The first day of Test cricket I went to after arriving in Britain was the fourth day of the Lord's Test in 1966. I was a graduate student at Nuffield College at the time, and was friendly with a guy from the West Indies called Dick Fletcher. He was captain of the college cricket team, and you will be able to estimate the standard of that team from the fact that I, who have never scored more than twenty-something, was one of its better batsmen. We only managed to field an XI by roping in two or three Canadians who had never played the game before. Anyway, there was a fair amount of interest in the West Indian tour of that year, and a few of us started gathering in the TV room to watch some of the first Test at Old Trafford, which the Windies (avant la lettre) won by an innings and 40 runs. 'Who is this Comrade Hunt guy?' asked Chris Allen, another Nuffield friend, in mock innocence.
So Dick Fletcher and I decided to go to Lord's. We were to witness a historic, match-saving partnership. At the beginning of the fourth day of that Test, the West Indies, facing a deficit of 86 on first innings, started on 18 for 1. Before lunch they lost another four wickets and were in deep trouble; at 95 for 5 they were only 9 runs ahead and it looked like curtains. Dick and I were sitting at the Nursery End with many other West Indian supporters, all as worried as we were. At one point Dick threatened to disclose my identity as a white Rhodesian to those around us, despite my being a fervent Windies supporter. But he spared me this discomfort as Gary Sobers was joined by his cousin David Holford, and the two of them proceeded to save the game. Sobers was majestic in that halcyon summer, a man whose cricketing grace and athleticism were a pleasure to watch, and I will always remember some of the strokes he played that day - particularly his driving of the ball from the end from which we were watching up to the boundary at the Pavilion End. Sobers and Holford were still together at the close of play and went on to record an unbroken partnership of 274 the following day.
This is how others have written about them:
Then Sobers was joined by his young cousin, Holford, and they remained together for five hours and twenty minutes until Sobers declared at ten minutes to one on Tuesday. This unbroken stand of 274 was a record for the fifth wicket for West Indies against England. - Wisden 1967
This was the day that the figures 9-5 took on a different meaning than the office worker's hours of labour. Nine runs for five wickets. That was the position, in effect, when Sobers was joined by his cousin, David Holford, at 10 minutes to one. West Indies were 95 for five, only nine runs on and defeat was just round the corner. No bookmaker in his right senses would have offered less than 100-1 against the West Indies wriggling out of that one... Cowdrey worked on the principle that Sobers in this grim mood was unshiftable, so let's get the break through against the inexperienced... 27-year-old Holford. As it turned out, Sobers was unshiftable, but no one knows what would have happened had he had more pressure put on him. - John Clarke and Brian Scovell, Everything That's Cricket
By that time, most of the crowd and most of the commentators were not asking each other whether England would win or not. The only questions left, it seemed, were when they would win and by what margin. I still wasn't ready to accept any of these questions. I just knew I was facing the biggest crisis of the match and was working out in my mind how best I could face it. It didn't take me very long, either, because there was only one answer. I had to force Colin Cowdrey into defensive tactics. I had to make him spread his field. And the only way to do that was to belt hell out of his bowlers!... So, when my cousin... came out to join me, I said to him: "You just stay there." - Gary Sobers, King Cricket
Incredibly, Holford, in his second Test, reassured by the presence of his illustrious cousin at the other end, chose this moment to play the innings of his life. - Tony Cozier, The West Indies: Fifty Years of Test Cricket
What followed was one of the epic partnerships of Test cricket. Joining Sobers at the wicket was his young cousin, David Holford. He was the sort of batsman of whom 50 might be expected at a pinch but not the sort of long grinding innings needed if Sobers was to have the time to make enough runs while consuming the clock and putting the game beyond England's reach. In the end they were not separated... - Michael Manley, A History of West Indies Cricket
When I'm old and grey - or should it be older and greyer? - and I'm sitting in my rocking-chair recalling happy days on the cricket field, the summer of 1966 will figure prominently in my thoughts... [After giving some of his reasons...] It was also the summer of the innings which for several reasons has given me the greatest satisfaction of all in my Test career: 163 not out at Lord's in the second Test. - Gary Sobers with Tony Cozier, Gary Sobers' Most Memorable Matches
Not a bad start for my cricket spectating in England. (See also Bob Borsley on Tom Graveney's innings in the same match.)
[For links to the other posts in this series, see here.]