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In Cape Town, the South African parliament roared with delight when the news came through. In England, the storm broke over the selectors’ heads; MCC became an object of contempt and ridicule. Then, two weeks later, Tom Cartwright, a bowler who batted, pulled out through injury; D’Oliveira, a batsman who bowled, was inserted instead. The cricketing case for this was again elaborate, though perhaps not as elaborate as Cartwright’s thinking. He had unusual political awareness for a cricketer (probably more than the chronic appeaser Douglas-Home) and harboured mixed feelings about touring at all; it seems likely he used his twinge as an excuse (see Wisden 2008, pages 1552–53). Vorster almost certainly could not have banned D’Oliveira had he been chosen originally. With world revulsion building against apartheid, that would have been too nakedly racist, even for South Africa. But now he had his chance because it looked, not just in South Africa, as if the selectors had caved in to political pressure. The night after D’Oliveira’s inclusion, Vorster was speaking (half-drunk, it is said) in the heartland of white supremacy, to members of the Nationalist Party in Bloemfontein. He was able to tell them: “The MCC team as constituted now is not the team of the MCC but the team of the Anti-Apartheid Movement.” He got a phenomenal ovation. D’Oliveira would not be allowed in, and MCC had to cancel the tour. Short-term, Vorster had won. But both Vorster and apartheid would be dead before South Africa played cricket against England again, and the sporting isolation created by banning D’Oliveira marked the start of the regime’s painfully slow downfall.
Only one man emerged with credit. D’Oliveira made a habit of rising to the major occasions of his life, and he behaved throughout this one with integrity, dignity and implacability. In the years of political strife ahead, he would not let himself be used by either the rigid boycotters or apartheid’s apologists: he remained his own man. He played on for England; indeed for the four years after the great rumpus, he did not miss a match (so much for the selectors’ original judgment). His performances included perhaps his greatest innings: an unbeaten 114 on a shocking pitch at Dacca in the hastily arranged riot-torn series that replaced the abandoned South African tour. And he continued to play well for Worcestershire until 1979, when he may well have been past 50. He then became county coach for 11 years, forming a notably successful partnership with Phil Neale as captain.
D’Oliveira had always been a good watcher – he worked out how to pick the Australian mystery spinner John Gleeson – and he was a conscientious, tough and effective coach, if stronger on the importance of mental attitude than on the minutiae of technique. And his essential decency shone through in odd ways. The former county secretary Mike Vockins remembered him being saddled with a coaching commitment at a school in Redditch on a snowy day. He was not sure he could make it, so he drove there in the morning to convince himself it was possible, then went back to do the job in the afternoon. Basil also became a proud patriarch. His son Damian played 14 seasons for Worcestershire, and in 2011 his grandson Brett followed them into the team, and also became the fourth generation of D’Oliveiras to play for St Augustine’s. By then dementia had overcome Basil, but his family – led by the staunch Naomi – sustained him. And he was revered across the cricket world, most of all, far from Worcester, in the country that once spurned him.
From Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack, 2012
‘I like to think that people are building these West Indians up, because I’m not really sure they’re as good as everyone thinks they are. I think people tend to forget it wasn’t that long ago they were beaten 5–1 by the Australians and only just managed to keep their heads above water against the Indians just a short time ago as well. Sure, they’ve got a couple of fast bowlers, but really I don’t think we’re going to run into anything more sensational than Thomson and Lillee so really I’m not all that worried about them. You must remember that the West Indians, these guys, if they get on top are magnificent cricketers. But if they’re down, they grovel, and I intend, with the help of Closey [Brian Close] and a few others, to make them grovel.’
Tony Greig speaking ahead of the 1976 Test series against the West Indies
In 1976 I was on the Surrey groundstaff and was present in the pavilion at the end-of-series match that would ultimately complete the West Indians’ 3–0 domination of the series. To this day I can remember the amazing atmosphere at the Oval, with the West Indian supporters calling for Greig to grovel, which he duly did. Although Tony was one of my great cricket icons at the time, to see him on the outfield in front of the West Indian supporters on his hands and knees was both funny and sad; it was, however, the right thing for him to do. Tony was a great showman and if anyone was actually going to get down and grovel in front of thousands of people, then it would be Tony. Having spoken to him on many occasions about it since, I know that he regretted making that comment and admitted it was a stupid thing to say. He knew the moment the words were out of his mouth it was a mistake, but he was frustrated at the time by the interviewer, who he felt, if not exactly belittling England, was not giving them the credit they were due going into the series. Of course it would all come back horribly to haunt him.
