Forty years on Greenidge recalls freedom that let him hit Lord’s double century

It was a very different story 40 years ago when the West Indies, at the height of their Test supremacy and with a team boasting several English county stalwarts, arrived at the ‘Home of Cricket’ for a match that remains remembered for a stunning double century by Gordon Greenidge.

West Indies went through the whole of the 1980s without losing a Test against England, winning 17 out of 24 games and drawing the rest.

But it was a rare even contest during the second Test of the 1984 series at Lord’s.

England’s Graeme Fowler and Allan Lamb both scored centuries against a West Indies attack featuring celebrated fast bowlers Malcolm Marshall and Joel Garner.

Meanwhile, all-rounder Ian Botham took eight wickets and made 81.

It was not until they had batted on into the fifth morning that England declared.

Some pundits felt it was an over-cautious move by England captain David Gower, who had brought his batsmen off for bad light on the fourth evening, and made a draw inevitable.

Yet in an era long before limited-overs cricket had transformed Test-match run-rates, the West Indies made light of a target of 342 to finish on 344-1 with some 12 overs still left in the day’s play.

Barbados opener Greenidge was 214 not out off 242 balls, including 29 fours and two sixes, following a furious assault.

“Well, it’s certainly not something you can sit down in the dressing room and plan,” Greenidge told AFP during an interview at Lord’s.

“You go out to bat, see what’s happening and so on. You get one or two that hit the middle of the bat and feel good and comfortable with it, then things flow from there, so much so that you really can’t account for how well it’s going — you just want it to keep going.”

Greenidge’s five-hour innings remains the highest individual score in a victorious fourth innings chase in a Test match, with the West Indies’ total the most any side have made in the fourth innings to win a Test at Lord’s.

Larry Gomes played his part too, the left-hander making an unbeaten 92 as he gave Greenidge superb support in an unbroken stand of 287.

“I was so sorry he didn’t get his hundred as well,” said Greenidge, now aged 73. “People were saying that we should have let him get his hundred, but he wasn’t too bothered at all.

“He wanted to get the match over with and make sure you were on the winning team.”

So dominant were Greenidge and Gomes that Viv Richards, the outstanding batsman of his generation, was not required to score a single run in a nine-wicket win.

“Obviously, it was good to have guys in the background there that, should you lose a couple of wickets, they were good enough to hold up the innings and not lose the game,” said Greenidge, with England’s only success on the day the run out of Desmond Haynes.

Greenidge, also a mainstay at Hampshire after spending much of his childhood in England, said West Indies captain Clive Lloyd — himself a fine attacking batsman — had allowed him free rein.

“He did not inhibit the players in any way,” explained Greenidge. “The players were allowed to play as free as they possibly wanted to. But not to say if they made a mess of it, he didn’t have strong words.”

None were needed from Lloyd, with cricket journalist Christopher Martin-Jenkins writing: “Greenidge pasted the ball about Lord’s like a gifted artist pouring out his soul onto canvas, using every colour in his collection of oils.”

England all-rounder Derek Pringle, hit for several blistering boundaries by Greenidge, told the Cricketer: “I dropped Larry Gomes at first slip, but I’m not sure if it would have made much difference because Greenidge was the man who did all the damage.

“He hit the ball very hard and very frequently… he played magnificently well.”

And as if to prove his innings at Lord’s was no fluke, Greenidge made another double century in the fourth Test at Old Trafford as West Indies swept the series 5-0 in what became known as a ‘Blackwash’ of England.

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