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England and West Indies clash in an all-time classic

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Last updated on 25 Jun 2023 | 09:52 AM
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England and West Indies clash in an all-time classic

An almost unplayable batting track from Day 3, one broken arm and a bunch of fearsome bowlers made this Test - a brutal one

An infamous British weather that delayed proceedings at every opportunity, an almost unplayable batting track from Day 3, one broken arm and a bunch of fearsome bowlers - the second Test match (June 20th -25th) between England and West Indies at the Lord's in 1963 wasn't one for the weak hearted. 

"But man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated."

Every letter of Ernest Hemingway's words resonated throughout the five days of the game as the conclusion remained adamant on concealing itself until the very last ball of the game. 

Visitors West Indies had won the first Test at Old Trafford by ten wickets, making them the favourites to continue their form at the Lord's. To make things worse for the English fans, the board replaced Brian Statham with Hampshire's 38-year-old medium pacer Derek Shackleton. 

Shackleton hadn't played international cricket in 11 years, and going up against Conrad Hunte, Rohan Kanhai, Garry Sobers, and more didn't exude any optimism whatsoever.   

Opting to bat first, West Indies started strongly as Hunte hit boundaries in all directions, unfazed by Fred Trueman's aggressive fast bowling. However, once Easton McMorris was caught leg before wicket, Hunte didn't waste time following him back to the pavilion to reduce West Indies to 64/2.

An in-form Kanhai would join Gary Sobers next to tally 63 runs in 65 minutes before Sobers and consecutive batsman Basil Butcher both get dismissed by David Allen and Trueman, respectively. Kanhai needed an ally to steady the innings, and in came Joe Solomon. The duo added 74 more runs on the board before England's leading bowler Trueman struck again to remove Kanhai and West Indies skipper Frank Worrell and reduced the visitors to 245/6 by Day 1 end.

The initial stage of Day 2 belonged to old man Shackleton who dismissed a well-settled Solomon alongside bowlers Charlie Griffith and Lance Gibbs. Wicket-keeper Deryck Murray remained unbeaten as the visitors were dismissed for 301. Trueman had taken six wickets with Shackleton behind him on the list with three scalps.

It was England's turn to bat. And if the English bowling was lethal, West Indian bowlers were almost fatal. The hosts were 20/2 in no time, with Griffith walking through the England top order before skipper Ted Dexter and Ken Barrington put on an 80-run partnership. 

Dexter showed dexterity with tremendous bravado against the fearsome trio of Griffith, Wes Hall and Sobers at a time when others looked to stay out of the line. “In the first innings, I got a couple of Griffith specials on my left knee, which left it swollen and stiff," Dexter had later revealed.

He had the perfect partner in Barrington, known for his tremendous resolve against the best bowling attacks. However, as soon as Sobers sent Dexter back, the middle order crumbled in a way that was very characteristic of them, thus ending Day 2 at 244/7.

While everyone expected West Indies to wrap up the English innings with ease on Day 3, a certain Fred Titmus came to the crease to add crucial 52 runs to trail the visitors by just four runs by their innings end.

The Lord's pitch got even more difficult when West Indies came to bat in the second innings, with England's Trueman and Shackleton having a gala time going at the batters. The visitors were 64/3 when Butcher went to the crease and kept his end secure to score 133 runs while all his teammates crumbled on the unplayable track. West Indies were bundled for 229.

If not for Butcher's century, the match increasingly favoured the hosts as England skipper Dexter had later described Butcher's batting as "a stupendous effort on a difficult wicket, especially when you consider that nobody else got a hundred in the match."

Trueman and Shackleton had jointly taken nine wickets, and the West Indies bowlers were smacking their lips to test their forte on the evolving track. Hall and Griffith waged war on the English batsmen as they were soon reduced to 31/3 in no time, with Dexter explaining the pitch as "virtually impossible" to bat on.

Barrington looked to be good touch alongside Colin Cowdrey, but the latter took Hall's lethal delivery on his wrist that broke his arm. England ended Day 3 on 116/3 with Barrington and Brian Close at the crease.

After rain delayed the start of the game for the second time in five days, the equation had England needing 118 runs in 200 minutes on the final day. West Indies had realised the win wasn't totally in their hands and tried bowling on the bodyline.

While Barrington couldn't survive the onslaught for long, Close had made a name for himself for his approach on Day 5. Dexter described his innings: "Close had to endure plenty of pain too. He played a brave innings that attracted some controversy in that after defending for long, he started to move down the pitch to upset the bowlers' length. 

That was a legitimate tactic, as the ball was lifting off a length, and he was trying to negate the bowlers' advantage by going for his shots. He just about brought us to the door of victory playing the way he did."

Close's heroic 70-run knock had England needing 15 runs to win in the remaining 19 minutes with two wickets in hand. Some further scrappy batting by Allen and Shackleton saw England needing just eight runs in the last over. Worrell looked worried and handed the final over to his most dangerous weapon Hall.

The English bowlers would take two runs in the successive three balls before Shackleton was run out, and an injured Cowdrey came in with a plastered hand. Many recollect the batsman practising one-handed in the dressing room. If this contest wasn't a tale of chivalry yet, this image would seal it for eternity.

With six runs needed in the last two balls, all three results were possible until the final delivery. However, Allen wouldn't let his comrade face Wall and had decided to see off the last two balls with aplomb and calmness. 

The rapidly oscillating fortune, the ego of two nations at stake and uncertainty that would even frustrate the Gods - all blended to create one of the best Test matches ever played in cricket.

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