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24 September 2014
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Viv Richards Copyright Allsport Hulton/Archive This story is more than just about a great West Indies cricket team. The summer heat wave in 1976 was a time when cricket went beyond the boundary.

The BBC archive film captures behind the scenes footage of the 1976 West Indies cricket team preparing for what would prove to be an historic tour.

Action at the Oval Copyright Allsport Hulton/Archive
The West Indian batsman made a great start

But don't be fooled by the good time images - this was a serious business.

Before a ball had been bowled, the series was thrown into controversy.

As Lloyd prepared his players, his opposite number, the South African born captain of England, Tony Greig, gave a television interview, which stirred the mood and set the tone.

But for West Indians trying to make their way in 70s England and for one activist in particular, the England captain's choice of words hit the rawest of nerves.

1st Test Trent Bridge, Nottingham
3,4,5,7,8 June 1976
Toss: West Indies
Umpires: HD Bird and TW Spencer
Result: Match drawn
5-Test series level 0-0

He threatened to make the West Indian players "grovel".

Broadside misfired?

For Viv Richards that was an explosive and motivating comment.

Vivian Richards was just 24 when he arrived at Trent Bridge for the First Test.

With Greig's taunt ringing in his ears he was determined to succeed away from his own homeland.

Umpire Dickie Bird Copyright Allsport Hulton/Archive
Umpire Howard 'Dickie' Bird was on duty

As Richards blasted the England bowlers to every corner, one man had the best view in the house.

Umpire 'Dickie' Bird remembers:

"To stand here and you see the great man batting, you have got to be on the look out because he used to hit them back like tracer bullets, straight…

"And I tell you he used to have me jumping up and down when I was stood at the bowlers end I used to be ducking and weaving they would be whistling past my head, whistling this side... whistling on the ground.

"And you had to be really fit and I mean fit to get out the way of some of his drives because he was awesome. The Crowd here that day was packed and he gave them their money's worth.

"I think people who are still alive today and saw that knock at Trent Bridge in 1976, I think they will say that was one of the finest test innings there has ever been in the history of the game."

Ossie Holt was among the thousands of vociferous West Indian supporters at Trent Bridge that day.

"I remember that day... Richards batted like a God," he recalls.

2nd Test Lord's, London
17,18,19,21,22 June 1976
Toss: England
Umpires: HD Bird and DJ Constant
Result: Match drawn
5-Test series level 0-0

Richards' triumph

Richards hit an imperious 232 in a match that was eventually drawn.

But as he made history on the pitch, tensions were rising off it.

That same summer, an amateur filmmaker was capturing the other side of the story and the mood of young West Indians on the streets of Brixton. One said:

Holding at the Oval Copyright Allsport Hulton/Archive
Michael Holding took eight wickets in an innings

"Anger at being invisible… being of that place but that place not recognising you… Treated bad… Racial prejudice will never end."

The discrimination and inequality of 1976 England was not lost on the West Indies' most flamboyant batsman.

This of course was the hottest summer on record, and although the Lords match was a wash out, by the Third Test at Old Trafford, the sun was out and the heat was well and truly back on the English batsmen.

3rd Test Old Trafford, Manchester
8,9,10,12,13 July 1976
Toss: West Indies
Umpires: WE Alley and WL Budd
West Indies won by 425 runs
West Indies leads 5-Test series 1-0

England under the cosh

England were blown away, and by day three hopes rested with their two senior players.

Two opening bats combined age of 80… the two toughest blokes get out there and do the job.

Brian Close Copyright Allsport Hulton/Archive
Brian Close... brave and bold in defeat

And so on a parched and perilous wicket, in front of baying West Indies supporters, 45-year-old Brian Close faced the most fearsome bowling attack in world cricket.

But despite the West Indies onslaught and the mockery of their own fans, Close and Edrich survived the day.

Despite Close's efforts England lost and set off for Leeds 1-0 down.

A West Indies victory at Headingley would clinch the series. But England's besieged captain had other ideas.

In the second innings Greig was left stranded as his team crumbled around him.

Series won but not finished

The West Indies were 2-0 up with one Test to play - the series was theirs.

