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The tenth West Indies side to visit England after gaining Test status fifty years ago covered themselves in glory under the astute direction of their captain, Clive Lloyd and the manager Clyde Walcott, of the Three W's fame.
Blessed by ideal conditions such as they enjoy in their own islands, for it was the hottest summer within living memory, they kept the Wisden Trophy, outclassing England in the last three Tests after drawing the first two.
Only a few months earlier the West Indies men had undergone a disastrous tour in Australia and then met India in four Tests on their own soil where they won two and were beaten once.
Before they arrived in England in May it was questioned whether they would be stale from so much continuous cricket. Many of their batting performances in Australia had been reckless, but apart from a repetition of this malady in the first innings of the Lord's Test they generally knuckled down to the business on hand and showed themselves to be a splendid set of players who enjoyed their cricket as well as providing first-class entertainment.
Only four of the seventeen players were strangers to first-class cricket in England, Michael Holding, Raphick Jumadeen, Collis King and Albert Padmore, but King had played for Nelson in 1974 and 1975. The majority had extensive experience in county cricket and, indeed, several were indebted to their individual counties for their development into top-class Test performers.
By the time they had completed the tour Lloyd and his team claimed easily the best first-class record of any West Indies combination in England for their results were even better than the glamorous 1950 side when those two spinners, Ramadhin and Valentine, mystified the cream of England's batsmen. The following details speak for themselves:
While Lloyd had a galaxy of talent at his command he might have had problems in a wet summer as he was without a really efficient slow bowler in the absence of Lance Gibbs who had retired from the International scene. Jumadeen (left-arm slow) and Padmore (off-breaks) which took over fifty wickets outside the Tests and must have gained valuable experience, but it was speed all the way in the Tests and never has any side been better served in this important factor.
In Holding, Roberts, Holder and Daniel, West Indies had four hostile and genuine fast bowlers and supplementing them was the left-arm Julien, who if not quite so quick, moved the ball in the air and off the seam, though his two Test wickets cost 168 runs, whereas the first four took 84 of the 91 England wickets that fell. Only three wickets went down the slow bowlers.
Holding, on his first visit to this country, was exceptionally fast, and set up two West Indies records at The Oval where he took eight first innings wickets for 92 and altogether fourteen in the match for 149 runs.
Roberts had already made his name in England with his county, Hampshire, and through he had to be content with two victims in the first Test at Trent Bridge he was at his best at Lord's where he took five wickets in each innings and in the third contest at Old Trafford where, with Holding and Daniel, England were routed for totals of 71 - their lowest against West Indies -- and 126. Holding took five for 17 in that first innings and Roberts followed with six for 37 in the second while Daniel sustained the pressure.
When West Indies went to Headingley for the fourth Test, they played all four fast bowlers and won a high scoring match, and even though they were aware that at The Oval the pitch would be slower in pace they again relied on the same quartet where they illustrated that pace through the air-mattered most.
At times the excessive use of the bouncer by Holding, Roberts and Daniel caused a storm of criticism, notably on the Saturday evening at Old Trafford where Edrich and Close were subjected to a cruel bombardment. Holding was warned by Umpire Alley following three successive bouncers at Close.
After that condemnation the bowlers concentrated more on attacking the stumps than their opponents' bodies. So the wickets fell sooner and the change of tactics was not only welcome but also proved that intimidation was unnecessary.
It was in this match that Roberts had three chances of a hat-trick and his third attempt was only ruined when the usually dependable Greenidge dropped Selvey in the slips.
Turning to the batting, this West Indies side was very rich in talent with Vivian Richards, Gordon Greenidge and the left-handed Fredericks the main exponents. Richards was exceptionally brilliant and must be ranked among the finest West Indies batsmen of all time, worthy to be coupled with the great George Headley of pre-war fame, even if perhaps he did not have to deal with the same class of bowling.
Injury kept Richards of the Lord's Test, yet the seven innings in the other four Tests he made 829 runs, average 118.42 with two gems, his 232 in Trent Bridge and 291 at The Oval. His aggregate of 829 has been exceeded only three times -- Bradman 905 for Australia against England 1930. Hammond 905 for England in Australia 1928-29 and Harvey 834 for Australia in South Africa, 1952-53. Richards and Bradman batted only seven times, Hammond and Harvey nine.
During the year of 1976, Richards scored 1,710 runs in Tests and in under twelve months beginning with the first Test in Australia in November, 1975 his runs in a year record was 1811. But mere figures cannot convey his perfect style and stroke play. His cover driving was superb and with his feet always in the right position the way he flicked the ball on his leg stump to square leg had to be seen to be believed.
More about Richards and Greenidge and Holding can be found in the Five Cricketers of The Year were Lloyd, Roberts and Fredericks have been previously honoured.
Greenidge was well acquainted with English conditions through his association as opening partner to Barry Richards, the South African, for Hampshire and he displayed much of Barry Richards' flair for attacking the bowling.
With 592 runs in the Tests, he averaged 65.77 and wound up the season by hitting the fastest hundred in sixty-nine minutes against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge. With Fredericks, he took part in three big opening stands in each of the last three Tests -- 116 at Old Trafford; 192 on the first day at Headingley in just over two and a half hours, and 180 unbroken at The Oval.
By hitting 134 and 101 in the Old Trafford Test, Greenidge became only the second batsman to score two hundreds in an England v. West Indies Test. George Headley accomplished the feat twice: at Georgetown, 1929-30, and at Lord's, 1939.
While Fredericks reached three figures only three times during the tour, two of his hundreds were in the Tests, at Lord's and Headingley. His dash and enterprise at the beginning of the innings, led to many of the team's large scores.
For once, Lloyd was seen in a lesser light with the bat with 84 at The Oval his top Test score in which he contributed to a total of 687 for eight declared, the West Indies highest ever total against England.
The real Lloyd was seen at Swansea in August when he hit a double century in exactly two hours, equalling the record by Gilbert Jessop for Gloucestershire against Sussex at Hove in 1903. When Lloyd declared he had made 201 not out, out of 287 in partnership with Rowe in 124 minutes with Rowe 78 and extras 8. He hit seven 6's and twenty-eight 4's and 91 of his runs came from the bowling of his namesake Barry Lloyd, whose last two overs cost 41 (6-4-2-4; 4-6-4-6-4-1).
A shoulder injury, which necessitated surgery, compelled Kallicharran to miss the latter part of the tour. His absence provided an opportunity for the young all-rounder King to reveal his ability and promise of greater things to come. Both he and Gomes played some big innings outside the Tests. Rowe, too, showed his class, notably when he made 152 against his adopted county, Derbyshire, at Chesterfield.
Wherever they went, these West Indies cricketers were seen at their best in the field. The fast bowlers provided plenty of close chances and between them the two wicket-keepers, Findlay and Murray, claimed 82 victims in the 26 first-class matches.
It was not until the beginning of August that the West Indies suffered their first defeat from the eventual county companions, Middlesex, and they also went down in their last important engagement, against T.N. Pearce's XI at Scarborough. M.J. Smith, the Middlesex opener scored 95 and 108 and sealed their fate at Lord's and he also made 100 against them in the one-day Sunday match at Scarborough.
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