Norm would no doubt wax lyrical about a certain Mr G. Sobers, who scored 163 not out in the West Indies' second innings, but for me the real story of the second Test between England and the West Indies in 1966 was the return to the English team at the age of 39 of Tom Graveney. (His birthday was the first day of the match.) Graveney was dropped in 1959 about a year after I developed a serious interest in Test cricket. He was brought back in 1962 and performed well against a weak Pakistan side, but he did little against Australia in the following winter and was dropped again. It looked as if his Test career was over - a career with some high points but fundamentally rather disappointing. But his county performances in the early 60s suggested that he was among the best two or three English batsmen, and after a heavy defeat in the first test in 1966 the selectors turned to him once more. Coming in when England were 8 for 1, he batted 'almost without blemish' in Wisden's words. It was a shame that he didn't reach his century, but he made up for it in the next Test with 109, and in the fifth Test he scored 165. His batting average for the series was 76.5.Bob is right. It is Sobers' innings that stays in my memory, principally because it began on the first day I ever spent at Lord's - but more of that some other time. Here are three contemporary accounts of Tom Graveney's innings:
Graveney was an elegant fixture in the English team for the next three years. It was rather as it would have been for a later generation if David Gower had made a triumphant comeback in the mid 90s or if Mark Ramprakash had finally shown in the last year or two that he could perform in Test matches and not just on the dance floor. Almost twenty years later in a garden centre in Gloucestershire I had the opportunity to get Graveney's autograph. Sadly I didn't take it. I'm still kicking myself.
Graveney batted almost without blemish for four hours and twenty minutes. He wanted only four for his hundred when he cut at a rising ball from Hall and was taken by the wicket-keeper. He hit eleven 4's [sic]. - Wisden 1967Bob Borsley, incidentally, is right, and John Clarke mistaken, about when Graveney's birthday fell.
Graveney was 39 the day before the Test started, but under that long, peaked cap he looked 10 years younger. When he took his guard and put his bat in the blockhole we all sensed that here was one of the game's greatest performers... The man looked right. There was a feeling of inevitability about him. He was bound to do well. And so it proved. Shuffling well forward, he took the sting from Hall, Griffith and Sobers. Any error of length by the bowler and he was there to punish it. There was one superlative square drive I remember which brought a roar from the crowd. - John Clarke, Everything That's Cricket
The "old man" played like the master he is from the very first ball, square cutting and off driving Wes Hall and Charlie Griffith with all the grace and speed of a panther. This was ten foot tall stuff that must have had the English selectors biting their nails and wondering how in the name of heaven they had ever managed to forget the name of Graveney first time round... Once he had settled in, he began playing fine strokes all round the wicket. In fact I still wince a bit when I think of some of those square drives off the back-foot, forcing shots past point. [And after Graveney's dismissal...] The crowd roared, half in sheer delight, half in tribute. And for once the emotions were not inspired by nationality, by team loyalty. Sure, every West Indian in that ground was glad to see the back of the great Graveney. But, when they had finished cheering Wes Hall, they cheered Tom all the way back to the pavilion for his great courage, his great ability, his great innings. - Gary Sobers ('as told by Alan Bestic'), King Cricket
[For links to the other posts in this series, see here.]