Writing in Another Bloody Day in Paradise, after England had bowled West Indies out for 265 on a good batting wicket. midway through the pre-lunch session on day 2 of the 3rd Test, he wrote . . .
All England had to do now was survive the new ball and work painstakingly for a decent lead he (Botham) said – ‘Boycs and Goochie have got to go through them swing doors. Walk calmly up the deck and book in for bed and breakfast. . .
England went in and Holding bowled the most lethal, most frighteningly enthralling, over to Boycott that any sadist could wish to witness. The first ball was gentle, the second less so, the third, fourth and fifth increasingly made one fear for Sir Geoffrey’s gallant life and the sixth – as though the hateful half-a-dozen had been orchestrated into one gigantic crescendo – tore the stump from the ground and had it spearing some twenty yards as if for the very heart of the wicketkeeper Murray. In the momentarily stunned silence that followed Boycott looked round, then as the din assailed his ears, his mouth gaped and he tottered as if he had seen the Devil himself; then slowly he walked away, erect and brave and beaten.
That one over, magnificent and cruel at the same time, won the Test match and, indeed, the series. There were a handful of dying twitches, to be sure, but no Englishman dared book his bed and breakfast after that. While the sun was still high, they were all out for 122 and not a sound was heard on the bus that took them back to their wives and children.
That evening, after a dance and barbecue on the hotel’s pier head, Kenny Barrington went to his room with wife Ann, flopped on the armchair as Ann popped into the bathroom. When she came out Ken Barrington was dead.
Within a quarter of an hour, ten floors down, someone whispered me off the dance floor. It just could not be true. Friends do not just die on the day you have breakfast with them. Or a lunchtime drink.
He had been so hale and full of beans, So dynamite chuffed at the end of the West Indian innings in the morning. His nose crowded out the already crowded pavilion Long Room bar. His smile illuminated it. . . . and he was beaming because his boys had just bowled out the unbeatables for 265.
The last time I saw him was a little later on the player’s balcony during England’s afternoon collapse – choked as he was, but always first up with a great big consoling arm round the in-coming batsman and some perky get-stuck-in encouragement for the outgoing. It just couldn’t be true.
You just couldn’t take it in, even when someone asked you not to tell any newspaper or radio friend in England until his friend, Guy, had been told at his Surrey boarding school. Why only yesterday, or was it this morning even, I had challenged him jokily about Guys who went to ‘Toffs’ schools!
He’d laughed fit to burst at that – and men who laugh so don’t just drop dead – do they ?
And anyway, the band was still playing . . .