WORLD SERIES CRICKET (#ulink_bf69a597-52f4-549b-a6e3-c77f3ad56e28)
Sir Derek Birley
By 1975 England had ceased to be the unquestioned leaders in world cricket. It was no longer politically correct to talk about the British Commonwealth and by the same token the International Cricket Conference was somewhat less Anglocentric than of yore. But tradition and prestige still counted for a good deal. MCC might by then be more shadow than substance, but the club still owned what was probably the finest cricket ground in the world. Lord’s was still the place for the great international occasion. It was the obvious place for the Prudential Cup, the first international limited-over tournament, later known as the World Cup. The takings, despite England’s mediocre showing, came to ?200,000 and the final between West Indies and Australia was watched by 26,000 people and took a record ?66,000.
Australia stayed on after the Cup for the resumption of the bouncer war. Obliged to discard the shell-shocked batsmen of the previous winter, England had to look for coarser-grained but tougher customers. They discovered the kind of hero so beloved of tradition as to be part of the national self-image – the quiet, unassuming chap who stands up to the bully. This was David Steele, a thirty-four-year-old from unfashionable Northamptonshire whose grey hair made him look even more venerable, and who wore glasses. Having long given up hope of being picked for England he found himself having to go in to stop the rot against Lillee and Thomson.
Steele recalled the scene as he walked out at Lord’s:
People were looking at me. I could hear them muttering, ‘Who’s this grey old bugger?’ as I walked past. Tommo stood with his hands on his hips. I said, ‘Good morning, Tommo.’ He said, ‘Bloody hell, who’ve we got here, Groucho Marx?’
Scorning thigh pads and chest-protectors – just a towel or two stuffed in his clothes – Steele made 50 and went on to have a splendid series. That England staved off total disaster that summer also owed much to the courage of John Edrich and the wicket-keeper Alan Knott, and, not least, to the aggressive approach of Tony Greig, who replaced the nice-mannered but ineffectual Scot, Mike Denness, after the first Test.
Denness himself was an emollient successor to Illingworth, whereas Greig, born in South Africa of expatriate parents, represented the return swing of the pendulum. Greig’s appointment aroused dismay amongst English nationalists. This was not generally for his specifically South African connections, which only troubled a handful of liberals. The TCCB’s deep regret at having to cancel the planned 1976–7 tour of South Africa, on account of the Commonwealth leaders’ Gleneagles agreement which excluded South Africa from sporting contests, was probably shared by most cricketers.
The purists’ concern was that Greig, though captain of Sussex, was a carpetbagger, not normally resident in England. That winter, Wisden noted, he had played cricket for Waverley, a Sydney club, for a fee of some ?12,000. And when Greig subsequently fell from grace, accused of disloyalty, John Woodcock, the eminent cricket correspondent of The Times, explained to his readers:
What has to be remembered, of course, is that he is an Englishman, not by birth or upbringing, but only by adoption. It is not the same thing as being English through and through.
Greig’s other disadvantages as an England captain – his gamesmanship, his mastery of the art of needling opponents, his violent mood swings, impetuosity and so forth – were presumably also attributable to his insufficient Englishness. However, some, in the summer of 1976, were convinced that his declared intention to make the touring West Indians ‘grovel’ was attributable specifically to his South African background. Certainly the remark enraged the touring captain, Clive Lloyd, and gave added spice to the bowling, as forty-five-year-old Brian Close and thirty-nine-year-old John Edrich joined Steele in the firing line, and Greig confessed himself frightened for the first time in his life. But it was all astonishingly good for business and the TCCB found themselves with a total of ?950,000 to share out at the season’s end from their various enterprises. This was an increase even in real terms, a qualification that everyone had to get used to making in those ultra-inflationary times.
