DISCIPLES of Twitter will no doubt be familiar with the musings of Fred Boycott, whose name is a whimsical combination of t’finest bloody fast bowler who ever drew breath and Yorkshire’s greatest living batsman.
For years, the Twitterati has tried and failed to find out the identity of this person, the social media equivalent of the Scarlet Pimpernel, who posts his love of all things Yorkshire and old-fashioned cricket.
All we know for certain is that Fred’s location is somewhere in Pudsey, and that he boasts over 83,000 followers – including ‘Sir Geoffrey’ himself, along with many prominent figures in the cricket world.
“I say what I like and I like what I say,” is the proud statement on Fred’s profile page, which adds: “I’m right, you’re wrong.”
Apart from tweeting, Fred’s greatest pleasure in life would appear to be slow scoring and what he lovingly terms the “digin”.
Indeed, Fred likes nothing better than a good “digin” – hours of blocking and defensive batting.
To that effect, he was surely in his element yesterday, when England showed some of the fighting spirit that Geoffrey Boycott made his hallmark.
At stumps on day four of the second Test against India in Visakhapatnam, the tourists were 87-2 in their second innings from 59.2 overs, digging in towards a draw after being set an improbable 405.
Whatever happens today, with India clear favourites to go 1-0 up in the series after the drawn first Test in Rajkot, yesterday saw stonewall batting from a bygone age.
Indeed, as Alastair Cook and Haseeb Hameed were in the throes of an opening stand of 75 in 51 overs, Fred Boycott tweeted his delight at the thou-shalt-not-pass nature of the action.
“Lovely to get back from t’nets to see England playing proper cricket,” he proclaimed.
“It brings a lump to the throat. #digin”
On Test Match Special, Geoffrey Boycott was similarly enamoured as the openers scrapped hard.
The Yorkshireman praised the character and attitude of both players, who showed precisely the fighting qualities needed.
TMS even tweeted a picture of ‘Sir Geoffrey’ giving a big thumbs-up with a smile on his face.
“We’re not sure if @GeoffreyBoycott has ever been as happy…” it mischievously announced as the scoring rate proceeded at less than 1.5 runs per over.
Like Boycott, Cook has fabled powers of concentration and the ability to bat for long periods.
Yesterday, the England captain registered his 53rd Test half-century to go with 30 hundreds, and it was his slowest in terms of balls faced – 172.
When Andrew Samson, the TMS scorer, announced that statistic, Boycott purred: “Very good. Excellent innings.”
Cook had reached 54 from 188 deliveries when he was finally out in the last over, lbw to Ravindra Jadeja, a blow from which the tourists will do well to recover.
A little while earlier, Hameed’s vigil ended when he was the victim of a grubber from Ravi Ashwin that pinned him lbw for 25.
The ball kept so low that even a dwarf might have struggled to get his bat down in time, and the tall Hameed had little chance as the wearing pitch claimed its man.
The innings maintained the promising start to Hameed’s Test career, which began with 31 and 82 on debut in Rajkot and featured an accomplished 13 from 50 deliveries in the first innings of this game before he was unfortunately run-out by Joe Root.
They call the 19-year-old Hameed ‘Baby Boycott’, a nickname of which the Lancastrian is suitably proud having been shown by his father while growing up videos of Boycott batting.
‘Sir Geoffrey’ is also pleased by the comparison.
“I am flattered that Hameed is known as ‘Baby Boycott’,” he said recently.
“It is a compliment to me that his father showed him videos of me and wanted him to watch my technique.
“He is not a modern player. The modern player has grown up with crash, bang, wallop Twenty20 and having to play cricket’s answer to baseball.
“This kid plays as if he could have played in my era on uncovered pitches because he seems to have the temperament, patience, concentration and technique.”
Not that Hameed is a one-trick pony.
At Rajkot, he was no slow-coach as he revealed a range of strokes that Yorkshire’s supporters will know only too well after he became, earlier this year, the first Lancashire batsman to score two hundreds in a Roses game.
Why, Hameed even hit a six early in the second innings when he battered Jadeja over mid-off.
It was the shot of a man who looks and feels comfortable at the highest level.
And another thing...
ON the subject of patient batting, Australia have turned to a Yorkshireman described as an opener of old.
Matt Renshaw, a 20-year-old left-hander born in Middlesbrough, is one of six changes to the squad for the third Test against South Africa in Adelaide starting on Thursday.
Renshaw, whose family moved to New Zealand in 2003, and then to Australia five years later, used to play with a young Joe Root.
Renshaw’s father, Ian, and Root’s dad, Matt, played together at Sheffield Collegiate, and the two boys took to the field after games.
Renshaw, who represents Queensland and has played 12 first-class matches, is said to possess a good technique and temperament.
He has been called-up in response to Australia losing their last five Tests.
Englishmen have been quick to delight in that woe.
Former captain Michael Vaughan tweeted: “Great to see Australia picking an Englishman to get them out of this hole… #Renshaw”.