Part Two…Simon H kindly wrote out his memories of this important, but often overlooked but for the battering the old guard got, test match in 1976. In part one we had the build up and the first day’s play. Now let Simon take you through the rest of this match.
You can access part one here.
The memory has every day of the summer of ’76 sunny and hot but in fact Friday at OT was cloudy. However overhead conditions had little to do with England losing 8 wickets for 34. A pitch that had something for medium pacers and spinners turned out to have a whole lot more for bowlers who delivered the ball at searing pace. Roberts bowled impressively from one end probing Edrich on off-stump until he finally knicked one and then getting one to rear off a length to have Hayes caught at fourth slip. But it was Holding at the other end who was electric. Running in from near the sightscreen it was athletic and thrilling as only great fast bowling can be.
If I may digress for a moment, it is one of the beliefs of the moderns that fast bowlers of the past weren’t really fast. After all, haven’t all objectively measured sporting performances got better over the years? Fast bowlers of the past seemed fast at the time but they’d be medium pacers now, some say. I have to say that , from the little footage I’ve seen of Frank Tyson, he doesn’t look that quick. But look at the film of Holding in this match and he looks quick, very quick indeed. The 1970s speedmen were also tested in early speed-guns and Thomson was found at 99 mph with Holding (who wasn’t then at his peak) not far behind. It isn’t rheumy-eyed nostalgia that imagines this was ‘pace like fire’. It was.
Nightwatchman Pocock soon edged Holding to first slip. However it was an unplayable lifter to Woolmer that knocked the stuffing out of England. Greig tried to counterattack but it had a hint of desperation about it. Daniel replaced Roberts and with his wading-through-water run-up and muscular action produced an in-ducker that bowled the England captain. For all the talk about bumper wars that was about to erupt, West Indies realised Greig’s weakness was to the full ball and didn’t make the mistake of Lillee and Thomo in 74/75 when Greig goaded them into losing their length. Knott couldn’t salvage this England innings and edged to second slip. Underwood got an alarming bouncer and then was bowled as was Hendrick. The bouncer at Underwood was genuinely scary but he had made 31 in the previous Test (without which West Indies might well have won the game) and English bowlers inflicted some nasty injuries on tailenders in the 1970s (Snow to Jenner in 70/71, Willis to Iqbal Qasim in ’78 and, most famously, Peter Lever to Chatfield in ‘74/75). Holding had 5-17 and West Indies a lead of 140.
England needed quick wickets to keep a toe-hold in the match but like all great sides West Indies sensed the moment to attack. Greenidge launched a second furious attack on the England seamers who looked tame in comparison and although never at his best Fredericks chipped in with fifty before treading on his wicket. When the opposition are effectively 256-1, seeing Viv Richards striding to the crease was just what England needed! Richards survived a few early alarms and at the close West Indies were 163-1.
So far the match had had great batting, great fast bowling, some decent spin bowling and good catches. What it hadn’t had was major controversy. The last hour on Saturday changed all that.
Most of Saturday’s play was actually the dullest part of the match. That one can say that when it featured Viv Richards making a century says something about the rest of the game! Richards had been a little scratchy late on Friday but here he was at his masterful best and some of his late cutting of Underwood was a delight. It was only slightly dull in the sense that a century was so inevitable. Greenidge hit some more thunderous drives on the way to his second century but then Selvey knocked his middle peg out – a moment captured in a photo that Selvey doesn’t like to show every chance he can. Clive Lloyd tried to bat himself into some form and was looking more like his old self before he holed to mid-on to give Selvey his sixth wicket of the match (and the last of his Test career). Otherwise Kallicharran, King and Murray scratched around to no great effect and started to remind everyone that this wasn’t an easy pitch to bat on. A bored eleven year old drifted off into the garden to play some cricket with his brother (cooking apple tree trunk for wicket, Gunn & Moore bat, don’t loft it on the on-side as it would go in Mr Fry’s garden and he was a bit scary) and he missed what was about to kick off……
Lloyd declared leaving England 80 minutes that night to survive and then a further two days to hold on or 552 to make. What happened next Martin Williamson recounts here:
As has been a fault of mine too often, I could see both sides. England were to blame for preparing such an unfit pitch and selecting such an unsuitable opening partnership. As I said earlier, English fast bowlers dished it out in the ‘70s and West Indies’ batsmen took it without (as far as I can recall) any complaint. Complaints about nasty fast bowlers usually boil down to “why haven’t we got any?” There was a nasty tinge to some of the complaints that denied the skill of the West Indies and tapped into some unpleasant stereotypes. But….. Holding did go too far that evening and Lloyd was too laissez-faire about it. That bouncer that just misses Close’s head is a genuinely frightening moment.
