Thursday, 19 May 2016

Headingley Headaches

The international summer is upon us, starting off at wonderful Headingley. Despite tickets selling as well in Leeds as a dinner date with Massimo Cellino, there is still something wonderful about the home of Yorkshire County Cricket Club. A magical ground it evokes memories of Botham in 1981, beating South Africa in 1998 and then losing to New Zealand in 1983. Yes we really did get skittled by the three C's. Who needed the three W's of the West Indies, when the Kiwis had Cairns, Chatfield and Coney? For every Botham, there's a Benaud or a Bell. For every Willis, there's a Warne. Not everyone has hugely happy memories of the place. And here's plenty below...

Handsome Headingley
In the Christian church, St Michael might be known for assisting souls in the hour of their death but for many Australians they may have wanted a similar fate as they walked down St Michael's Lane. Ross Edwards was one of those. The Aussie opener batted three times at Headingley, yet managed to score a grand total of no runs. A golden duck twice, no doubt Ross would have filled his boots in 1975 before not being allowed to atone for his errors by the George Davis is Innocent campaign. For those younger readers, George was a gentleman from London imprisoned for armed robbery. Many thought he was innocent and his supporters highlighted his case by trashing the track, causing an abandonment of the match. George was duly released where he proved his innocence by going out and 'blagging' a wages van. He was duly caught by the Sweeney and banged up again. Hmmmm.

Greg Chappell was a very good player yet didn't even manage a hundred runs in six knocks. Moustachioed Max Walker also had a mare here as Brian Clough seemed to have a happier time in the city than many Aussies of the era. Max took just the one wicket and went for nearly 200 runs. In 1977, the match famous for Geoffrey Boycott's hundredth hundred the Aussies even lost by an innings and 185 runs. One Yorkshire wag even suggested that they didn't need Packer, they need to pack up!

The George Davis campaign in 1975

For the wrist spinners, Headingley has been a graveyard. "Don't come 'ere with yer Australian nonsense, it's line and length yer need". Leg Spin has never been en vogue in Yorkshire until Adil Rashid showed up and Richie Benaud and Shane Warne both struggled here. Benaud averaged close to fifty with the ball at the ground, whilst the second highest wicket taker of all time averaged nearly ninety. Warnie who wasn't a mug with the bat, had a couple of ducks here too.

It's not just Aussies though. Kane Williamson the New Zealander is one of the best batsmen in the world. Yet despite stints with Yorkshire and it being his 'home' ground, King Kane has mustered a mighty 22 runs in four digs here.

There are plenty of English who have struggled too. Harold Larwood had a poor record here, Ian Bell despite a ton in his first game here too. Flintoff never did much here or those who relied on swing such as James Anderson and Matthew Hoggard. Why? That's Headingley for you.

Then there is the case of poor Mike Smith. Born up the road in Dewsbury, Smith was one of those wonderful wild card picks so beloved of the England selection committee at the time. Having taken sixty domestic wickets the previous year, he was picked against the Aussies in 1997. In his third over he found the edge of Matty Elliott's bat, only for Graham Thorpe to spill the chance. Elliott went on to 199, Smith finished wicketless and never played another Test. Darren Pattinson was another to grab just the one cap after toiling in LS6 in the 2008 Test versus South Africa. Another odd pick for Headingley by the selectors. It's not just players who struggled here.

Mike not that one!

So for every Kirstall Lane King, there is a Rugby Stand Rogue. For every Otley Run, there is a lack of runs. For at Headingley they say 'look up and not down' as the same pitch can vary so much depending on whether the sun shines or not.

And that is why, it is one of my favourite Test grounds.

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