No. 12 March 8, 2009

Boycott b Holding

Mike Selvey
The perfect set-up, then the perfect kill. It was the most ferocious, exacting opening over by a bowler in a Test match


And so it ends: Boycott loses his stump off the sixth ball © Getty Images
 

Bridgetown, 14 March 1981

It was, Michael Holding has said, as if time stood still. The moment when the off stump of England's premier batting technician, Geoffrey Boycott, was detonated from the Kensington turf and sent flying a full pitch length back towards David Murray. "I saw it," the bowler said, "as if it was slow motion. For a fleeting moment there was not a sound, as the stump came out and I realised what I had done. Then I was hit by a wave of noise that tumbled down from the stands."

Holding, fastest of them all, many say, and one of the purest, had just applied the coup de grace to complete what has come to be regarded as the most exacting, ferocious opening over ever sent down by a pace bowler in a Test match.

To Holding went the second over of the England innings, Andy Roberts already having tested Graham Gooch to the full. Ten minutes or so earlier, in the gloomy interior of the home dressing room in the Pickwick pavilion, "Sluggo", the West Indies' Australian physiotherapist, had worked Holding into a lather, as a trainer might a thoroughbred, the better to prepare him to inflict an onslaught.

Holding surged in, silent-footed, and menacing. Successively Boycott was smacked on the knuckles, beaten outside off stump, and rapped on his inner thigh. Fortitude and skill kept out the fourth and fifth as they reared at him, forcing him back into the crease. The sixth, pitched up and fast beyond comprehension, created his own history.

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This article was first published in the print version of Cricinfo Magazine