Cricket great Geoff Boycott to roll back the years in Wakefield

Geoff Boycott. Picture James Hardisty
Geoff Boycott. Picture James Hardisty

The life and times of cricket legend Geoff Boycott will come under the spotlight when the master batsman does a fundraising talk in Wakefield later this month.

The 76-year-old ex player and commentator is coming to Wakefield Cathedral on April 19 as part of a tour to celebrate the 40th anniversary of scoring his 100th hundred and to reflect on his illustrious career.

The talk, which will raise money for the cathedral, will be compered by BBC Look North anchorman Harry Gration, who once carried Mr Boycott’s bags as a youngster after a game in exchange for the opener’s autograph.

The Fitzwilliam born former cricketer gave the Wakefield Express a sneak preview today (Monday) of what treats he has in store for cricket fans.

He said: “I have put some film together of my career. There is footage of my first test match in Nottingham in 1964 and my first test century at The Oval later that same year. The BBC also gave me some film of my hundredth hundred at Headingley.

“There’s also film from India in 1981 of me scoring the record number of test runs.

Test Match. England v Australia. 12  August 1977. Geoff Boycott's 100th hundred at Headingley, Leeds. Picture: Steve Riding

Test Match. England v Australia. 12 August 1977. Geoff Boycott's 100th hundred at Headingley, Leeds. Picture: Steve Riding

“I’ve got some wonderful film of the first England vs Australia one day international under lights and with coloured clothing in Sydney in 1979.”

But the first part of his talk will concentrate on his Wakefield roots and his upbringing at 45 Milton Terrace in Fitzwilliam where the foundations of one of Yorkshire’s and England’s finest cricketers were laid.

Listeners to his commentaries on Test Match Special will be familiar with his quips about his ‘mum being able to catch the ball in her pinny’ or his grandmother’s batting prowess with a ‘stick of rhubarb’.

Mr Boycott added: “I loved it, living in my community. The only thing we were short of was money. People didn’t have spare money to give themselves or their kids consumer goods.

Geoff Boycott and Brian Close at Headingley.

Geoff Boycott and Brian Close at Headingley.

“We had food on the table, we had clothes. We had a safe environment and love from our parents. You left your door open. We didn’t have any ‘wrong’uns’ because everybody knew everybody.”

He added: “Everybody played in the street. We played football, cricket and marbles under the gaslight.”

Mr Boycott began his cricketing pupillage at eight-years-old under the watchful eye of his Uncle Algy who played for Ackworth. He would bowl to the young Geoff before the game to warm up. Mr Boycott transitioned quickly from being the kid who did the scorecards to being part of the Ackworth team. At 15 ‘they thought he had some talent’ and sent him to play for Barnsley in the strong Yorkshire League where his contemporaries were a young Dicky Bird, the future umpire, and Michael Parkinson, the aspiring journalist. It wasn’t long before Yorkshire came calling and he was facing ‘Fiery’ Fred Trueman in the old winter shed nets under poor lighting.

Strong performances for Yorkshire saw him catch the eye of the national selectors and the rest is history.

A musical Geoff Boycott at his benefit night in Rotherham.  October 3, 1974

A musical Geoff Boycott at his benefit night in Rotherham. October 3, 1974

But before the 1977 Ashes series came along Mr Boycott had a self-imposed four-year exile from the Test arena.

But he came back for the Third Test and scored a century and 80 not out at Trent Bridge. He set up his hundredth hundred on home soil with a ton in a county game.

Mr Boycott recalled: “I was in pretty good nick that year, but coming back to Test cricket was pressure. It was about the pressure of the situation, the expectation of the Yorkshire public who thought I would get a hundred and win the Ashes.”

He had a sleepless night before the Headingley Test but when fellow opener Mike Brearley was out for nought “that woke me up pretty quick”, said Mr Boycott.

He added: “Batting is about rhythm for me. If the hands and feet are coordinated nicely, and everything moves with sweetness and rhythm, everything after that falls into line. I had good technique, I could concentrate and I had patience. I always had those from being a kid.”

After 20 minutes play everything fell into line and he began to build his innings. The master batsman can’t remember how many runs he’d accumulated by tea but seems to have total recall about everything else, especially the moment he faced Greg Chappell on 96.

Mr Boycott said: “There was a period when I didn’t score for 20 minutes or half an hour. I wasn’t nervous because I don’t believe in the nervous 90s. I’ve always been nervous on nought, when you are not in.”

When Mr Chappell bowled that delivery Mr Boycott seized the moment. He added: “I knew I was going to hit it for four. You are in a surreal situation when you are playing well. You know exactly what you are doing.”

His hand was already up in the air in celebration as his batting partner Graham Roope had to hurdle the ball to let it pass to the boundary.

Mr Boycott said: “It’s just a marvellous intoxicating situation when you are in total control. You know what you are doing before you do it.”

He remembers the pitch invasion and someone pinching his cap before later returning it.

You can hear all this cricketing lore and more when Mr Boycott does his talk at Wakefield Cathedral on Wednesday, April 19 at 7.30pm.

He said: “Hopefully people will have an enjoyable time if they love cricket, and secondly we will raise some money for Wakefield Cathedral, which must be good.”

Tickets cost £25 and include a welcome drink, and are available online at www.wakefieldcathedral.org.uk/events/32721-an-evening-with-geoff-and-harry and in the cathedral’s shop or via phone on 01924 373923.