David Holford: My First Test (31 December 1998)

31 December 1998

David Holford: My First Test

Philip Spooner

Holford Showed His Mettle From Early

He was unwavering, committed, and showed determination like no other.

Disciplined and thoughtful, the studious nature of leg-spinning allrounder David Anthony Jerome Holford brought a measure of stability to the West Indies team during his 24-match career.

Most would say that his returns of 768 runs at 22.58 and 51 wickets at 39.39 were modest, but he will be remembered as an excellent cricket brain and probably the best captain the West Indies never had.

His international berth came on the 1966 tour of England, at age 26, when he successfully made the elevation from Harrison College to Spartan, then to the Barbados team and onto the Test match stage.

"I left the Caribbean on April 16, 1966 - my 26th birthday," recalled Holford, who also represented Trinidad and Tobago at regional level. "It was a life-long dream and the achievement filled me with great pride."


It was a consistent 1966 Shell Shield for Barbados when he took 18 wickets in four matches which earned him his "stripes". It was his first season back from Canada since 1961 where he was studying.

He had first played for Barbados Colts under Everton Weekes in 1959 but chose to pursue his education before returning to the game.

In 1966 he was one of nine Barbadians on the tour. He was not an automatic choice for the starting XI but a spanking century against Lancashire leading up to the first Test at Old Trafford earned him a spot at No. 7 as second spinner behind Lance Gibbs.

"I was definitely nervous when the match began," the now 58-year-old said.

"I was however happy to play my first game away from home. At home it was more nerve-racking so I felt more comfortable being away."

Holford showed his mettle from early when he made a disciplined 32 in a sixth-wicket stand of 127 with his cousin Garfield Sobers.

"Garry made a superb 161 and we won by an innings. I can remember him hitting bouncers from fast bowler David Brown through the covers," said Holford, who later went on to be a West Indies selector and manager. "It was tremendous batting. I was in awe. My job was just to lend support and stand up and watch him bat at the other end."

West Indies went on to win the five-match series 3-1, with Sobers making 722 runs in eight innings including three centuries.

Holford, a strong on-side player, said he was a bit disappointed with his dismissal.

After a slow start when his timing was off, he began to find his range with a few crisp strokes, when he fell caught by M.J.K. Smith off slow bowler David Allen. Ironically, Allen was one of two men in the match with the same name. The West Indies wicket-keeper was Barbadian David Allan.

Holford's fondest memory, however, was when he took his first wicket with his fourth ball - Fred Titmus bowled.

"Titmus was not a great player, but he was useful so it was not a bad first wicket," he said.

"I dropped a leg-break around leg-stump, he played defensively forward, missed and was easily bowled."

Great stand

His greatest moment came in the next match at Lord's when he added an unbroken 254 for the sixth wicket with Sobers.

With the West Indies facing a first innings deficit of 86 and tottering on 95 for five, the pair came together to perform one of the greatest feats in West Indies cricket history.

"It was similar to the first Test in many ways," Holford said with pride in his voice. "It was do-or-die. The emphasis was for me to hang in there, nothing extravagant, and leave it to the 'man' at the other end."

Holford said he was doubly determined after his dismissal in the first innings - bowled by fast bowler David Brown.

"The ball before I got out I was struck a painful blow on the knee by a ball which penetrated the pad," he said. "I did not take enough time to recover and the next ball was played into the ground and rolled on. I was very disappointed and wanted to make amends."

It had a successful first tour for him, taking 50 wickets - second behind Charlie Griffith - and making over 700 runs including two hundreds.

Source :: The Barbados Nation (http://www.nationnews.com/)