Greig, meanwhile, who so far had not won a match as captain, found welcome relief on the tour of India with its slow bowling traditions. Wisden cooed with satisfaction over England’s victory and Greig’s inspired and inspiring leadership. It was also pleased that the Cricket Council had dealt so promptly and conclusively with the accusation that England’s bowlers, Willis and Lever, had been guilty of ball-tampering. They had adopted the unusual practice of sticking gauze strips to their foreheads with vaseline, purportedly to keep the sweat from running into their eyes, but the Indian captain, Bishen Bedi, had complained that they were in fact using the sticky substance to keep the shine on the ball. The Cricket Council, after telephoning the England captain and manager, utterly refuted the foul allegation.
That winter’s tour was, however, to be remembered chiefly for the Centenary Test match, commemorating the anniversary of the first match played on level terms between English and Australian players. More precisely it was remembered for the subsequent discovery that Greig, the England captain, had used the intervals of play to recruit members of his team to the service of Kerry Packer, son of an Australian media tycoon. Packer had tried to negotiate with the Australian Board of Control for the right to televise matches exclusively on his commercial Channel 9, and when they peremptorily refused had decided to run his own international contests, hiring all the teams.
Greig’s sorties on Packer’s behalf were conducted in great secrecy, and no one at Lord’s had any inkling of what was in store. All the talk was of the great news that a sponsor had been found for the county championship: Schweppes were offering ?360,000 for three years, a generous sum considering the limited amount of television coverage that could be expected. Even when in April rumours began to circulate that a number of South Africans had signed to play for Packer in an eight-week series in various parts of the world, no one thought much about it. The Australian tourists arrived on schedule, armed with contracts newly negotiated with the ABC (?12,000 a man and a pension scheme, the word was), and old-stagers shook their heads at what things were coming to. Then Packer announced that he had signed thirty-five Test players, including thirteen Australian tourists and four current English players, Greig, Knott, Snow and Underwood.
The TCCB’s response was to relieve Greig of the captaincy, because of the breach of trust, and to call a meeting of the International Cricket Conference (formerly the Imperial Cricket Conference, adapted to accommodate loose cannons like South Africa and Pakistan), where it was agreed that no action be taken for the immediate series, but that afterwards five conditions be imposed on players who contracted to play for Packer. These conditions were not wildly unreasonable, but were paternalistic in the best MCC traditions. However, this soon became academic, for when the ICC met Packer he insisted on his original demand of exclusive television rights, the ABC saw this as blackmail and refused, the ICC stood by them and the trial of strength resumed.
Packer signed another dozen or more players, including two current English Test men, Dennis Amiss and Bob Woolmer, to play what he called ‘Super-cricket’ and what the establishment referred to as a ‘circus’. This was a conscious attempt to relate the Packer scheme to Old Clarke and the All-England XI, which was a horror story told in the best circles about a dastardly plot to wrest the game from MCC’s lawful grasp. In 1866 the happy ending had come when MCC had laid down the conditions on which they would engage the rebels for future matches. In 1977, when the TCCB and ICC tried to do the same, they found themselves in court answering an application for an injunction and damages from the Packer organisation and three of their contracted players, headed by the infamous Greig. Furthermore, they lost the case with costs, some quarter of a million pounds. As a Guardian leader put it, ‘Mr Kerry Packer may be a bounder and a cad. But he is a legal bounder and a High-Court-sanctified cad.’
To rub salt in establishment wounds, Richie Benaud, who emerged as the brains behind Packer’s scheme, announced that it would not be played under MCC laws, which he had the temerity to call mere ‘rules’, and preparations gleefully began for World Series Cricket (WSC). Furthermore, it was evident that some counties were more concerned to retain the crowd-pulling power of their overseas players than to uphold TCCB dignity. Sussex expressed relief that they were not to be deprived of the services of Greig, Snow and Imran Khan, the Pakistani star. Gloucestershire’s treasurer likewise declared himself ‘ticked pink’ that Mike Procter and Zaheer Abbas would be staying. The Hampshire captain, R. M. C. Gilliat, of Charterhouse and Oxford University, said it was ‘good news for Hampshire cricket’. There was, of course, much huffing and puffing from choleric upholders of tradition, but as the TCCB made no move to appeal against the judgment there was little they could do but seethe.
Loyalist indignation was further aroused when Sussex declined to follow England’s lead, and renewed Greig’s captaincy for the 1978 season. (Nottinghamshire proposed and Lancashire seconded a motion to expel Sussex from the championship.) Kent followed a more politically correct line when they removed Asif Iqbal as captain, but they were careful not to try to dispense with his services as a player. All but the fiercest accepted that the counties had little choice but to honour existing contracts with the ‘rebels’ (though it was assumed that it would be a different story a year later: the judgment had said nothing about renewing contracts). Warwickshire took a similar line. Stiff upper lips were de rigueur and crossed fingers were hidden under board-room tables.