I should perhaps say here that I was always immune from the cult of Brian Close. Perhaps I was just too much of a confirmed Southerner? Mostly, I wanted an England batsman to hook like Greenidge. John Edrich was something of a hero though – I liked a dashing opener like Greenidge but a nuggety opener was okay too and anyone with eyes could see that Edrich was having to face some tough bowling. At the time, Surrey weren’t too good and didn’t keep beating Hampshire which also helped.
DAYS FOUR AND FIVE
I don’t have any recollection of watching day four on the Monday. Was I still at school? The match started on July 8th and I remember watching the first day live – did we break up that early in those days or had I pulled a sickie?
Anyway, the records show that West Indies reduced England to 125-9. After all the focus the day before on Holding (and Daniel) it was Andy Roberts who stole the show. Roberts was also one of Hampshire’s and, if he wasn’t as high in my affections as Greenidge, he was still one of ours. Later in his career Roberts cut his pace and became a more English style bowler relying on accuracy and seam movement. In 1976 he was still genuinely rapid, if not quite in the Holding league.
He was twice on a hat-trick and the second time he was denied when Greenidge at second slip dropped Selvey. I can remember watching that but it was late in the day so I’d obviously come back in from whatever I’d be doing. At the time it didn’t seem such a big deal – didn’t hat-trick chances come around quite often? Poor Frank Hayes who’d been picked as a bit of a dasher (he hit 34 off an over once) who might take the fight to the West Indies hung on the longest. His reward was to be promoted to No.3 for the next game where he made 7 & 0 and was dropped never to play again. He played all his nine Tests against the West Indies and ended with an average of 15 despite hitting an unbeaten century.
Rain ended play early on day four so the teams had to come back for ten minutes on day five. Selvey edged Roberts to Greenidge again who didn’t drop this one. West Indies had won by 425 runs. It was the fourth worst defeat in Test history at the time (there have been two worse since) and England’s second worst:
The next Test at Headingley was in some ways even better. Unfortunately, the family holiday got in the way of watching most of it and I spent several days in the Cotswolds trying to find a TV or radio so I could find what the score was. We got back in time for the climax and I remember being incredibly upset when Knott was caught behind and any realistic chance of an England win went. Fortunately, the decks were cleared for the Fifth Test and a game of three monumental performances (Richards 291, Holding’s 14 wickets, Amiss’s 203) could be enjoyed in its entirety. The moaning about bouncers became moaning about over rates and about crowd noise and I wanted to become a cricket writer/commentator who would write/talk about his love of the game and not just moan all the time (!).
It would be 14 years and over 20 Tests before England would beat the West Indies:
West Indies’ global domination perhaps wasn’t confirmed until they beat Australia in Australia in the first post-Packer series in ‘79/80 – but in retrospect the domination had started at OT. A cricketing dynasty was founded.
England recovered some pride by winning the winter tour in India. West Indies hosted Pakistan in an epic five Test series at home and, with Holding and Daniel injured, discovered two new bowlers in Colin Croft and Joel Garner. (Ironically it was David Holford’s leg-spin that won them the final test and the series 2-1). The West Indies’ reservoir seemed bottomless and the game became increasingly dominated by pace (or at least seam). Mike Brearley wore a skullcap under his England cap to protect the temples in 1977 and on the tour of the West Indies in 1977/78 Graham Yallop became the first batsman to wear a helmet.
This youngster joined one of those cut-price book clubs so he could buy cricket books cheaply. CMJ’s ‘MCC in India 76/77’ was I think the first. Tony Cozier’s ‘Fifty Years of West Indies cricket’ soon followed (with its cover picture of Clive Lloyd driving while Greig stood helpless at slip). I replayed the matches endlessly in garden cricket or on the indoor cricket games I had. I don’t remember listening to the India tour on the radio so either it wasn’t covered or I wasn’t doing that yet. I only listened to TMS when there wasn’t TV coverage and there was no Richie. Richie was impossibly exotic and didn’t keep telling us it was better in his day. I loved listening to him and felt transported to a different, more exciting place. The Centenary Test was shown on TV in a highlights’ package and in the epic Lillee-Randall duel, England at last a batsman who could take on a great fast bowler and win. Australia arrived in 1977 – the Ashes were supposed to be this great thing but it soon became clear this Australia weren’t very good. Lillee had stayed at home and the fearsome Thomo of legend wasn’t so fearsome. And they weren’t the West indies.
My thanks to Simon, for a brilliant account of a very interesting test match. Feel free to comment, and to share any memories if you are old enough!