Holding at Lords Copyright Allsport Hulton/Archive
Michael Holding the West Indies fast bowler at Lords

But victory on the pitch was countered by oppression off it.

New laws giving the police the powers to stop and search suspects were being used over zealously to take young black men off the streets.

For the man using his camera to capture the conscience of the time, the enemy was obvious and in uniform. He was:

"More concerned by police than National Front, police were National Front in uniform..."

West Indies crowned

4th Test Headingley, Leeds
22,23,24,26,27 July 1976
Toss: West Indies
Umpires: DJ Constant and TW Spencer
West Indies won by 55 runs
West Indies leads 5-Test series 2-0

If Headingley was the place of victory, the Oval was the arena for the coronation.

And the king of the series had one final point to make.

Richard's quest was about to get some help.

The archive shows that the Oval was transformed into a highly charged corner of the Caribbean.

He'd already made four centuries in the series, but those who saw Richard's innings knew something special was being played out before them. One eyewitness said:

"I have never seen anything like it... he timed it to perfection… Viv never looked like getting out…"

Richards' record score

Viv Richards dismissed Copyright Allsport Hulton/Archive
Viv Richards dismissed for 291!

The bare facts: 474 minutes, 38 boundaries, 291 runs.

Who could possibly bring it all to an end?

Years later Tony Greig mused: "It is always good getting great players out but I have to say I do remember that - like it was yesterday.

"But I have got to say I don't talk about it much I mean 291...

I think he might win the argument."

The irony was not lost on Viv Richards:

"291 - I almost forgot that, maybe if I'd gotten to 300 I would have remembered much better.

The player who dismissed Richards in the end was the same guy who said he was going to make the West Indians grovel... Tony Greig.

An amused Viv Richards said:

"I was grovelling at 291, yeah Tony Greig - you got me out."

Magnificent feat

So triumph on the pitch and adulation off it.

For some this triumph went beyond sporting greatness.

His innings at the Oval meant opposition could be confronted on road to freedom.

But the great Vivian Richards was about to be upstaged by a 22-year-old express train from Jamaica.

"He was super fast. I don't look at footage much but nice smooth run up…

"Beat them by pace… whispering death…"

Tony Greig bowled Copyright Allsport Hulton/Archive
Tony Greig is comprehensively bowled

Holding magnificent

Holding took eight wickets in the first innings and six in the second.

Never another best bowling ever seen….

But of all the Englishmen he dismissed, there was one wicket he wanted above all others.

Michael Holding wanted Greig's wicket.

Michael commented:

"England batsmen said they did not like to bat with Greig because we bowled faster… we needed to prove a point.

"The Stumps just scattered, and of course to my right where all the West Indians were sitting they just stormed onto the ground.

"It was a great feeling to see Tony Greig depart for the last time with the stumps shattered all over the place."

5th Test Kennington Oval, London
12,13,14,16,17 August 1976
Toss: West Indies
Umpires: WE Alley and HD Bird
West Indies won by 231 runs
West Indies won 5-Test series 3-0

And Dickie Bird mused:

"That is when the Windies supporters were jubilant…

"That's when all the Bacardi rum bottles the coca cola cans all the crowd came onto the Oval.

"It meant so much to them, so much to their lives a those will always remember that day at the Oval."

Tony Greig remembers:

"They loved it… and at the end of the match I had no option... all I could do was crawl off, grovel off myself."

Just two weeks after the glory of the Oval, the party began at Notting Hill.

Darcus Howe Copyright BBC Elvis
Darcus Howe 'We were charged up'

But the tension bubbling all summer between the West Indian community and the police reached boiling point.

Caribbean cricket and carnival chaos… for the man who witnessed both… the two are undeniably linked.

Says Darcus Howe:

"It was what I call an historical moment… racial abuse and cricket came into the middle.

"Never had West Indian cricket such an intense social reflection.

"We felt stronger. These people are not invincible…

"They would have banned cricket... walked through police lines, if Viv could do it I could do it too…"

Sport and culture

The cause and effect theory of sporting triumph and black uprising may be unproved.

But there seems little doubt that during that summer of 1976 something significant shifted both on and off the cricket field

An important time for cricket and the well-being of West Indians living in England.

When the West Indian team left they left a different black community behind.

see also

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