Surrey v Worcestershire, The Oval, 1st day

The Oval to host Jamaica celebration

David Lloyd

April 19, 2012

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Surrey v Worcestershire - no play

It was a wet day at The Oval, Surrey v Worcestershire, County Championship, Division One, The Oval, April 19, 2012
Only groundsmen had anything to do at The Oval © PA Photos

Wet days at cricket and trips down Memory Lane go hand in hand. While rain prevented so much as a ball being bowled today, Surrey gave those few hardy souls who were present every opportunity to reminisce by announcing details of a special match to be played here on Sunday July 8.

As part of the celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of Jamaica's independence, an Old England side will take on an Old Jamaica XI at a ground which, over the years, became like a second home to visiting West Indies teams.

The line-ups are to be finalised but it is hoped that Ron Headley, Courtney Walsh and Michael Holding will be among those turning out for Jamaica. But whether or not, at 58, he plays on July 8 - or pursues his second, gentler career of commentating - Holding has already had a big input by recommending The Oval as the ideal venue for a Jamaican party.

It is no wonder, really. Back in the 1970s, especially, this part of south London rocked to a Caribbean beat when West Indies took on England with the ground heavily populated by dancing, singing and music-making supporters of the visitors. They seldom had anything less than a victory to cheer - and one of their favourite sons, Holding, chose this venue to produce a performance awesome by even his sky-high standards.

In 1976, the Jamaican with the silent run-up and thoroughbred action returned match figures of 14 for 149 as West Indies won by 231 runs, even though England managed 435 in their first innings. As an exhibition of fast bowling it was just about impossible to beat and those who saw it live still purr with delight whenever Holding and The Oval are mentioned in the same breath.

Mind, another fast bowler born in Jamaica produced an even more starting performance, in terms of destruction, at The Oval. And Devon Malcolm, who is scheduled to represent Old England in July, did it for the hosts.

Whether or not Malcolm actually said "you guys are history" after he was hit between the eyes by a bouncer while batting against South Africa in 1994 is neither here nor there. What we know for certain is that Big Dev responded to the indignity of being felled by producing perhaps the most hostile spell of his career to take nine for 57.

Great memories. And no doubt there will be plenty more doing the rounds come July at what should be a joyful occasion.

As for the present, there was little to cheer at The Oval today. It did stay dry long enough, though, for Worcestershire to win what could be a vital toss. They have neither Holding nor Malcolm to call on but will still fancy their chances of doing damage with the ball.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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