Nearly 93 years after the first Test meeting between the two sides, England and West Indies will renew a rivalry that has seen some wild swings in fortunes over the course of time.
The Caribbean side have arrived on England’s shores for a three-match series which gets underway in July and marks the resumption of international cricket after a brief hiatus.
While Windies are very much a shadow of the great side they once were, they will take the field at Southampton as current holders of the Wisden Trophy. To retain the trophy will take some doing from the visitors though. It has been 33 years since they last won a Test series on England soil.
However, they can take inspiration from a gloried past in a rivalry which has been shaded by them overall. Below, we take a brief look at the storied history between England and the West Indies.
England vs West Indies (Tests)
Series – 37
England wins – 14
West Indies wins – 17
Draws – 6
Last series: West Indies beat England by 2-1 (2019)
An even tussle in the early years
The first Test series between the two sides was won convincingly by hosts in 1928, with Percy Chapman and his men completing a 3-0 clean-sweep over a West Indies side led by Karl Nunes. Such was the gulf in quality between the two back then that England ended up with emphatic innings victories in each of the three Tests.
However, it didn’t take too long for West Indies to catch up and the signs of revival were witnessed in the next series which ended in a 1-1 draw in the Caribbean. They earned their first series win over England in 1935, with home advantage doing the trick once again. However, it wouldn’t be until 1950 before they managed to topple England away. Powerful batting displays from Frank Worrell and Everton Weekes were at the forefront of a convincing 3-1 series triumph for the men from the Caribbean.
For the best part of the first four decades of their rivalry, both sides traded punches and neither was able to establish an extended period of dominance over the other. During this era, the Windies were powered by stalwarts such as Worrell and Weekes, while they also possessed the unsurpassed all-round qualities of the legendary Garry Sobers.
England, meanwhile, had the likes of Fred Trueman, Ken Barrington and Colin Cowdrey in their ranks. Between 1028 and 1969, England and West Indies locked horns in a total of 14 Test series between them. During this period, the English were able to lay their hands on seven series wins while Windies emerged on top on five occasions.
Fire in Babylon as Windies start dominant era
This rivalry of equals soon turned into a completely one-sided affair as Windies embarked on an era of dominance that is yet to be surpassed by any Test side in history. The Caribbean side never lacked talent in their previous forays, and were always brimming with a team of entertainers in the true Calypso style.
That all changed once Clive Lloyd was appointed as captain towards the end of 1974. While the team had previously been a collection of talented cricketers from the various nations that comprise the West Indies, the formation of regional cliques meant they lacked the unity and professionalism to win constantly.
Lloyd’s appointment proved to be the difference, with the new skipper able to unite the players under a common cause. A chastening tour of Australia in 1975-76 changed the outlook of West Indies under Lloyd, with the side adopting a tactic they had not previously employed. After facing the brute force of Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thompson Down Under, Lloyd packed his side with fast bowlers who could turn up the hostility.
With an enviable pace battery which included Michael Holding, Joel Garner, Colin Craft and Andy Roberts, the Windies intimidated every opposition into submission. Backed by an equally formidable batting unit comprising of Sir Viv Richards, Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes, Lloyd’s men transformed into an invincible side which achieved unprecedented success.
Between 1980 and 1985, the West Indies did not lose a single Test series. Their dominance was extended to all formats and they captured the first two editions of the ODI World Cup held in England.
Like all teams during this era, England were at the receiving end of the mighty West Indies juggernaut. Between 1976 and 1988, the Caribbean side won seven Test series on the trot against the English, including a famous 5-0 whitewash in 1985. In fact, England were unable to win a single series against West Indies for a 25-year period extending to 1998.
2000 – England turn back the screws
The advent of the 21st century signalled a dramatic decline for the West Indies, with their glory days of the 1970s and 1980s replaced by an extended period of drought. Despite having the services of Brian Lara, Courtney Walsh and Carl Hooper, the Caribbean side quickly lost the aura that had once dumbfounded their opponents.
After being summarily thrashed 3-1 by Nasser Hussain’s England in 2000, the Windies tasted 10 successive Test defeats at the hands of their opponents. A streak of four straight series losses was broken momentarily in 2009, when Chris Gayle and his men overcame the visitors in a hard-fought 1-0 win in the Caribbean.
The respite was only temporary though, with England back to winning ways in subsequent series. The next four Test series saw England gain victory thrice, while the 2015 series ended in a 1-1 draw.
There were several factors for the downfall of cricket in the West Indies, with boardroom infighting and the rise of the T20 format paving the way for their red-ball woes.
Windies cause an upset in the Caribbean
West Indies had already hit rock bottom before they were dealt a 2-0 series loss in Bangladesh. Hence, things weren’t exactly looking promising when England came visiting the Caribbean in early 2019.
A surprise was in store for Joe Root and his men, as an inexperienced Windies side led by Jason Holder found some rare inspiration. Led by a talismanic performance from the skipper himself, the hosts made the most of the vulnerabilities present in an inconsistent England side.
Although the English did manage to register a commanding win in the final match, two emphatic victories in the previous clashes handed West Indies a first series win over England in over a decade. With pacer Kemar Roach finding the radar for a change and a special double ton from Holder, the West Indies were able to give the home fans a rare series victory to celebrate.
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