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— 16 November 2017

In the 63 years since England first played a Test match against Pakistan there have been a few occasions, as Paul Dyson states, when Yorkshire’s players have proved their worth.

The new country of Pakistan played its first Test matches in the autumn of 1952 against its near neighbours India. Two years later it was embarking on its first overseas tour and the challenge of a Test series against England who had one eye on the following winter’s tour when they would defend The Ashes in Australia. Pakistan played four Tests and England’s leading wicket-taker, and top of the bowling averages with 20 wickets at an amazing average of 8.80, was Yorkshire’s Johnny Wardle.

  • After taking four wickets in each of then first two Tests, Wardle took just one more than that in the third at Old Trafford but his first innings figures of 24-16-19-4 showed real skill on a responsive pitch. This followed on from an ebullient half-century in which he struck three sixes and five fours. Wardle’s best figures of the series, though, came in the final Test at The Oval which England surprisingly lost by 24 runs. He was in his element in the visitors’ second innings when he ‘bowled cleverly’ (Wisden) to take seven for 56 in 35 overs but Fazal Mahmood, with 12-99 in the match, was the major factor in his countrymen achieving their first victory over England and drawing the series 1-1.

    Pakistan’s next visit to England came eight years later and England were again preparing for an Ashes tour. This time, however, there were to be five Tests and, also again, the home side’s leading wicket-taker was a Yorkshireman – a certain Fred Trueman. He took 22 wickets at 19.69 – six victims ahead of his opening partner, Brian Statham. Trueman took four wickets in the first Test but then nine at Lord’s – six for 31 and three for 85. Pakistan chose to bat in a heavy atmosphere and Trueman was ‘at his livliest’ (Ibid.) on a green pitch, his second victim being his 200th in Test cricket; only five bowlers had previously reached the target but none had done so with fewer balls. Four further wickets at Headingley and five at Trent Bridge completed the Yorkshire fast bowler’s series, him being rested for the final game.

    The winter of 1977/78 saw England’s fourth tour of Pakistan and the visitors’ batting was dominated by Geoff Boycott; his 329 runs in the three Tests were more than 200 more than anyone else and his average of 82.25 was over 40 runs more than any other batsman. A half-century in the first Test at Lahore was followed by innings of 79 and 100 not out at Hyderabad, both games being drawn. In the latter match England were struggling against spin and ‘only Boycott had the defence to last but he ran himslef out’ (Ibid.). No such problems in the second innings as the Yorkshireman and skipper Mike Brearley shared an opening stand of 185 to secure a second draw.

  • In the final Test, at Karachi, Boycott had the honour of captaining England for the first time, Brearley being injured. He made another half-century but could do little, tactically, on another very slow pitch which produced another draw. He criticised the pitches after the match stating that Pakistan needed to produce ones which would provide positive results. ‘Few would challenge his views.’ was Wisden’s comment.

    It was another Yorkshire batsman – Joe Root – whose figures dominated England’s averages in the most recent series between these two countries in 2016. His 512 runs at 73.14 placed him at the top of the lists for both runs and average. Root scored more than half of his runs in one innings – at Old Trafford in the second of the four Tests. His 254 was described by Wisden as being ‘classically magnificent’ in a statement of true awe which also mentioned his ‘iron restraint…near-perfect touch’ and ptaised his ‘beautiful back-foot drive’. An unbeaten 71 in the second innings gave him 325 for the match – England’s third-best on home soil. His double-century was the third highest at Old Trafford for any country.

    Will Joe Root play another such innings against Pakistan in the Tests of 2018 or will there be another Yorkshire player to produce such fine performances as Wardle, Trueman and Boycott did against Headingley’s next Test opposition?