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OTD | Malcolm Marshall covers his thumb to show England the finger

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Last updated on 14 Jul 2023 | 10:03 AM
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OTD | Malcolm Marshall covers his thumb to show England the finger

Despite breaking his thumb, the fearsome pacer bowled with a casted left hand to end with his career-best figures

The famed West Indies cricket team of the 1980s were feared for a lot of things - their gifted physical stature, their god-like speed and bounce and, of course, their skills. But what they weren't really feared for was their fearlessness. This perception changed during the third Test match of the West Indies tour of England in 1984.

Malcolm Marshall's bowling in that series brilliantly personified West Indies’ dominance in the first two Test matches. Apart from taking 11 wickets in the first two Tests, Marshall's lethal bouncer at Edgbaston had ended Andy Lloyd's international career after the English batsman had failed to duck in time. 

Hence, when the fearsome bowler retired hurt after breaking his left thumb in two places while trying to stop Chris Broad's shot at gully, the hosts breathed a sigh of relief as they were playing to save the series that was 2-0 in West Indies’ favour.

Malcolm’s absence had punctured the morale of the West Indies for obvious reasons, which was evident from their batting. Barring Lary Gomes, no batsman looked steady. After bowling England out for 270 in the first innings, Gomes had support from Sir Clive Lloyd (48) and Michael Holding (59) to manage a slender lead.

Gomes was on 96 when Joel Garner was run out, thus signaling an unfortunate end to his brave innings, which was excruciatingly close to a century. However, on his way back to the pavilion, Gomes sees a smiling Marshal coming down to greet him with a plastered hand.

He didn't need to play, especially after the doctor advised him not to think about cricket for ten days and with the series very much in West Indies' grasp. 

“But, with Larry close to his hundred, I thought I would give it a go,” Marshall had said at the end of that day to BBC’s Peter West.

Amidst the admiration and thunderous applause from the British crowd, Malcolm hadn't forgotten that one more hit on his left thumb could do significant damage to his cricketing career. But fearlessness is not reckless abandon; it is calculated bravery to pursue one's dreams, take risks and embrace the unknown with unwavering determination. 

The bowler batted one-handed to stay long enough at the crease for Gomes to reach his century before hitting an iconic inside-out boundary through the gully before getting dismissed. West Indies led by 32 runs at the end of the first innings. 

Marshall’s batting had ended, but the contest wasn't.

England's opening pair, Graeme Fowler and Broad, were staring at Marshall going through his stretches that evening, preparing to bowl from the Kirkstall Lane End. An injured Marshall was still fearsome, and upon England’s complaint that his flashy white cast on the left arm would be distracting, the bowler had to wrap it further with an Elastoplast.

He had to tweak his run-up as he couldn't transfer the ball from his left hand to the right, and his grip remained unchanged from the beginning, but the outcome remained unchanged. 

Broad was dismissed for 2 to the signature Marshall inswinger, which was caught at backward square leg. That Saturday, Marshall unleashed chaos on England's batting order, dismissing Fowler, Broad and Allan Lamb. 

After a rest day on Sunday, the bowler would come back to haunt English batsmen on swinging conditions. He would dismiss Paul Downton, Nick Cook, Derek Pringle and Paul Allott to end with career-best best bowling figures of 26-9-53-7. England were all out for 159 before West Indies easily chased down 128 runs to take a 3-0 lead in the series. 

England would get whitewashed in the 1984 series and the one in 1986 - both of which had tremendous contributions of Malcolm Marshall - with them famously labelled as “Blackwashed”. 

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