July 2006

Who got Boycott biffing?

Interviews by Simon Lister
Simon Lister interviews the key members of Yorkshire Gillette Cup Final winning team


One-day cricket was still new and the Gillette Cup in its third year when Yorkshire met Surrey in the 1965 final. It proved one of the competition's more memorable games. Geoff Boycott, without a hundred all season, hit 146 with three sixes and 15 fours. Everyone wanted the credit, even Micky Stewart, for putting Yorkshire in



Brian Close's 79 was overshadowed by a rare aggressive knock from Geoff Boycott, who struck a brilliant 146 © The Cricketer International

Brian Close (Yorkshire captain):
We were a fine county side in those days. Illy, myself, Boycs and Fred Trueman. Jimmy Binks behind the stumps. I tell you, we'd take on this England side and beat them inside four days.

Ray Illingworth (Yorkshire):
It was a wet morning and a late start but the wicket was OK. There was dampness in the air and the game was delayed for more than an hour.

Close: In 1965, the Championship was out of reach. It was a very wet summer and we hardly finished a game until June. So we applied ourselves to this new competition. We were a good attacking side. We knew how to get people out. But I always felt that one-day cricket reversed the principles of first-class cricket where the bowlers and fielders ask the questions of the batsman and he tries to answer them. In one-day cricket the bowler's running up wondering what's going to happen to the next ball.

Micky Stewart (Surrey captain):
I won the toss and put them in. It turned out to be the sort of decision that earns you the freedom of Bradford and Leeds. If you looked at the two sides, I think nearly all of theirs had played for England. We were much more inexperienced and some of our lads were a bit nervous, so I thought we may as well get out there and field first.

It seemed to be a good decision. The Yorkshire openers, Boycott and Ken Taylor made a slow start and, when Taylor was out, the score was 22 from 12 overs.

Ken Taylor (Yorkshire):
It was a slow wicket and I tried to cut. All I ended up doing was giving an easy catch to Ken Barrington in the gully. It was like an underarm throw. Taylor's dismissal brought Close to the wicket. Some remember it as a spontaneous tactical decision to accelerate the scoring. Others disagree.

Illingworth:
There's been a lot of talk about Closey going in early to tell Boycott to get on with it but it wasn't to give Boycs a bollocking or owt like that. It was all about the Surrey left-armer, David Sydenham.

Close:
Boycott didn't like the left-arm over bowlers so much.

Illingworth:
We'd recently played Surrey in the County Championship and Sydenham had bowled very well to the right-handers. So Jimmy Binks had said to me: "In the final why don't you tell Closey [a left-hander] to go in up the order?"

Close:
Doug Padgett was due to go in at three but he looked at the score and said to me: "Look, skip, you better go in next. It's suited to you is this. Anyway, if I bat with Boycs, he always ends up bloody well running me out."



Ken Taylor: '[Boycott] batted beautifully. It just proved what he could do' © The Cricketer International

Geoffrey Boycott (from Boycott: The Autobiography):
The suggestion is, of course, that I was piddling along until Close arrived and told me to get on with it or else, thus forcing me to play a memorable innings, which would not have been possible without his rugged intervention. It makes for good reading but it is not the way I remember it at all.

Close:
I joined Geoffrey in the middle and said to him: "Listen, if I call, you bloody well run."

Boycott:
At no time did Close tell me to get on with it or anything remotely similar. Those who believe otherwise are mistaken.

Illingworth:
The players used to use me to get messages through to Brian. If you told the skipper "you're the man for the job", it would appeal to him.

Boycott:
It was no last-minute inspiration. We had struggled before against Sydenham. It was obvious that he would be a real nuisance in a limited-overs game, especially to the right-handed batsmen - and Close was the only recognised batsman in the team who was left-handed ... the plan was formulated at least a fortnight before the final.

Close:
We ran a few quick singles and turned the scoreboard over and I went back down and said: "If it pitches up, give it a bloody belt." Geoff Arnold bowled the next ball a fraction full and Boycs thrashed him through extra cover. He'd never played a shot like it.

Stewart: Boycs was great. We knew he played well square off the back- foot and front-foot, so I said: "Look, don't bowl him any Father Christmas deliveries there." But instead of getting it in the blockhole we gave him plenty of half-volleys, then adjusted to long hops. He dealt with them very well.

Close:
Then the off-spinner came on. Usually Boycs was frightened of hitting the slower lads in the air for fear of getting caught but I told him: "Just hit it anywhere from square leg to mid-off."

Taylor:
He batted beautifully. It just proved what he could do. So there was no reason why he couldn't have continued like that. But it must have frightened him to death thinking that he had to play like that every innings.

Boycott:
I still remember moving down the pitch to Geoff Arnold and lifting him straight for six with the Yorkshire players trying to catch the ball on the pavilion balcony.

Close and Boycott added 194 for the second wicket. John Woodcock wrote in The Times: "I shall never again make it an excuse for Boycott that he is unfortunately not endowed with strokes. His magnificent innings contained every stroke in the book."

Close:
It was a great innings - chanceless. And I think it was the highest one-day score at the time.

With some late hitting from Fred Trueman and Jackie Hampshire, Yorkshire ended up with 317 from their 60 overs, then the competition's highest total.

Stewart:
In those days it was an absolutely huge total. I mean in a first-class game if you declared and asked a side to chase anything over four an over, it was thought of as unrealistic.

Illingworth:
We got a massive score, even by today's standards, and of course there were no restrictions, so they could put the fielders where they liked.



Ray Illingworth: 'Five for 20-odd in 12 overs and still not man of the match? That showed that Boycs had batted well' © Getty Images

Stewart:
When I walked out to bat, with us needing five an over from the off, Kenny Barrington said to me with a smile: "What are the tactics skip?" As it happened Fred Trueman ended the match in one over, taking three wickets.

In four balls Trueman had John Edrich caught, Bill Smith leg-before and Ken Barrington caught behind. "The writing was on the wall," noted Wisden. Illingworth also bowled well.

Illingworth:
Five for 20-odd in 12 overs and still not man of the match? That showed that Boycs had batted well. I remember I got two or three with the arm ball. No one could read it and it was swinging like a banana.

Close:
Illy was a wise old sod. They tried to have a dip at him and he mixed up his offbreaks with the arm ball.

Yorkshire had beaten Surrey by 175 runs and won the Cup. Doug Insole, the chairman of the England selectors, who had dropped Boycott from the Test side, presented him with the Man-of-the-Match award.

Boycott: It was one of the best innings I ever played, different in character from many that people choose to remember, but with a context and a significance all of its own.

Illingworth:
Boycott always had lots of talent but I think he was frightened of failure. He didn't usually want to take chances. I think he may well say that the best he ever batted was on the Ashes tour of 1970-71 when I was captain because I gave him a lot of encouragement.

Stewart:
Boycott played magnificently. There was a lot to hit but he did it very well.

Close:
It was a thrill to be there. We enjoyed the day because when we won Championship matches they were always hard-fought. No one ever declared and gave us anything to chase. Each match presents its own way of challenging you.

Illingworth:
Boycott had the opposite mentality to batsmen such as Ted Dexter and Peter May. If he had thought like them, he would have played more innings like the one we saw that day.

Close:
We were all thrilled for Boycs. It was one hell of an innings, no messing.