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Teenaged opener Kraigg Brathwaite, who will play his first home Test today, gets some advice from all-time great Lance Gibbs, the first spinner to take 300 Test wickets.  (Picture: Courtesy DigicelCricket.com/Brooks LaTouche.)

By Ezra Stuart | Sat, April 07, 2012 - 12:03 AM

Once a fortress of West Indies cricket, the refurbished Kensington Oval has become a friendly foyer for visiting teams during the last two decades.

Only once in 59 years between 1935 and 1994, when England won the second Test at the ground by four wickets, had the West Indies tasted defeat at this fort, which is fondly regarded as “The Mecca” of Caribbean cricket.

Four West Indian victories and 12 drawn Tests during that period, preceded a purple patch between 1978 and 1993 when the all-conquering Caribbean cricketers were truly kings of Kensington, lording over their visiting subjects with 12 consecutive wins.

That triumphant unbeaten reign included four ten-wicket triumphs against India (1983), Australia (1984), New Zealand (1985) and Pakistan (1993); one by an innings and 30 runs over England in 1986; three others were by the heavy margins of 343 runs over Australia (1991) and 298 and 164 runs over England in 1981 and 1990.

The closest any team came to ending the Windies’ rule was during the 52-run victory in the Barbadian-boycotted 1992 Test over South Africa and the controversial two-wicket triumph over Pakistan in 1988 when Jeffrey Dujon and Winston Benjamin saved the day.

But the stronghold was shaken with the double dose of defeats in 1994 when Alex Stewart’s twin centuries propelled England to a 208-run victory, followed by a humiliating ten-wicket defeat inflicted by Mark Taylor’s Australians in 1995.

West Indies went about rebuilding their citadel over the next seven years by thrashing New Zealand by ten wickets in 1996 and beating India by 38 runs the following year.

In between drawn encounters against England (1998), Pakistan (2000) and South Africa (2001), the Windies held their nerve to stage an unbelievable come-from-behind one-wicket victory over Australia in 1999, fashioned by Brian Lara’s masterful unbeaten 153.      

The second of two Tests in 2002 saw New Zealand winning by a whopping 204 runs and this was followed by crushing losses to Australia (nine wickets) in 2003; by eight wickets to England in 2004 and an innings and 86 runs to South Africa in 2005 before the Windies rebounded with a 276-run demolition of Pakistan.

Australia won again in 2008 by 87 runs but England were held to a high-scoring draw the next year when Denesh Ramdin and Jerome Taylor logged maiden Test centuries.

South Africa claimed a seven-wicket victory in 2010 when Kemar Roach grabbed all three second innings wickets in a fiery spell, striking both Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis on the helmet with bouncers.

Last year’s Test against India was drawn, leaving the West Indies with a record of 21 victories, nine losses and 17 draws in the 47 Tests at the historic venue.

The record between West Indies and Australia, who have contested ten Tests at Kensington, is extremely close with the Windies winning four, losing three and drawing three.

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