Grace and Pace

Thirty years ago today, on 14th March 1981, at the Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados, the over of all fast bowling overs was bowled by Michael Holding to Geoff Boycott.

England, one down in the series after a heavy defeat in Trinidad and a cancelled game in Guyana, had bowled West Indies out for 265. There seemed to be hope. Within a few overs, though, their first innings was in ruins and another heavy defeat lay ahead.

I remember it well. A cool, grey Saturday afternoon in London, the customary crackly TMS transmission and Tony Cozier going noisily mad as first Boycott and then Mike Gatting were swiftly dismissed to leave England rocking.

With the passage of time and Holding safely ensconced behind a Sky microphone you don't hear so much about it these days, but in the years afterwards that over attained the status of legend. There were no highlights on TV apart from a minute or two on the news each evening, and I hadn't managed to convince my parents to buy a video recorder. I was out that night and so didn't actually see it until years later.

In an age in which raw speed of the type Holding purveyed is increasingly rare, watching the man who combined grace and pace in the most complete way possible is like a window on another world. What really stands out is the smoothness and rhythm of Holding's approach to the wicket. As I said about David Gower a while ago, there's simply nobody like him around now.

Boycott, whose stumps were shattered by the final ball of the over, was, for once, almost lost for words. But less is sometimes more, and, as he said in In The Fast Lane:

'It was a bit rapid, to say the least'.

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