The revival of West Indies cannot be achieved solely by Shamar Joseph, but the memories will endure.
Occasionally, Test cricket provides moments like these. The entire West Indies team sprinting to the farthest corner of the outfield, joyfully running together and resembling fluttering streamers, only coming to a halt when they reach the fence. They emerge victorious by eight runs against one of the most formidable home teams at one of the most challenging away grounds, Australia in Brisbane, after starting the first session of the Test at 64 for five.
A few hours later, in Hyderabad on the other side of the globe, England accomplishes another surprising victory against the toughest host. The location in India does not make a difference as they dominate any ground they use, but England was able to overcome a 190-run deficit in the first innings and limit India to only 29 runs away from a win. Both matches were determined in the fourth innings, with a relatively unknown bowler in his first series taking seven wickets.
These are the memorable moments that will stick with us. The matches that stand out as fantastic endings, and the individual performances that will forever be associated with these defining moments. Shamar Joseph and Tom Hartley, in particular, will be remembered not just by those who keep track of records and are fanatics of history, but also fondly and nostalgically by a larger portion of the public.
Although England’s score may suggest a significant comeback, it cannot be considered as shocking when looking at the overall picture. As the top three wealthy cricket nations, India, England, and Australia, it is expected that they may beat each other. However, teams from outside this elite group face a significant disadvantage when competing against them.
Therefore, the extent of disparity in Brisbane. In the game of Test cricket, whether at home or away, West Indies had only defeated Australia once in 29 tries until last Sunday. This was considered a miraculous feat, as Brian Lara led the team to achieve a record-breaking chase of 418 runs. West Indies barely managed to win with runs from their lower order and only three wickets remaining. This took place at the renowned batting ground of the Antigua Recreation Ground, where Lara would later go on to score 400 runs on his own, just 11 months later.
Aside from that one match, the West Indies have had four draws and 24 losses. Out of those draws, three were impacted by rain. Four of the losses were by an entire innings, three were by a margin of more than 300 runs, and four more were by at least 100 runs. Five losses were due to nine or 10 wickets being taken. Only two of the losses can be considered close according to a statistician’s definition: three wickets in Bridgetown in 2012, and 35 runs in Perth in 2009. In both of these instances, the West Indies were significantly behind in the game.
The present West Indies team faced a challenging situation in Brisbane, not just in terms of their history but also the differences it highlights. They had a young and inexperienced squad facing off against a highly experienced opposition. The team’s success over the four days can be attributed to multiple players, including Kavem Hodge and Joshua da Silva who saved the first innings with their batting, Kemar Roach who dispelled doubts about his retirement with his impressive new-ball spell in the second innings, and Alzarri Joseph who provided valuable support to keep Australia at a slight disadvantage. In the third innings, after being dominated in Adelaide, the West Indies middle order did not score big individually, but managed to accumulate enough runs to set a target of 216.
However, every major upset typically relies on one standout performance, one that is powerful enough to defy the overwhelming odds. For Shamar Joseph, that defining moment came during the series when he not only scored runs and took five wickets in Adelaide, but also continued to deliver an impressive bowling performance despite having his toe smashed while batting in Brisbane. Despite the pain in his foot, Joseph’s determination and strength was evident as he continued to bowl at speeds reaching 150 kilometers per hour throughout his lengthy spell.
In the final stanza, the ball frequently left the bat with the same speed as it descended. The bowler took seven wickets in 71 balls, which means that the remaining 64 balls of his spell resulted in 68 runs, equivalent to a rate of 5.74 runs per over. Only five players in the past have had a higher economy rate while also taking five or more wickets. No one has given away runs at a faster rate while taking seven wickets. It was a very dynamic performance.
However, the seven balls that resulted in wickets were all exceptional and were acknowledged as such by the fielding team. The first ball, which soared towards Cameron Green reminiscent of a gymnast performing on the vault, struck his elbow before hitting the stumps. The next ball, which bounced and curved away, caught the edge of Mitchell Marsh’s bat and was skillfully caught by the slip fielder after a deflection. Another ball, full of bounce and pace, forced Pat Cummins to defend himself, with Da Silva expertly catching it like a gymnast. And finally, a well-executed bounce caused Mitchell Starc to lose control of his shot, resulting in an attacking top edge and another wicket for the team.
In their own category, the three around the wicket to the left-handers: Travis Head, Alex Carey, Josh Hazlewood. One the perfect yorker that dipped at the crease, another searing pace on the angle halfway up middle, the third at the immaculate length to take the top of off-stump. Timber, timber, timber, and every way to reach it. Two of Australia’s most dangerous strikers in the space of six balls, and the last one to seal it.
You hope that this marks the beginning of a new era for West Indies, a spark that will revive their dominance in Test cricket. Especially with a promising new player who has pledged to prioritize Test cricket over T20 riches every time. However, this is a lot to expect from a young player who has only played two Tests in his career of seven first-class matches. Lara had to carry the team for years and it was not always successful. Injuries, distractions, and disillusionment are common challenges. Even if Joseph performs well, the inequality in cricket still remains. Addressing all the issues will not magically disappear in one afternoon.
However, we still have that afternoon to reminisce on. The sound of the off-stump falling back, the rising tones of commentators, and the feeling of everything moving rapidly forward, unstoppable. Those eleven players dressed in white, moving together on the field, their bodies stretching in all directions like seagulls taking flight over a cricket ground. All they desire is to be close to Joseph, at the heart of the magic; following him in the way that we hope they will always do. And even if that does not come to pass, this moment will live on. This is the beauty of pictures that remain eternally. He will forever be depicted as running, running, running.