Ambrose revives memories of Holding

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Last days of Test matches at The Oval have a habit of becoming nail- biting affairs. It was not until some time after tea yesterday that England had made this sixth Test match completely safe, thanks to another most impressive innings by Michael Atherton.

During the lunch interval on Sunday, the feature on Radio Four's Test Match Special had been a look back at the fifth Test match at The Oval against the West Indies in 1976.

Thanks to Michael Hold- ing's 8 for 92 in England's first innings, the West Indies led by 252 and, not enforcing the follow-on, they set Eng- land to score 435 in the final innings. England were 43 for 0 when the last day began with every chance of saving the match, but this did not allow for Holding.

Bowling with great pace and rhythm, he worked his way through the England second innings, taking 6 for 57, making 14 for 149 in all. When Curtly Ambrose sent back Jason Gallian and John Crawley in his brilliant first spell of the day, it seemed more than a possibility that he might take on Holding's earlier role.

In 1968, Australia, needing 352 to win, were 86 for 5 at lunch on the last day when a freak storm flooded the ground. Play restarted at 4.45. The sixth wicket did not fall until 5.24 and then, on a drying pitch, Derek Under-wood took the next four wickets and England won with five minutes to spare.

Australia had a memorably unhappy last day at The Oval in 1902 when England, needing 263 to win, lost their first five wickets for 48.

Then Gilbert Jessop hit the second-quickest hundred in Test history. He reached 50 in 43 minutes and his hundred in 75 minutes before being out for 104, but, even so, England's last pair of George Hirst and Rhodes had to score the final 15 runs. Famously, they got them in singles.