To really enjoy watching a fast bowler bowl you need at the other end a batsman willing to take him on. And Brian Close was a batsman who took on West Indies' fear-inducing bowlers - Griffith and Co in 1963 and Holding and friends in 1976 - with bat and body.
Sent in to open the batting at Old Trafford in 1976, in what was his final Test innings, 45-year-old Close hung on for an hour on the third evening, taking repeated blows. And he wasn't happy when umpire Bill Alley warned Michael Holding for bowling too many bouncers. "I said to Bill, 'What the hell did you have to do that for?'" recalled Close. "'He's bowling too many bouncers,' said Bill. 'Don't you realise the bloody bouncers aren't hitting us?' I told him. 'It's the ones halfway down that are the problem!'"
Viv Richards, who played under Close at Somerset, was concerned about the blows his county captain was receiving. "Close got hit in the chest by Wayne Daniel and sank to the floor," Richards told the Observer in 2007. "I went up to him. 'Are you OK, skipper?' Closey eventually gathered himself together and bellowed 'F*** off.' What a man."
Close risked further retaliation from the West Indian quicks by hooking them as well. In this photo, he despatches Andy Roberts in the previous Test at Lord's, in which he batted for more than five and a half hours to make 60 and 46 to help England to a draw.
In an ODI at Edgbaston in 1972, Close takes on Dennis Lillee.
Geoff Boycott writes in his autobiography of Close's courage while facing Charlie Griffith and Wes Hall in the 1963 series: "Even knowing that Close had an extraordinary resistance to pain - a philosophy of mind over matter that said if you didn't think about pain you didn't feel it - we could hardly believe it and I don't think Charlie Griffith ever recovered from the experience either. Close returned to the Yorkshire dressing room sporting the lurid bruises that had been photographed for the front page of just about every newspaper in the country. I was curious and misguided enough to poke them inquisitively with a forefinger. Closey nearly went through the roof and I was lucky to escape without being throttled."
Close (non-striker) and Fred Titmus scramble a single while the bowler, Wes Hall, falls to the ground at Lord's, 1963. Close batted for close to four hours in the second innings to save the match.
Cricket writer EW Swanton remembered this innings fondly on a particularly trying occasion. Invited to be an after-dinner speaker at an event along with Close, Swanton found himself waiting his turn interminably as Close rambled on. "… if he had been a more sensitive man he might have noticed that the audience, receptive enough for the first half hour or so, had ceased just looking at their watches but, metaphorically at least, were shaking them to see whether they were actually going," Swanton wrote in his book Follow On. "I tried to detach myself from the actual situation and to recall Close's hour of honour in '63 when his innings of 70 so nearly won the day for England. For that at least he should never be forgotten."
Close was equally brave while fielding close to the batsman. In his book Bats, Balls & Bails, Les Scott relates the tale of Close fielding at short leg against Gloucestershire in 1962. Close was hit on the side of the head and the ball was caught at first slip. Team-mate Doug Padgett came to enquire after Close, saying, "Thank heavens you're OK. Think what would have happened if it had hit you between the eyes." Close said, "Well, hopefully he'd have caught it at cover."
In this photo from a match against South Africa on their England tour of 1955, a young, well-thatched Close shows off his quick reflexes by stopping a cut shot from captain Jack Cheetham.
Here, Close fields at short leg to Alvin Kallicharran at Lord's, 1976.
Another Somerset team-mate, Ian Botham, also wrote about his captain's forbearance. "I saw him take another vicious blow at Cardiff, when Alan Jones, the Glamorgan opener, was facing Tom Cartwright," Botham wrote in his autobiography Head On. "Tom bowled his one and only half-volley of the year, on leg-stump, and Jones whipped it off his legs. It hit Brian, once more fielding at short-leg, a yard and half away, full on the shin… Brian didn't even flinch. He didn't rub it, he didn't do anything, he just settled back down in his stance, ready for the next ball. Twenty minutes later, when we went off for lunch, there was blood coming out the lace holes of Brian's boots. When he pulled up the leg of his flannels, he had a livid bruise and a four-inch gash on his shin. He still didn't say anything, he just had it stitched, put on a clean pair of flannels and socks and led us back out after lunch as if nothing had happened."