We cel­e­brate his 100th First-Class ton

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Forty years ago to­day at Head­in­g­ley – to be precise at 5.49 in the late af­ter­noon – Ge­of­frey Boy­cott, the York­shire and Eng­land opener, on-drove a four to com­plete a unique and emo­tional cen­tury which es­tab­lished a new record in cricket his­tory. As Boy­cott stroked the ball to the boundary, he be­came the only bats­man to reach his 100th hun­dred in a Test match, and in­stantly joined the 17 other great bats­men who shared the re­mark­able dis­tinc­tion of 100 first-class cen­turies or more. Boy­cott’s four off the medium pace bowl­ing of Aus­tralian cap­tain Greg Chap­pell was also ex­tra spe­cial be­cause his cen­tury was achieved on his home ground where thou­sands of sup­port­ers, dozens of whom in­vaded the pitch, cheered and ap­plauded their York­shire hero – one of cricket’s most con­tro­ver­sial char­ac­ters in the post-war game. In­deed, play was in­ter­rupted for seven min­utes as if a pe­riod of re­flec­tion was re­quired to ab­sorb the mag­ni­tude of Boy­cott’s achieve­ment, watched live on BBC tele­vi­sion and heard by thou­sands at work and at home lis­ten­ing to Test Match Spe­cial. Many of to­day’s T20 and Twit­ter gen­er­a­tion know Boy­cott, a fit and healthy 76-year-old, as a blunt, highly en­ter­tain­ing and knowl­edge­able com­men­ta­tor, but may be un­aware they are lis­ten­ing to or read­ing the views of a world-class bats­man whose pur­suit of hun­dreds in his ca­reer (1962-1986) was as ruth­less as Don Brad­man’s. As his fa­mous in­nings dom­i­nated the back pages and fig­ured promi­nently in na­tional news bul­letins, its sig­nif­i­cance ex­panded. By the time he was even­tu­ally out for 191, Boy­cott, since his re­call af­ter vol­un­tar­ily miss­ing 30 Tests fol­low­ing a dis­agree­ment with Eng­land’s se­lec­tors, had bat­ted 22 and a half hours at Trent Bridge and then Head­in­g­ley, and in the process had compiled scores of 107, 80 and 191. No won­der then that Boy­cott’s ap­pli­ca­tion, con­cen­tra­tion, cau­tion and mas­ter­ful tech­nique con­trib­uted hugely to Eng­land re­gain­ing the Ashes. His mem­o­rable in­nings may have been 40 years ago, but Boy­cott typ­i­cally re­mem­bers ev­ery de­tail only too clearly. Firstly, though, he em­pha­sises the foun­da­tions had been laid in the pre­vi­ous Test at Trent Bridge.

“I would say that my come­back at Not­ting­ham was the most dif­fi­cult and hard­est in­nings I’ve played. I’d been away from Test cricket for three years and some peo­ple were find­ing it hard to for­give me for not play­ing for Eng­land. I was also 36 years of age, and most play­ers are re­tir­ing at 36. Age catches up with you and your re­flexes are not as quick, so bat­ting gets harder. I knew Jeff Thom­son and Len Pas­coe, both gen­uine quick bowlers, were go­ing to test out whether I still had the courage and the tech­nique to han­dle the short stuff.

“Then, there were no lim­i­ta­tions on short balls. Now the limit is two an over. It was a test of my abil­ity and if I’d failed, some peo­ple and the me­dia would have said ‘Boy­cott’s not that good any­how’. So there was a lot rid­ing on it, and if that wasn’t enough I then ran out Derek Ran­dall, the lo­cal hero, on 13. It was a night­mare.

“But I had enough men­tal tough­ness to get me through. I got a 100, Alan Knott also got a hun­dred and we won. It was a test of char­ac­ter and to come through was a relief. That was my 98th cen­tury, and then I had a few days off and went on to score my 99th against War­wick­shire.

“Rachel, now my wife, then rang me and said you’ve done it now, but I didn’t

re­alise what. She said it had al­ready been on the news that I was go­ing to get my 100th hun­dred in the next Test at Head­in­g­ley. I thought, ‘no, I’ve just gone through the most pres­sure I’ve ever had and now there’s even more…home ground, home sup­port­ers, Aus­tralia and the ex­pec­ta­tion that I’d get an­other’. It was all a piece of cake, but it wasn’t.

“I was so up­tight at the team meet­ing the evening be­fore and I told Mike Brear­ley, the cap­tain, that I needed to go. I strug­gled to sleep be­cause of the ten­sion and pres­sure. I woke up at four in the morn­ing, tense and ner­vous, but

hav­ing nerves is nor­mal. It shows you care and the great play­ers han­dle those nerves. “I was late get­ting up and rushed to Head­in­g­ley where Keith Boyce, the grounds­man, was tak­ing the nets down. So I asked him to leave one up so I could have a knock. I bat­ted for seven min­utes against lo­cal bowlers and then went into the dress­ing room where Mike said we were bat­ting. I was hop­ing we’d field.

“Mike got out quickly. I was ner­vous, but af­ter about 25 min­utes I felt great and the ball was hit­ting the mid­dle of the bat. I was in con­trol and got into a co­coon of con­cen­tra­tion and noth­ing both­ered me.The odds were huge that I’d get a 100 in the Test, but if I got in every­one was ex­pect­ing me to do so. I knew the crowd were with me and that added to the stress and ten­sion.

“I bat­ted in sec­tions: get­ting off the mark, get­ting to 10 and then 20. I didn’t get too far ahead of my­self, but I al­ways bat­ted to score hun­dreds. I knew Chap­pell was go­ing to put him­self on be­cause the main bowlers hadn’t got me out.

“I’d picked three ar­eas where I was go­ing to hit it be­cause they were safe and I’ve al­ways be­lieved if you get into the 90s, there should be no thing as be­ing ner­vous.You’ve been bat­ting for a few hours and should be in con­trol.

“Chap­pell bowled it just out­side the off-stump at the Kirskstall Lane End and I hit it past the stumps on the other side. The ball was half way down the pitch and I knew I was go­ing to hit it, and where.

“It’s a mag­i­cal mo­ment that hap­pens only a few times in your ca­reer when you know ex­actly what you are go­ing to do be­fore you’ve done it. It was the best mo­ment in my ca­reer – some­thing his­toric that hadn’t been done be­fore.

“Af­ter­wards, I re­mem­ber go­ing back to the ho­tel in the cen­tre of Leeds and rang Brian Clough and Michael Parkinson, two good friends. Cloughie missed a Not­ting­ham For­est com­mit­tee meet­ing to watch me bat all day. Tim Rice de­liv­ered a big bot­tle of cham­pagne and the Eng­land team went in for din­ner at 7.30pm into the casino where the food was lovely, but we were the only peo­ple there at that hour.”

Boy­cott’s dis­tinc­tion was sub­se­quently equalled by Za­heer Ab­bas, the Pak­istan and Glouces­ter­shire bats­man, who reached his 100th cen­tury in a Test against In­dia in 1982/83.

“I don’t think there’ll be enough first-class games to get 100 hun­dreds in the fu­ture,” says Boy­cott.

“County cricket is be­ing squeezed and that will hap­pen more and more. The game has changed alarm­ingly. Is it for the bet­ter? I’m not so sure. I think there’ll be dif­fer­ent types of records. Kids are grow­ing up talk­ing about records in T20. How many sixes did you hit? How many balls did you re­ceive? What’s the run rate? They are play­ing so much more one-day cricket now.

“But you can’t live in the past. I get up and am very happy to go to the cricket and you’ve got to look at cricket as it is.The game has al­ways changed. The laws have changed, pitches have changed and bats have changed.You’ve got to en­joy cricket as it is.”

Boy­cott is mark­ing the 40th an­niver­sary of his spe­cial in­nings by or­gan­is­ing two char­ity events to raise money for the York­shire Air Am­bu­lance and Martin House Chil­dren’s Hos­pice in Bos­ton Spa, near Leeds, where he lives.

I’ve al­ways be­lieved you should not be ner­vous in the 90s. You have been bat­ting for a few hours and should be in con­trol

PIC­TURES: Getty Images

Ton up: Ge­of­frey Boy­cott reaches an­other cen­tury and, in­set, Boy­cott to­day

It’s one to re­mem­ber: Boy­cott cel­e­brates his 100th first-class hun­dred at Head­in­g­ley

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