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Richards’ “Orgasmic gesticulations”

England’s tour of 1990 to West Indies when umpire Lloyd Barker made a wrong call on the appeal from Viv Richards against Rob Bailey.

Last updated: 08.04.2019
Viv Richards appeal against Rob Bailey | Sports Social Blog

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The dominance of West Indian cricket during the 1970s and ’80s was for everyone to see. They had a dominant batting unit and a fierce pace battery which became the reason for nightmares for many teams. Symbolically their dominance of world cricket was also replicated in their performance against England. West Indies and England played a drawn 1-1 test series in 1973/74. From 1976 to 1988, they faced each other 29 times with Windies winning 20 times and rest nine tests were drawn. England did not win a single test match during that period and also had to face two back to back 5-0 whitewash in 1984 and 1986.

By the late ’80s, the all concurring West Indies team’s aura was going down. Big names like Clive Lloyd, Michael Holding were gone and Viv Richards, Gordon Greenidge, Malcolm Marshall were in the last leg of their career.

In this scenario, England toured West Indies in early 1990 and got a massive result in the first test when they beat West Indies first time in 16 years. The signs were for everyone to see as the teams played two drawn test matches before moving to Bridgetown to play the fourth test. West Indies were in driver’s seat thanks to a century from Best in the first innings and Haynes in the second innings. They set up a target of 356 for England to chase in just over a day.


Controversy erupted late on the fourth day. England were 10 for one and Rob Bailey was facing Curtly Ambrose. An in-swinger from Ambrose touched Bailey’s thigh pad and went straight to the keeper Jeff Dujon. There was a huge appeal from everyone including the captain, Viv Richards who ran towards the umpire from the first slip with his fingers up and jumping up and down. The umpire Lloyd Barker seemed to have moved from his position to hand over the cap to Ambrose but suddenly he stopped and raised his finger to give Bailey out.

It was clearly a wrong decision and something which might have been delivered under the intense pressure created by the appeal from Richards. It brought lots of ill feeling between the two teams and even the media personnel got involved. Most of the English press was upset and expressed their disapproval towards Richards’ antics which Wisden Cricket Monthly referred as "orgasmic gesticulations". There was also controversy surrounding Christopher Martin-Jenkins’ comment in BBC World, indicating that this behavior from Richards was close to cheating and he was taken off the air.

Next day was a rest day for the test and spent mostly by dissecting those events by local and international media. West Indies completed a win on the fifth day but the sign of changing times was there clearer than ever before.

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