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The scariest Test England ever played: terror at the hands of West Indies

In 1986, England went to the Caribbean fancying their chances. After Patrick Patterson inspired a brutal first Test thrashing, a 5-0 defeat was inevitable

Graham Gooch’s specialist subject is West Indian pace bowling. He is probably the leading authority on what it was like to face the four horsemen of the apocalypse. From 1980 to 1995, when the West Indies dominated Test cricket, nobody scored more runs against them than Gooch, and only Allan Border faced more deliveries. Gooch also played the greatest innings of all time, 154 not out at Headingley in 1991. It is worth listening, then, when he says that only once in his career did he feel unsafe: Friday 21 February 1986 at Sabina Park, the first day of a much anticipated series, and the start of a weekend festival of chin music.

England had a bespoke batting line-up full of men who didn’t understand the concept of pain, yet they were still brutalised inside three days. It was horror bingo: they had to contend with a corrugated pitch, a low sightscreen, an umpire with a laissez-faire attitude towards bouncers and the volcanic pace of the debutant Patrick Patterson. “It was the first time,” said Gooch, “I’d ever really got the whiff of danger in the nostrils.”

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