From Leyland to Vaughan, Headingley fixture is rich in game’s history

IF ever a story summed up the weird and wonderful world of Yorkshire cricket it is one which relates to the Headingley Test between England and South Africa in 1935.

When Yorkshire batsman Maurice Leyland was taken ill on the morning of the match, Yorkshire captain Brian Sellers was deputed to drive from Leeds to Baildon to ask another Yorkshire player, Arthur Mitchell, to take Leyland’s place.

Sellers arrived to find Mitchell – one of the most dour and uncompromising characters cricket has known – hard at work in his rose garden.

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After much protestation, Mitchell finally relented: “Oh, alright then, just let me tidy me-sen up a bit.”

With the game about to start, Sellers drove Mitchell back to Leeds at such breakneck speed that ‘Ticker’, as he was affectionately known, came to regard playing in the match as something of a relief.

He certainly justified his 11th-hour call-up, making 58 and 72 and finishing second top-scorer in both innings to Walter Hammond.

It was one of only six Test appearances for Mitchell, a right-hand batsman and brilliant close fielder who coached at Yorkshire after the war.

He toured India under Douglas Jardine in 1933-34 but could not establish a regular place in the face of intense competition at that time.

‘Ticker’s’ brace of fifties during the 1935 Test was not enough to help England to a fifth successive win over South Africa at Leeds.

The match finished drawn, ending a sequence of English domination that dated back to South Africa’s first visit to Headingley in 1907.

On that occasion, in the second of a three-match series, England won by 53 runs in the only game that produced a result.

In a low-scoring fixture, Colin Blythe, the Kent left-arm spinner, who died at Passchendaele in 1917, took 8-59 in the first innings and 7-40 in the second to record what today stands as the eighth-best Test haul of all time.

England also dominated the meeting between the teams at Headingley 100 years ago.

That game was part of the ill-fated Triangular Tournament that also involved Australia and which was bedevilled by bad weather and small attendances.

At Headingley, the rain relented sufficiently to enable Frank Woolley (57) and Sydney Barnes (6-52) to give England a first innings lead of 95.

Half-centuries from Reggie Spooner and Jack Hobbs then created the platform for Barnes to complete a 10-wicket match haul and set the seal on a 174-run victory.

There were two Tests between England and South Africa at Headingley in the Roaring Twenties.

England won by nine wickets in 1924 on the back of a maiden Test hundred by Patsy Hendren, the great Middlesex right-hander who would score another six of them during a career which brought him 170 first-class centuries, second only to Hobbs’s 197.

And, in 1929, England made it four out of four against the Springboks at Leeds thanks to the great Kent pair of Woolley and ‘Tich’ Freeman.

Woolley scored 83 and 95 not out and Freeman took 10-207 with his leg-breaks and googlies to engineer a five-wicket victory.

After the “blip” of the draw in 1935, England returned to winning ways when the countries next met at Headingley in 1947.

A century from Len Hutton helped the home team to a 10-wicket win, the Yorkshireman clinching the match – and the rubber – with a six.

It was Hutton’s first Test appearance at Headingley and crowds of 30,000-plus cheered his every run. Such was interest in the game that thousands were unable to get into the ground.

Tedium was the byword for the 1951 meeting, which finished as a draw as 500 played 500.

South Africa’s 538 was their highest total in Tests at that time, while opening batsman Eric Rowan’s contribution of 236 was their then highest individual innings.

When England replied, Hutton made another hundred and Peter May scored a century on Test debut.

“His equanimity from first to last, his subordination of self for side even after completing a century, and his sound technique stamped him as a player well above the ordinary,” appraised Wisden.

South Africa gained their first Test win at Headingley in 1955, recovering from 38-5 on the opening day to romp home by 224 runs.

Jackie McGlew and Russell Endean made second innings hundreds, off-spinner Hugh Tayfield claiming match figures of 9-164.

And that was it for another 39 years.

Not until 1994 did the teams meet again at Headingley following South Africa’s readmission to Test cricket, Michael Atherton’s 99 the highlight of another drawn affair.

England won a dramatic game in 1998 by 23 runs on the back of a brilliant performance by Darren Gough.

South Africa were 144-5 in pursuit of 219 for victory but the Yorkshireman claimed the key wickets of Jonty Rhodes and Mark Boucher on his way to 6-42 from 23 overs.

The Springboks have won on their last two Test appearances at Headingley.

They prevailed by 191 runs in 2003, a defeat that prompted England captain Michael Vaughan to launch a strong attack on the county system, and by 10 wickets in 2008 following the left-field selection of Nottinghamshire’s Australian-reared pace bowler Darren Pattinson, whom Vaughan admitted he had never met before the match and whom he had not wanted in his side.