The 1960s was a golden decade for Yorkshire CCC and Paul Dyson looks back at the success of 1967.
When the 1967 seasons dawned Yorkshire had been the winners of the County Championship in five of the previous eight seasons and had also won the Gillette Cup two years earlier. With nine Test players in their squad it was expected that they would be amongst the counties challenging for the title once again.
The month of May, however, was wet and in two matches not a single ball was bowled this including the Whitsuntide Bank Holiday fixture against Lancashire at Old Trafford. Of the other four games which were scheduled to be completed in that month a further two were won but the other pair of matches were both rain-ruined draws. Although Geoff Boycott had scored a century in the first match of the season, against Glamorgan at Harrogate, he then suffered the indignity of what would remain the only pair of his career. The very tall, medium-fast Norman Graham of Kent, took his wicket in each innings at Bradford in a shortened drawn match which saw Yorkshire in some trouble having been dismissed for only 40 in their first innings. In the game against Nottinghamshire at Bradford so determined were the two captains to make up for lost time that there were three declarations including two by the visitors (159-5 and 52-0) before Yorkshire successfully chased 150 with five wickets to spare. Who says contrived finishes are a new blight on the game?
June’s seven games, in complete contrast, all concluded in positive results with Yorkshire winning five, including three by an innings, the other margins of victory being nine and ten wickets. Embarrassingly so, the tables were turned at Lord’s where Middlesex won by an innings. Ken Taylor scored an impressive 162 at against Worcestershire at Kidderminster but Boycott, at Sheffield against Northamptonshire, went more than one better by striking 220 not out, an innings that was passed only once in the Championship during the entire season. It was Boycott’s second double-century of the month; his 246 not out in the first Test, at Headingley, which took him five sessions, had controversially resulted in him being dropped for the second Test due to him having scored too slowly on the first day. The selectors had conveniently forgotten that they had picked him when completely out of form and that he had played himself into form by steadfastly remaining at the crease. His first 106 runs took him the whole of the first day but he then scored 140 in two sessions on day two.
The six matches which began in July produced a symmetrical mix of results – won two, lost two and two drawn. Ray Illingworth had match figures of 11 for 79 as Leicestershire were brushed aside in two days by an innings. This took Yorkshire into first place and they remained there for the rest of the campaign. Nearer the end of the month Ken Barrington inflicted the same result on Yorkshire for Surrey at The Oval, his 158 not out being followed with his leg-breaks being responsible for figures of five for 51.
There were seven matches in August and four of these ended in draws, Yorkshire winning two and losing just one. Tony Nicholson was having the best sequence of his career; he took five wickets in an innings in five successive matches, including three five-fors in consecutive innings, and these games produced 36 wickets at a measly 10.14. His nine for 62 at Eastbourne against Sussex was the best performance of the season by anyone and remained his career-best. All of this was completely overshadowed by events on the last day at Edgbaston against Warwickshire when skipper Brian Close and his team indulged in some time-wasting tactics in the field in order to prevent the hosts from securing what looked like a comfortable victory. For the record Warwickshire fell nine runs short, having five wickets in hand. The ramifications were significant for Close. He was severely censured and requested to apologise which he refused to do. He was then sacked as England captain (his record being six wins and one draw in his seven games in charge) and the job given to Colin Cowdrey.
The penultimate match of the season saw Warwickshire visit Middlesbrough for the return fixture and suffer a comprehensive defeat – to the tune of 229 runs. Although left-arm spinner Don Wilson was the match-winner with 13 for 52, the most headline-catching individual performance came from Close himself who underpinned Yorkshire’s first innings with a fighting 98. All of this meant that the White Rose county needed only a first-innings lead in their final game at Harrogate, against Gloucestershire, to win the title outright for the 28th time. A century stand for the first wicket from Boycott and Phil Sharpe set them on their way to 309 and on the second day not only was the Championship secured but victory as well as the visitors lost all 20 wickets. Ray Illingworth was responsible for no less than 14 of these, his first innings seven for 58 being eclipsed by an astonishing seven for six to complete yet another innings victory.
No county won as many games as Yorkshire’s 12 and their total of 186 points was ten more than that achieved by both Kent and Leicestershire. Boycott, Sharpe and Doug Padgett, who scored his first century for three years, all passed 1,000 runs. Nicholson was the leading bowler both in terms of aggregate and average with 90 wickets at 16.78. As if to emphasise Yorkshire’s resources, the young Geoff Cope, an off-spinner, played in a few games and came second in the national averages with 32 wickets at 12.78.
As an 18-year-old who would very soon be leaving home, this writer was present at Harrogate on the day when the Championship was clinched. Little did he then think that he would not repeat the experience until a new century had dawned.