Today's cricket memory is kindly contributed by Chris Dillow. Chris writes:
My mum grew up in Surrey with a girlie crush on Peter May. Hence the trip from Leicester to the Oval for the first day of the final Test against the West Indies in 1976. We sat just behind the advertising hoardings in front of the gas holder.Here's more about that famous Viv Richards innings:
Although the Windies had won the series by then - they were 2-0 up - the extent of their superiority was doubtful at the time. The first two Tests of the summer had been drawn, with England having chances of victory in both, the Windies had been gubbed by Australia the previous winter, and Richards, Daniel, King and Holding were all young and comparatively unproven. So we thought England had a chance of recovering some pride. The first few balls gave us hope. Greenidge scratched around before being lbw for a duck to one that kept low from Willis. And that was the problem. All the balls were keeping low, often bouncing twice before reaching Alan Knott. After just a few overs, captain Greig withdrew Willis in favour of Underwood, a clearly defensive move.
And defence was necessary. Roy Fredericks, supported by Richards, set about the England bowling, raising questions about the wisdom of having only Bob Woolmer as third seamer (and, indeed, Mike Selvey as second seamer). The only time either looked like getting out was when our local hero Chris Balderstone, fielding in front of us at extra cover, dropped Fredericks horribly. He remained sheepish as he frequently ran haplessly towards us chasing Fredericks' cover drives and Richards' mid-wicket pull-drives.
Balderstone later atoned with a wonderful diving catch to dismiss Fredericks. Not that it mattered. Richards' strokeplay merely became more dominant, with Lawrence Rowe - to the delight of the middle-aged Jamaican sitting next to me - supporting. Just before close of play, Underwood had him stumped, a reward for sweat rather than skill. Later, Richards completed his double century, having never looked like getting out.
Eventually, England got to bat, and Holding showed that the pitch was nothing like as dead as it appeared when Willis and Selvey were using it.
I was just a 12-year-old then, and so oblivious to the political background of all this - the racism imputed to South African Tony Greig's 'grovel' remark, and the growing unemployment and police harrassment of black youth. I thought I had merely seen the huge gulf between good players and great ones. Others - the slightly older West Indian fans packing the Vauxhall Road end - saw much more.
After Lloyd had won the toss for the fourth time in the five Tests, Richards gave yet another glorious display with the bat. Making 291 out of 519, he hit thirty-eight 4's in a stay of eight minutes short of eight hours. - Wisden 1977
And what about Vivian Richards? On the evidence of his 291 in West Indies' first innings... he must be counted among the greatest of all West Indian batsmen. Richards batted with the same abandon with which his fellow West Indians at the Oval... placed their bets with Ladbrokes. Before a ball was bowled the bookmakers made England six to one... By the time Richards had finished with them on the second afternoon, no one was wanting to back England even at 50 to one. - John Woodcock in Frindall's Scorebook: England Versus West Indies 1976
Richards' final innings of the series was to be the biggest by a West Indian in England, 291 in just under eight hours with 38 fours and without a blemish, his seventh three-figure innings in Tests for the year. - Tony Cozier, The West Indies: Fifty Years of Test Cricket
Viv Richards' 291 was the highest score by a West Indian in England, surpassing Worrell's record by 30... [I]t was acclaimed as one of the greatest innings ever played by a West Indian. The prevailing view was that it was worthy to be ranked with the very greatest by even Bradman or Hammond in their respective primes. - Michael Manley, A History of West Indies Cricket
'Never once during my knock', I assured the reporters, 'was I thinking about any kind of record.' If my cricket ever gets to that state I'll chuck it rightaway. That is not false modesty. At no time have statistics made any impression on me. - Viv Richards with David Foot, Viv Richards
With 130 not out to his credit at the end of a day's play, Richards was kept up until half past two the following morning by the non-stop West Indian party in his hotel room at the Waldorf in the Strand in London's West End. - Trevor McDonald, Viv Richards
It would have been very selfish of me not to have allowed that celebration to continue. After all, those people were celebrating my achievement. I felt that I owed it to them. In any case, the extent of the partying was exaggerated. I went to bed not too much later than at other times. The next day I went on to 291 and some people felt that, had I not been involved in the party, I might not have been out with such a lazy shot at that point. But that was at the end of an extremely long innings. - Viv Richards, Hitting Across the Line
[For links to the other posts in this series, see here.]