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!