Two things saved the bacon, if not entirely the face, of officialdom. First, World Series Cricket was not the immediate runaway success Packer had predicted, for although it attracted television audiences of a sort, and floodlit matches were a great novelty, the jazzed-up proceedings did not seem to stir up any great concern for who won or lost. Second, the assault on the citadel had led to some rallying round amongst lovers of the authorised version. The TCCB landed ?1 million sponsorship from Cornhill Insurance for the Test matches. Fees went up from ?3,000 to ?5,000 (plus winning bonuses) for tours and from ?200 to ?1,000 for each home match. Players were thus given pause before they rushed to sign for Packer, and some English players of a certain age or temperament saw this as an opportunity to thin the ranks of overseas players on the county scene, which they now dominated. Personal ambitions and old feuds came into play.
World Series Cricket put a further twist in the ravelled skein of Geoffrey Boycott’s fortunes. Not everyone was as pleased as Wisden with the choice of Mike Brearley, the Middlesex captain, to replace the alien Greig. Sceptics who thought his batting below standard also pointed out that he had not spoken out against the Packer ‘circus’, and hinted darkly that the only reason he hadn’t actually joined them was because he wasn’t good enough to be made an offer: Boycott, by contrast, had been amongst the first to be invited but had ostentatiously refused. Instead he had offered his services to England in her hour of need, and had scored his hundredth century on his home ground, as England took advantage of Australia’s greater disarray to put it across them in that summer’s Tests.
The Cricketers’ Association had members on both sides of the argument – which essentially was whether Packer’s intervention was likely to benefit all cricketers or would merely further widen the gap between the stars’ pay and that of the rest. At the time the basic pay of the 150 or so capped English players averaged about ?2,600 a season, rising to perhaps ?3,000 with bonuses. Test players averaged nearer ?5,000, which was the normal minimum for overseas stars, some of whom commanded ?10,000 or more, and the immediate effect of World Series Cricket was to increase the disparities. Boycott further developed his role as champion of the loyalist cause in Pakistan in the winter of 1977–8. When the Pakistan Board of Control lost their nerve and proposed to select three Packer players, Boycott, as acting captain, led a dressing-room revolt.
This, without helping intra-ICC relations, was a setback to the rebels’ hopes of breaking up the fragile alliance. Greig vented his spleen in the Sydney Sun, claiming that Boycott had had a special reason to fear the return of the Pakistan rebels – the pace of Imran Khan. Greig was suspended by the TCCB for breaking his contract and Sussex dolefully dismissed him as captain and ‘allowed him to go’ during the year. As ICC’s united front began to crumble under pressure from West Indies and Pakistan, neither of whom could afford to adopt high moral principles, discussions began with WSC, who were going to greater and greater lengths to try to drum up interest, notably fast bowling of such ferocity that helmets ceased to be regarded as wimpish. ‘Roller-ball cricket’, traditionalists called it.
Neither side was yet ready to concede, but cynics were already predicting that money would have the last word. When John Arlott, president of the Cricketers’ Association, reported in August that ICC had made a ‘considerable advance towards accommodation’ with Packer, the writing was already on the wall. Kent announced that they would re-sign their Packer players for 1979 on the grounds that if they didn’t other counties would. And when Warwickshire announced shortly afterwards that, in view of a letter from the other players, they did not propose to renew Dennis Amiss’s contract, it caused a great furore amongst the members, for Amiss had had his best season ever for the club: ‘Why should we suffer when Kent don’t intend to?’ the dissidents asked. But when they asked for a special meeting, arranged for late September, Amiss himself asked for it to be called off, advised, apparently, by the Cricketers’ Association, who were confident that a settlement would be reached during the winter.