If anyone enjoyed the Youtube highlights, I’d recommend having a look at days one and two of the preceding Test at Lord’s which are both available. On Day One, Greenidge nearly matched what he did here. If it looks like he could only beat up a powder-puff attack, in that match he took on John Snow and Chris Old and hooked both for sixes. Day Two gives some idea what it was like playing Holding on a better pitch (still monumentally difficult but not as utterly a lost cause as it was here). There are fierce bouncers at Barry Wood (which goes for byes much like Tony Bennett remembered seeing in the MCC match in his comment in Pt 1) and Mike Brearley – and a near-beamer at Brian Close. Close top scored in that innings before getting out to a Jumadeen full toss – that must have tested his famous phlegmatism!
I forget to say in the main article that Greenidge’s scoring two centuries in the match is the only time a visiting opening batsman has done that in England since 1950.
Lovely stuff. This was a few years before my time as the first series I can truly remember was the 1980 home test series with Windies and that rather vaguely. 1984 I remember a whole lot better!
That 1980 result, losing only 1-0 and that Test was lost by only two wickets, looks better with hindsight than it did at the time!
For all of the talk of the 1990s, the 91 2-2 draw and I went to the Oval test to see Tuffers bowl England to victory was an outstanding result. The regular batterings v Australia in the 90’s and the 2-1 loss to NZ at the end of the decade were probably what put people on a downer re that decade. What they don’t remember is that England’s record in the latter part of the ’80s. Apart from a one off test win v Sri Lanka, they otherwise did not win a single test at home between in 1986-1989 included. 0-2 v India, 0-1 v NZ, 0-1 v Pak (5 tests), 0-4 v WI and 0-3 v Aus.
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Loved reading that. I remember watching that series as a 13 yr old. One of the things I remember as well was the West Indian support. The noise and the banter that went on. The Oval might as well have been Kingston or Bridgetown. Growing up in South London I ended up playing cricket with a lot of West Indians. Their love of the game was something that has stayed with me.
That Holding spell to Close on YouTube, I watch that quite frequently. It hypnotises me. How he moves his head away in time is incredible. It also tell me that if you keep your eye on the ball you won’t get hit in the head. Something cricketers with helmets do not do these days.
By the way, I always thought that was the best series Boycott could have missed.
Pardon some self-indulgence, but I’m going to ramble on a bit about the two CC centuries I saw GG make.
The first was the first century I ever saw in the flesh and was only otherwise slightly remarkable:
USG was a famously fast pitch and that match was played under heavy cloud cover. There were seven other batsmen in that match who played international cricket (plus Nicholas and Tremlett played for England ‘A’ and David Turner was very unlucky not to be selected around 1972/73). No one else could make over 55. The Derbyshite attack wasn’t the greatest but Hendrick played for England that year. I remember GG wore his maroon WI helmet and while he batted unusually carefully he still hit five sixes. The shot I remember was a hook off Colin Tunnicliffe that landed in the old rugby stand just under the railway line.
The other was the second greatest live innings I’ve seen…..
Oh crikey, that’s a Freudian slip in there!
Do you want me to correct it? 🙂
GG’s other century was here:
It’s the most excruciating game I’ve ever seen. I’ve never seen Hampshire win the CC (I was only 8 in 1973 and not following cricket yet). 1985 was one of several near-misses. This was the penultimate match of the season and Hampshire were second behind Middlesex and needed a win with full bonus points.
The groundsman prepared the greenest pitch I ever saw at Northlands Road. Nicholas of course promptly lost the toss. GG went out to bat and was limping heavily from the start. He launched into Neil Mallender who retired wounded after ten overs. One hook, in his blue county cap and with the left knee raised, is the shot I remember. No-one else (in an even stronger Hampshire batting line-up which now included the Smith brothers) made over 33. He didn’t give a chance and didn’t look like getting out.
The conclusion of the match on day three was unbearable. Hants set 241 and despite dropping four catches had Northants nine down with Jim Griffiths, famously the worst batsman on the circuit at the time, in. Grifiths survived an entire over while Roger Harper hit 27* made up of four 6s and three singles at the other end – I can still remember one landing on the pavilion roof and the winning one going over the roof into the road outside.
The greatest I ever saw was by Allan Lamb on a absolute dogtrack of a pitch at Wantage Rd – but that’s for another day.
That’s brilliant! I had to re-read it a couple of times until I saw it. Made me laugh out loud.
Great piece mate. Remember the match well. It might have been one sided but it was not boring due to the sheer awesome nature of the cricket played by the Windies. The fourth match at Headingley was an absolute cracker, WI made about 420 odd on day one, England stayed in touch with centuries by Greig and Knott (both made 116 I think). We skittled them cheaply in the second innings but just couldn’t chase down a gettable score, that pace attack again. It was their ability to score runs very quickly that helped produce those wins in the fourth and fifth tests (that and Holding taking 16 wickets on a shirt-front at the Oval.