years ago, Greenidge played one of the finest, if not the best innings at Lord’s, the spiritual home of cricket. Pic/mid-day Archives
When great innings are discussed, Greenidge’s 214 shouldn’t be neglected for there was a thick ring of savagery and infallibility to it. Disbelief too as endorsed by BBC commentator, the former England off-spinner Jim Laker, who came up with a fantastic line when the camera panned on bespectacled England’s chairman of selectors Peter May standing near the door of the home dressing room balcony at Lord’s: “Peter May… needing his glasses to believe this.” This was after Greenidge hit Ian Botham over square leg into the grandstand to reach 139.
Unlike Don Bradman, who had to say to his team in Trent Bridge 1938 when Stan McCabe scored his epic 232, “Come and see this. Don’t miss a moment of it. You will never see its like again,” captain Lloyd didn’t have to get his team on the fabled Lord’s balcony. Their teammate’s strokeplay proved to be the best invitation. “Gordon’s batting was so exciting so we had to be there,” his former teammate Winston Davis told me on Tuesday.
Another shot that stood out was a hook off Neil Foster to take him to 200; his first 100 coming in only 135 balls. West Indies got to their target with 11.5 overs to spare and Richie Benaud aptly summarised: “What seemed to be an almost impossible assignment at the start of the innings, has turned out to be an absolute doddle.”
In his book Great Innings, Peter Roebuck wrote: “With his merciless batting Greenidge had, in four hours’ work, destroyed England’s last hope. Overnight they dreamt of victory. Now they tasted the ashes of defeat.
Seldom has any attack been so brutally torn to pieces; seldom has any team had its hopes so conclusively crushed. At Lord’s in 1984, Greenidge had slaughtered England’s bowling, and the morale of English cricket too.”
Malcolm Marshall, who later in that series performed one of the most courageous acts by coming out to bat and bowl with his arm in plaster at Leeds, reckoned Greenidge shouldn’t have had to share the Lord’s man-of-the-match award with Botham.
In his autobiography Marshall Arts, Marshall dished out some hard talk: “In spite of having faced him in county cricket for many years, Willis, Botham, Pringle, Foster and Miller fed Greenidge’s strength outside the off-stump — and the rest was humiliation for England and their disbelieving supporters.
There is no way a team asked to score more than 300 runs in the second innings of a Test match should be allowed to do so for the loss of only one wicket. There was no way also that Botham (nought for 117 in the second innings) should have shared Greenidge’s man of the match award.”
Greenidge didn’t seem to mind. Probably, he was only pleased with his side’s improbable victory and of course his quantum of runs. And yes, on June 25 the previous year at the same venue, he kicked off West Indies’ slide in the World Cup final by shouldering arms to an inswinger from India’s Balwinder Singh Sandhu.
Clayton Murzello is mid-day’s Group Sports Editor