For years [Andy] Roberts opened the bowling, followed by [Michael] Holding. Then, one day in 1981, in a Test against England at Bridgetown in Barbados, captain Clive Lloyd told Holding his time had come. 

“Which end do you want to bowl from?” he asked

“Whichever end Andy doesn’t want,” replied Holding, who did not believe the time had come.

— The Times, 'Holding Up Standards' by David Walsh in July 2015

In March 1981, West Indies played England in the third match of a five-Test series with Michael holding bowling to Geoffrey Boycott what is regarded by many as the greatest over ever bowled in the history of cricket.

With the opening Test of the series being drawn and the second one getting cancelled, after Robin Jackman was refused entry into Guyana due of his connection with then-banned South Africa, the action shifted to The Kensington Oval at Bridgetown, Barbados - the venue for the third Test.

Ian Botham won the toss and put the hosts in to bat first. West Indies struggled to stitch together partnerships but a century from captain Clive Lloyd propelled them to a total of 265. Graham Gooch then just about survived a fiery over from Andy Roberts before Boycott, ahead of the lunch interval on day two, took strike against Holding.

The first delivery was pitched slightly short but it bounced sharply and Boycott did well to keep it down and guide it to second slip. It was just the first delivery of Holding’s spell but he seemed to be loosened up already. The next ball was quicker and it whizzed past Boycott’s outside edge after pitching slightly short of a length. The third ball of the over was angled in and struck the right-hander on his thigh guard much before he could bring his bat down. The next two deliveries were short and climbed rapidly, with Boycott showing remarkable reflexes to fend them off to gully.

But then came the final ball, the one that ended Boycott’s ordeal in such a striking manner that it ended up immortalising the over.

It landed on a length but because Boycott has been pushed behind in the first five balls, he hung on the back foot and paid the price for it. The ball blazed past his defence and sent the off-stump for a cartwheel. It was a sight to behold as Holding completed an over - the first of his match - in which he gave a thorough account of his extraordinary ability as a fast bowler.

Watch Holding’s iconic over to Boycott here:


In a conversation for The Telegraph to mark the 40th anniversary of *that* over, Holding and Boycott got together to share their memories of it.

“If fast bowlers are not allowed to intimidate, there’s no point in them bowling,” said Boycott. “It’s part of what makes a great batsmen, to stand up and have the technique and courage to handle them. He got everything right. I know from batting that it’s very difficult for any bowler with a new ball to get the line and length right, but for a genuine fast bowler to be spot on six out to six times in their first over is... wow, that is unique.”

Holding added: “There’s no way I could say that was exactly what I had planned on doing. It just happened. I felt smooth, it was rhythmical.”

Watch Holding and Boycott’s conversation here: