Sir Geoffrey Boycott - My top five knocks for Yorkshire CCC

ASKING Sir Geoffrey Boycott to pick his top-five innings for Yorkshire feels a bit like asking Aesop to select his favourite fables or Shakespeare to choose his favourite sonnets.

Portrait of Yorkshire and England cricketer and commentator, Geoffrey Boycott on 1 May 1965 at the Headingley Stadium, Leeds, United Kingdom. (Picture: Don Morley/Getty Images)
Portrait of Yorkshire and England cricketer and commentator, Geoffrey Boycott on 1 May 1965 at the Headingley Stadium, Leeds, United Kingdom. (Picture: Don Morley/Getty Images)

After all, where do you start?

Boycott scored 32,570 first-class runs for the club and 103 hundreds.

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He averaged 57.85 for Yorkshire every time he went out to bat.

Sixties style: England and Yorkshire batsman Geoff Boycott. (Picture: Allsport UK/Getty Images)

Of those 103 hundreds, 35 came in a winning cause, 58 in a drawn contest and only 10 when Yorkshire lost the match.

If Boycott did well, Yorkshire did well. “We didn’t lose much when I got a hundred,” he says.

Moreover, England never lost when Boycott made a Test century, which he did 22 times, while only 12 of his 151 first-class hundreds came in a losing cause.

“The winning is everything,” he says. “When I got a hundred and we lost, which wasn’t very often, it didn’t mean much to me. It’s all about winning and stopping your team from losing. If you can’t win, don’t lose.”

Winning partnership: Geoff Boycott and Brian Close.

Boycott, who turned 80 in October, well on the way to yet another hundred, has picked his top-five Yorkshire innings in chronological sequence.

Doubtless many readers will remember them fondly, fashioned from the bat of one of cricket’s great craftsmen.

1. 145 v Lancashire at Sheffield 1963

“This was my first hundred in first-class cricket and set me on the road. We bowled Lancashire out for 151 at Bramall Lane and I was supposed to bat at No 7, behind Closey and Illy.

Cutting loose: Geoff Boycott in batting action for Yorkshire.

“I was just a young kid, 22, making my way. But Closey had bowled a lot of overs and we lost three early wickets, so he sent me in at No 5.

“The bowlers were Brian Statham, Peter Lever and Ken Higgs – not a bad attack, I can tell you. I was 17 not out that night and, come the Monday morning, a Bank Holiday Monday, with a full house in, I went on and made 145. Bryan Stott made 143 and we put on zillions. We won by an innings and plenty.

“I’d never played in front of a crowd like that before. It was fantastic. It was a lovely hot day, and the ground was full of Yorkshire members. Absolutely choc-a-bloc. Bramall Lane was a great pitch, too, with a little bit for the seamers, a little bit for the spinners, but you could bat on it if you had a good technique.

“It always had bounce and carry. It was a proper cricket pitch, with a little bit for everybody. You just had to bowl well or bat well.”

1965 Gillette Cup winners: Yorkshire captain Brian Close holds the cup aloft watched by his victorious team. Don Wilson, Doug Padgett, John Hampshire, Ken Taylor, Brian Close, Ray Illingworth, Ffreddie Trueman, Richard Hutton, Jimmy Binks, Phil Sharpe, Geoff Boycott.

2. 177 v Gloucestershire at Bristol 1964

“A couple of weeks beforehand I got my first Test match hundred at The Oval against Australia. I was in great nick and we went to play at Bristol against Gloucester.

“When we arrived, the pitch was a dust bowl. They had three spinners – David Allen, John Mortimore and Sam Cook, and it was a big spinning pitch.

“Closey said: ‘If we make 250, we’ll win comfortably.” Anyway, we batted first and made 425-7 declared, and I scored 177. I was out just after tea on the first day. I hit the ball everywhere. I played fantastic. To give you some idea how much it turned, Gloucester were all out for 47 and 84 and we won by an innings.

“The top had gone. It wasn’t a great pitch, and it was all over in two days. But I was so confident that I was down the pitch and hitting the ball everywhere. I was in great form and playing really well.”

3. 146 v Surrey at Lord’s 1965

“I have to pick the Gillette Cup final of 1965. That was an awful year for me. I didn’t make a first-class hundred all summer and ran myself out twice against the South Africans at Bramall Lane. As a team, we were playing poorly to ordinary.

“We finished fourth in the Championship, but somehow we managed to get to the Gillette Cup final. There was torrential rain days beforehand and the start was delayed. Everything was against us. Surrey put us in and the pitch was saturated, the ground was saturated. Closey thought 200 was a good score.

“When I was out, the score was 248 and I had made 146 of them. We went on to score 317 and won easily.

“Two shots I remember in particular – I went down the pitch to Geoff Arnold, who was a wonderful bowler, played for England, and I hit him straight back over his head into the pavilion for six.

“In fact, the ball dropped just under where the England dressing room is now. Nobody had ever seen me play like that. It just happened.

“That 146 stood as a record in a one-day final at Lord’s until Alex Hales beat it (with 187 not out for Notts against Surrey in 2017).

4. 260 not out v Essex at Colchester 1970

“This was my highest score for Yorkshire and came on one of my favourite grounds – the Garrison ground, they called it.

“I hadn’t played great that summer and had asked to be left out of the first couple of Tests; I just hadn’t got going. Anyhow, I started to find form and we went to play against Essex at Colchester in late July.

“I played fantastic. I got 260 not out out of 450 declared, and we won by an innings. I just liked the Garrison. I made 233 there the following year.

“Whenever I liked a ground, I usually tended to do well or get a hundred. I just did.

“Grounds I didn’t like, I struggled at – like Melbourne. I never got a hundred at Melbourne. Not in a state match, not in a Test match. I got a few runs here and there but it was just a big, cold ground.

“You could have 20,000 in there and it looked as if there were three men and a dog. It’s huge. A 100,000-seater. The boundaries are so big, and the public are so far away.

“But the Garrison was different. I loved playing there. When we went there in 1970, I also made 98 in a John Player League game after getting the double hundred the day before, so I scored over 300 runs that weekend.”

5. 201 not out v Middlesex at Lord’s 1975

“There was a new rule that year. You could only bat for 100 overs and then your innings had to close.

“I made 201 not out out of 376 declared. It was a hot, sunny day and the ball was turning. Middlesex made 325, so we had a 51-run lead.

“That night I went in again and made nought, and then there was overnight rain and the next nine wickets fell to Titmus and Emburey, and we were all out for 106. They wanted 158 to win and were 63-0 at tea on day three.

“They had 40 overs left to get the runs with 10 wickets left. It’s a doddle, isn’t it? I liked that match because I played great, got us in a good position, but I captained fantastic.

“I switched Cope from the Nursery End to the Pavilion End – he got five wickets. We won by five runs with eight balls left. It was fantastic, the drama and everything.

“They thought they’d got it in the bag, Middlesex, 63-0 and the ball turning like it had done for their spinners.

“I gave our lads a right dressing down at tea – 63-0 with the ball turning? But we fought back and Peter Squires, a brilliant fielder, ran three of them out. It was one of the great matches. We were ecstatic.”

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