Little more needs to be said about this ignoble episode in the affairs of the noble game as the saga lurched towards the inevitable surrender by the ICC. English disapproval of Packer was alloyed somewhat at the outset by the fact that his impact was greatest in Australia, whose Test teams dwindled into insignificance as a result. Conversely, though the Australian Board made war-like noises, the Australian public made it clear that, while not everyone liked the frenetic WSC approach, they certainly were not going to pay to see their reserves trampled on by the Poms. The English public, meanwhile, became relaxed enough in their unaccustomed supremacy over the old enemy to indulge in a nostalgic North v. South, Gentlemen v. Players debate about the claims of Boycott and Brearley to the captaincy. One side followed the lead of John Woodcock of The Times, who backed the Middlesex captain despite an average of under 20 in his previous twelve Test matches – ‘because England are at ease under Brearley and play the better for being so’. A diametrically opposed minority view was expressed by Albert Hunt, a Bradford contributor to New Society: the north-country ‘professional’ Boycott, having swallowed his pride and gone out to tour Australia under Brearley, had been unchivalrously denied the opportunity to practise at a crucial stage in the tour by the Cambridge ‘amateurs’ Brearley and the manager, Doug Insole.
This unique reversal of roles may indeed have affected Boycott’s performances. So also may his dismissal as Yorkshire’s captain two days after the death of his beloved mother and a couple of weeks before the tour began. Boycott himself even blamed his personal troubles for his deplorable outburst against one of the umpires, whom he called a cheat when he gave him out. Anyway Boycott was glad to get the tour over and returned home, intent on pressing hard for a ban on Packer players at the Cricketers’ Association meeting in April 1979. This was expected to be a stormy affair, but it turned out to be an anti-climax, for the members were advised to take no decisions but to await developments. By the end of the month it was all over: the Australian Board had done a deal, conceding Packer’s exclusive television rights, and the wind went out of loyalist sails with a rush.
From A Social History of English Cricket, 1999
TONY GREIG (#ulink_48d64881-d985-5410-8d78-aa3e0d1f4829)
By the final Saturday of the series, with the temperature topping out at 82 degrees, the great British drought was biting so badly that the Queen had ordered her gardeners to stop watering the grounds at all Royal households. Industry bosses called on the public to use less water, leaving more for factories. Martin Trowbridge of the Chemical Industries Association said, ‘Jobs are at stake. Is it better to have a well-watered flower bed or a pay packet?’
Such concerns were far from the minds of a cheerful crowd, some of whom took time to settle into their seats behind the bowler’s arm. Once they had, Daniel sent the first ball of the day down the leg side for four byes. The first four off the bat was all-run after Amiss clipped Daniel through mid-on. Woolmer again started carefully, but in Holding’s second over he shuffled across his crease and was beaten by speed, giving Dickie Bird an easy lbw decision.
Amiss drove well and played confidently off his legs, recalling that ‘they were bowling at leg stump and feeding me’. One square cut looked a little edgy and Holding, generating fearsome pace through the air and off the most docile of wickets, had him groping outside off stump. But then Amiss whipped the ball past leg slip to move to 52.
David Steele remembers, ‘I had been in about a quarter of an hour when I went down to Dennis and he said, “How am I doing?” I said, “What do you mean, how are you doing? You have got 70 on the board. How am I doing?” He said, “Oh, you are all right.” He had no confidence in himself. He was a man of theory, a man of doubt, but a wonderful player. He was a lovely timer of the ball and when he got in he kept going. He got big scores. With that big step to the off side, he just flicked everything.’
Amiss and Steele offered an interesting contrast in styles. In comparison to Amiss’s back-foot shuffle, Steele continued to commit to the front foot, leaving him vulnerable when Holding moved the ball away. Steele punished a couple of loose deliveries off the experimental spin of Roy Fredericks and England, having made good progress throughout the morning, took lunch at 137 for 1.
Confident in his new technique, Amiss, 80 at lunch, felt clear-headed. Instead of the lethargic thoughts he’d harboured at Lord’s, here he occupied the time during Holding’s extended approach to the wicket by reinforcing his action plan. ‘You talk to yourself. You say, “Keep your head still, watch the ball, watch the ball, watch the hand.” You are just devising in your mind what you are going to play. Is it swinging, is it bouncing? Once you have got used to the bounce and pace of the wicket it helps you to mentally prepare for any shot. If you have fast bowlers coming at you from both ends you have not got much time to switch off. You are always under pressure and you have no time to get away from it. You do go through periods when facing fast bowlers can get on top of you, but the better batsmen come through it. I felt mentally strong and my technique was working.’
