WHEN England takes to the field at Kensington Oval, Barbados on January 23rd, it will be the 16th time that the Windies have hosted their oldest opponents on the famous ground.
Bridgetown has been the venue for 33 centuries in matches between the two sides. Greats such as Clive Lloyd, Sir Vivian Richards and Sir Garfield Sobers have raised their bats for the hosts, while Alec Stewart, John Edrich and Sir Alastair Cook have made a similar mark for the touring side.
But each of those decorated names followed in the footsteps of Clifford Roach, the first man to reach three figures in a Test for the Windies.
89 years ago last week, in the first Test ever hosted at Kensington Oval, Roach wrote the first chapter of cricket’s richest history book when he struck 122 runs in 165 minutes against an England bowling attack containing household names such as Bill Voce and Wilfred Rhodes, the latter of whom Roach struck for three successive fours to bring up his hundred.
It was only the Windies’ fourth ever Test, they had lost each of the previous three to England at Lord’s, Old Trafford and The Oval but Roach’s heroics meant that they avoided defeat in a Test for the first time, in their first Test on home soil.
That might not sound particularly remarkable, but it was a significant step forward in the early days of Test cricket in the Windies. Those three defeats in 1928 had all been by an innings and many expected the home side to simply roll over again.
Roach’s century in the first innings meant that the Windies posted a competitive total of 369. Even though they surrendered a first innings lead after England posted 467, Roach again played a pivotal role in the second innings, posting 77 on the way to setting England 287 to win.
Ultimately, the Windies fell seven wickets short of claiming their first Test win on that occasion, but history had been made thanks to Roach’s ground-breaking feats in the first innings.
Roach would go on to make 209 in the third Test of that series at Georgetown as the Windies secured their first ever Test win.
It would be his only other three-figure score in a 15-match career but, despite that seemingly modest return, Roach’s place in Carribbean cricketing history is secure.
As an opener, only five men can better his rate of 50-plus scores and his exploits back in 1930 helped to provide the platform upon which the future greats could build. (CWI)
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