Grenada wicketkeeper Junior Murray was always going to have a tough time in the West Indies lineup.
This wasn’t because Murray wasn’t a talented player, but rather what he came to the lineup to do.
Peter Jeffrey Dujon had left the West Indies after 10 years wicketkeeping to the quickest and most fearsome bowlers the region and maybe the world had ever produced.
The svelt, stylish wicketkeeper was replaced by the diminutive David Williams of Trinidad and Tobago, but that relationship had only lasted 11 Test matches.
Williams size meant he wasn’t able to make the tremendous leaps it took to grab a hold of some of the edges from batsmen or even the odd errant delivery from some of West Indies’ quicks.
His stint with the gloves for the West Indies soon came to an end and it was the hope that Murray, who came into the side, would now be an adequate replacement for Dujon.
And maybe it wasn’t fair to place the big shadow that the skinny Dujon cast on Murray, and while he never quite replaced Dujon, he didn’t wilt under the pressure either.
Murray wasn’t a natural wicketkeeper and had started out as a batsman for the Windward Islands. Even after taking the gloves, he never looked the part. Some thought he was too tall, and others thought his hands weren’t soft enough to be a good gloveman. Still, others questioned his ability to bat at the highest level despite his background as a batsman.
Well, in the first innings of the second Test on a tour of New Zealand, Murray came to the party.
Choosing to bat, a careful Stewart Williams and Sherwin Campbell made their way to 85 before the former went for an unusually slow 26.
Brian Lara, batting at his preferred number three in the lineup at the time, joined Campbell and the two, led by the Trinidad and Tobago batsman, put on 49 before the latter went for a well-played 88.
Lara (147) would go on to share a partnership of 221 with Jimmy Adams (151). Keith Arthurton, batting at an increasingly familiar five in the West Indies lineup also got in on the run-scoring game, scoring a patient 70 in a partnership of 94 with Adams then one worth 72 with Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who would end up unbeaten on 61 when the West Indies declared the innings.
That declaration, 660-5, came earlier than expected, as everybody, except for Lara had to score quite slowly based on the nature of the pitch.
Lara though scored his 147 from just 181 deliveries, slamming 24 fours with a strike rate over more than 80.
Only Murray would do better. Thinking team first, the wicketkeeper threw caution to the wind, slamming 11 fours and two sixes, as well as some really aggressive running between the wickets with Chanderpaul.
So dominant was the wicketkeeper-batsman that he scored 101 from the 139-run partnership he shared with Chanderpaul, for his first and only Test century.
Murray showed he could bat. He did have the dangerous Danny Morrison to contend with, showing he had no problem dealing with pace.
This story could have easily been about Courtney Walsh though, as the eventual man-of-the-match bagged 7-37 in New Zealand’s first innings before returning to 6-18 in the second and a match haul of 13-55.
But Walsh had many an occasion in the sun for the West Indies and I wanted to point tp the exploits of a player from the Windward Islands, a region often overlooked unless it was to find a bowler.
Murray’s century, coming from just 88 deliveries gave the West Indies three days to get the New Zealand side out twice.
They did, Walsh’s heroics skittling them out for 216 and 122, ending the game inside four days. The West Indies would win the two-match series 1-0.
The century meant more than you would at first believe though. It meant Murray became only the second player from the Windward Islands to score a century for the West Indies after Irvine Shillingford did so in 1976 against Pakistan.