Steele began the afternoon by helping a climbing ball from Holding over backward point, repeating the shot next ball. It moved him to 44, but Holding, having switched to the Vauxhall End, pinned him lbw with a ball that broke back. New batsman Chris Balderstone was soon treading Steele’s path back to the pavilion. Holding twice struck him on the pads and induced a rash shot outside the off stump, before putting him out of his misery with a yorker that brushed the inside edge before dismantling the stumps.
Amiss was undeterred, twice dispatching Roberts through mid-wicket with a circular flourish of the bat. On 96, and after 209 minutes’ batting, he stood one stroke from a century that would complete his courageous return from the precipice of his Test career. He stabbed at a Holding half-volley and the ball shot past the bowler for four. It was one of England’s feel-good moments in a summer that had offered precious few. Recognising the journey Amiss had undertaken since they had seen him in distress at Lord’s three months earlier, the West Indies players joined the crowd in applause. A few fans bounded out to offer personal congratulation, one of them handing Amiss a ten-pound note, which was given to umpire Bird for safe-keeping. ‘It was a good feeling,’ says Amiss. ‘I have always thought that the 262 at Sabina Park was the better innings, but there was more pressure on me at The Oval. My international career and my ability against fast bowling were at stake.’
Amiss was never one to consider that the job had been done once he had three figures against his name. Of the eleven Test centuries he would make in his career, eight ended in scores of more than 150. On such a good wicket he was determined to continue batting. ‘An old coach of mine used to say to me, “Den, if you get a hundred, get another – because it makes up for all the noughts and ones. That is the way my confidence was. If I got a hundred I often got 150-plus. Also, I tell these lads now at Warwickshire, that if you get a hundred then you can really learn all about your technique and batting. You are seeing the ball early and that is when you learn shots you never thought you had.’
Settling in again, Amiss escaped when he was caught by Murray off a Daniel no-ball. Then Peter Willey slashed hard and was dropped at first slip, Daniel again the unlucky bowler. Amiss responded by caressing Holder twice past backward square leg and driving square to take the score beyond 200. Richards and Fredericks, bowling in tandem either side of tea, served up enough bad balls to allow Amiss to move relentlessly past 150. Willey, never showing the fluency he had exhibited in the fourth Test, had contributed 33 to a 128-run stand when he got an inside edge to King and saw the ball fly off his pad to Fredericks at gully. Clearly not believing that contact had been made by his bat, Willey departed in despond.
Greig was greeted by an ovation to rival that of Amiss’s century, much of it directed ironically by the West Indies fans. To add to the drama, the new ball became available almost immediately and Roberts and Holding rejoined the attack. Greig hurled himself into cover-driven fours off both bowlers and Amiss had to jerk away from a rearing Roberts delivery before waiting on a back-foot drive to raise the 300.
‘They had been bowling at about 85 miles an hour, with one bouncer an over,’ Amiss explains. ‘That was fine and we were picking up ones and twos. But as soon as Greig came to the wicket he was all, “Come on, let’s get this fired up. We are going to smash these buggers out of sight.” I was saying, “Look, it’s nice out here, don’t upset them.” Now, because it was Greig batting, suddenly it was 95 miles an hour and three bouncers an over.’
Amiss’s concerns were quickly resolved. The Oval erupted as Holding pitched on a full length and Greig, playing slightly across the line as he fell towards the off side, was bowled middle and leg. ‘It was the first time I have ever been pleased to see the England captain get his leg stump knocked out of the ground,’ laughs Amiss.
There was no containing the elation of the West Indies fans, who raced to the square from their places around the boundary. One fan even offered Greig a copy of ‘Who’s Grovelling Now’, a record that had recently been released by reggae artist Ezeike. ‘Everyone had a copy,’ recalls Trevor Nelson. ‘I remember learning all the words from my dad.’ Neither police nor ground-staff were able to clear the field of spectators who seemed reluctant to leave even after Greig was long gone. Alley and Bird took the players to the pavilion in response to what commentator Richie Benaud was calling ‘one of the lousiest crowd performances I have ever seen’. He suggested that the authorities should ‘should stick those fellows in jail and fine them’. After a nine-minute delay, the last few balls of the day were completed, with night-watchman Underwood at the crease and Amiss on 176 not out from a score of 304 for 5.
