As the autumn chill arrives in England, we find ourselves wondering where the fine summer of 2014 actually went. For times during the summer we were told “there’s a heatwave on the way” only to find it never really appeared. Heatwave ha that’s a word often used in England more for what doesn’t eventually appear rather than what does. Only once in my 50 years can I ever remembering it ever coming true, that was during the halcyon days through the summer of 1976. I was just 12 in 1976 but I can remember the endless days of sunshine like it was yesterday.
Sunshine..lots of it,Standpipes, hosepipe detection vans and bad fashion sum the year up,here’s a look back at the great hot summer of 1976. My father was a cricketer so it was his old bats we used to use during our “Test Matches” over on the playing fields. At the same time the West Indies had arrived in England for a test series during a summer where the outfields turned from green to brown. This was pre World Series ‘Kerry Packer’ cricket which would change cricket forever in 1977,so this was very much an end of an era.
Having drawn the 1973-74 series in the West Indies, England started the series in confident mood, with theircaptain Tony Greig arrogantly proclaiming before TV cameras that England would make West Indies “grovel”.Greig was never allowed to forget that comment though in a subsequent interview many years later he recounted that his comment was born out of frustration with the journalist interviewing him at Hove in early season 1976.
(Click image for series highlights)
Greig felt that the interviewer was concentrating too much on the West Indies fast bowling attack and not discussing England’s strengths. Even in an interview with Sky Sports only around a year before Greig died in 2012, he was prepared to apologise on camera for his remark – even some 35 years after he had originally made it.
Greig’s comments left the West Indians, players and fans alike so fired up, that by the end of the test series it was the England team that was on its knees. From start to finish, the international matches were dominated by the West Indies, captained by Clive Lloyd. England could do little to contain the destructive batting of Gordon Greenidge and Viv Richards, nor defend against the ferocious pace bowling of Michael Holding, Andy Roberts, Vanburn Holder and Wayne Daniel. Richards, so imprudent with the bat, smashed 829 runs in four Tests, but missed the 2nd Test due to illness.
High points for England were centuries for Tony Greig and Alan Knott in the 4th Test, a double century by Dennis Amiss in the 5th Test, and the bowling of John Snow, Bob Willis and Derek Underwood. But these individual performances by Englishmen could not save them from the relentlessness of the West Indies onslaught.The highlights of the tour were five Test matches and three One Day Internationals against the English cricket team. After the first two Tests were drawn, giving England a false sense of hope, the West Indies easily won the remaining three Tests to take the five-match Test series 3-0, and retain the Wisden Trophy. West Indies also won all 3 of the ODIs.
For the next two decades, the West Indies cricket would dominate international cricket, never losing a series for fifteen years. The 1976 series has been characterized as a turning point for the West Indies cricket team. The series revealed to the cricketing world a new generation of West Indian cricket superstars like Viv Richards, Clive Lloyd, and Michael Holding. My own amateur career started that year and fortunately 21 years later I faced two cricket legends who appeared in that series (John Snow and Derek Underwood) in a match against an Old England XI. Tony Grieg remained a hero of mine through out his life even though his own career declined after World Series cricket.
What else happened in 1976 ?
In January the first commercial Concorde flight took off, Scheduled flights began on 21 January flying on the London to Bahrain and Paris to Rio (via Dakar) routes. On 4th February,the Winter Olympics opened in Innsbruck, Austria, where Franz Klammer won the mens downhill. In March 1976 Home Secretary Merlyn Rees ends Special Category Status for those sentenced for scheduled terrorist crimes relating to the civil violence in Northern Ireland then on 6th March Harold Wilson resigned as Prime Minister being replaced by James Callaghan.
On 26th March the Queen sent the first royal e-mail. April saw the UK win the Eurovision Song Contest. The country is represented by Brotherhood of Man, with the song “Save Your Kisses for Me“. As a measure to curb population growth, the minimum age for marriage in India is raised to twenty-one years for men and eighteen years for women. The trial of Donald Neilson begins at Oxford Crown Court, the killer was also known as the ‘Black Panther’. In the final in mid June Czechoslovakia beats West Germany 5-3 on penalties to win the European Football Championships. The game had ended 2-2 after extra time. By the 3rd July 1976 The Great Heat Wave reaches its peak in the United Kingdom.
The country had already been struggling with a drought.17th July sees the Summer Olympics open in Montreal, Canada. 27th July saw the United Kingdom breaks diplomatic relations with Uganda and Idi Amin, in August ‘Big Ben’ suffers internal damage and the clock stops working for over nine months and ten thousand Protestant and Catholic women demonstrate for peace in Northern Ireland. The Irish rock band U2 is formed in September and in October the Chimpanzee is placed on the list of endangered species. Finally on 3rd December Bob Marley and his manager Don Taylor are shot in an assassination attempt in Kingston, Jamaica. Spice Girl Emma Bunton, Reese Witherspoon, Chris Hoy and Brazilian footballer were all born and famous deaths in 1976 included Agatha Christie, Howlin Wolf, Sid James Stanley Baker and Field Marshal Montgomery. All this and I’ve not yet mentioned the Sex Pistols, the Six Million Dollar man or Charlie’s Angels !