The post below had some fine comments that veered back in time to the immortal summer of '76, the summer - indeed the year - of King Viv, and also of Michael Holding and the emergence of the West Indies war machine. England found themselves up against this new and deadly force relatively soon after they returned, shellshocked, from Australia and the first onslaught of Lillee and Thomson. Their response, in retrospect, was remarkable.
In a pre-helmet, as much short stuff as you like era, and in the line of fire of perhaps the two most extreme pace attacks of all time, England turned not to youth but to age. Colin Cowdrey, 41, flew to Australia in 1974 wearing a pinstripe suit and when he got to the middle, famously introduced himself to Jeff Thomson with the words 'I'm Colin Cowdrey,' [to which Thomson replied, 'that's not gonna help you, fatso']. The following summer, 33-year-old David Steele became 'the bank clerk who went to war' - still wearing his specs. Brian Close, who'd made his Test match debut in 1949, four years after the war, joined Steele in facing up to Holding, Roberts, Holder and the brutal Wayne Daniel.
Close was Viv Richards' mentor, county captain and great friend. When he was felled at Old Trafford [against bowling that even the Almanack was moved to record 'was frequently too wild and hostile to be acceptable', and for which Holding was warned by the umpires], Richards was moved to ask him 'are you alright, skip?' 'FUCK OFF' Close roared in reply.
Come the last Test at the Oval, after what was essentially two years of this stuff, England took account of the fallen. Cowdrey and Close had been beaten by age, if not nerve. Boycott and Edrich had, for various reasons, withdrawn. Brearley and Woolmer were callow. Steele was still there, along with Chris Balderstone, who got a pair. With a vacancy for an opener, England went back to Dennis Amiss, 33, who responded to the bombardments he had endured in the past by reinventing his technique, and turning to face the West Indies guns square on. It was a bravura move, as much psychological as technical. He made 203 in a losing cause.
It was, in retrospect, a fascinating time. It's hard to imagine a similar thing happening now, because the game is so different. Batsmen went in knowing that there was a very real possibility of serious injury. It took a particular kind of character to do it.
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