As far as anyone could remember, the pitch invasion represented the first time a Test match in England had been halted by the crowd. There had been 80 policemen on duty and Surrey secretary Warren Sillitoe estimated it would take 200 to ring the entire boundary effectively. The priority, he said, was to protect sensitive areas, such as the square and the entrance to the pavilion. Meanwhile, groundsman Harry Brind said that he had been concerned about such disturbances and had taken the precaution of using an old set of stumps. The Daily Mail’s Alex Bannister suggested, ‘The West Indians must be made to understand that if they want to watch, they must abide by English codes of cricket behaviour.’ A warning was issued that anyone encroaching on the playing surface would be removed from the ground.
By the time the fourth day began on yet another glorious morning, the first 100 standpipes had now appeared in Devon, where many households were without their regular water supply. The new Drought Act was to be enforced in the area, making it illegal to wash cars and fill paddling pools. The worst drought in 250 years was causing increasing numbers of forest fires and forcing Dorset firemen to have holidays cancelled. While the summer sun had at first been thought to offer an advantage to the players from the Caribbean, Clive Lloyd suggests, ‘It led to a string of slow, ideal batting pitches which really were no good for our fast bowlers.’
On this slow Oval wicket, the draw still appeared the mostly likely result, especially when Amiss picked up where he had left off on Saturday. Bowling round the wicket, Holding and Roberts were both clipped uppishly behind square for four. Amiss leaned into Roberts’s slower ball, before Holding, abandoning his early-morning tactic, was driven airily through the covers, taking Amiss to 199. Two balls later, Holding over-pitched and Amiss flicked over Greenidge at square leg to complete the second double-century of his Test career. The first had been a match-saving effort in the West Indies and if Amiss could find someone to stick around with him, maybe he could give a repeat performance.
Underwood’s stay at the wicket had already ended, losing his off stump in Holding’s third over of the day, giving the bowler his second five-wicket haul of the series. Knott was the ideal character for a rearguard action, turning Roberts over the fast outfield for four and causing Daniel, who had been warming up to replace Holding, to pull up with a hamstring injury as he gave chase. The partnership England needed, however, failed to materialise when Amiss finally fell victim to his new strategy. His right foot was frozen a long stride outside off stump as Holding’s delivery brushed lightly against the pad on its way to the stumps. With 203 to his name, including 28 fours, Amiss could feel that his method had paid its way.
‘It was a great innings by Dennis, a one-off,’ says Mike Selvey. ‘He had worked towards that ever since he’d got hit and I know how hard he had worked. He had a reputation of not liking quick bowling, but it was just that he didn’t play the bouncer that well. He wasn’t a scared batsman. His technique involved standing right over onto off stump but he was absolutely monumental through the leg side anyway. He would clip the ball away for hour upon hour.’
According to Derek Underwood, ‘I can’t recall a greater comeback innings throughout my career. If anyone gave a V-sign to the selectors, Dennis did it on that occasion.’
Amiss would tour once more with England, but within a year – with Australia again the visitors – he would be out of Test cricket. This innings, however, had ensured a much kinder epitaph for his career. ‘It helped me to go out of the game on a better note,’ he admits. ‘It was nice to have done it.’
Knott was in one of his creative moods, timing drives either side of the wicket against Holder and King, whose strengthening of his leg-side field simply persuaded Knott to go the other way. Geoff Miller’s first Test boundary had been nudged through the slips and when he aimed an expansive back-foot drive against Holder he lost his stumps – just as Dickie Bird’s cry of ‘no-ball’ was reaching his end of the wicket. A neat drive off Holder helped Miller settle before Knott turned the final ball of the morning off his toes to reach 45 out of 401 for 7.
The gathering afternoon clouds looked like symbols of England’s fate when Knott was rapped on the pads by Roberts and Miller was beaten by Roberts and Holding. Both batsmen survived. Knott hit Roberts through mid-wicket and then pushed a single to complete his fifty. The next ball Knott faced, from Holding, was short of a length and, getting in position to force through the off side, he edged into his stumps off the inside of an angled bat.
Selvey found the ring of close fielders reinforced by an extra gully, short leg and silly point, but he saved them a job by chopping his first ball against the stumps in the identical manner to Knott. It gave Holding his eighth wicket, none of them having required any assistance from a fielder. His father, Ralph, watching his son in England for the first time, claimed, ‘He always bowled straight, even when he was at school.’
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