Classic Ashes: The tale of THE century and Yorkshire's prodigal son
— 5 December 2018
A 100th hundred for Boycott!
It was late on the afternoon of August 11, 1977 – 36 at lunch, 79 at tea and then history made at 5:49pm to be precise.
Boycott had claimed his 100th hundred on his home ground. Fairy tale stuff!
An on-driven four to the boundary off the bowling of Australian captain Greg Chappell sparked scenes of jubilation, thousands lauding the landmark occasion and, at the same time, one of crickets most controversial characters in the post-war era.
Boycott, one of the finest opening batsmen in history, scored 22 Test centuries in all at an average of 54.57. As Yorkshire’s prodigal son brought up the milestone, play was halted for around seven minutes, almost as If there needed to be a collective in-take of breath, a realisation as to what had just happened.
Fresh from a three-year voluntary abstinence, which encompassed 30 Tests and now aged 36, he recorded scores of 107, 80 and then the infamous 191 upon his return.
A seven-minute net at Headingley against local bowlers was promptly followed by the toss result, England were batting, the pressure was enormous. What Boycott served up was another display of masterful technique, patience and an innings of carefully considered shots. A series of glorious cover drives led to a moment of cricket history on Day 1 of the 4th Ashes Test.
As prolific hundred-getter as one of the game’s greatest Don Bradman, Boycott’s achievement dominated the news agenda, splattered across the back pages of all newspapers and leading the sports bulletins on television.
‘Boycott bounces back’ said one banner among the throngs of supporters gathered to celebrate in front of the pavilion.
“It’s a miracle really,” he told the live television coverage. “I never believed it could happen but it has. It’s magic really. I wouldn’t have wanted to do it anywhere else but here. For me to do it here in front of my own Yorkshire public, you can see the reception they’ve given me. It’s the kind of reception they’ve given me over my whole career. They’ve been fantastic. Today has just been a very special day. I’m pleased for them (the supporters) as much as anyone else. It’s a dream come true.”
It was as if it was written in the stars, well it certainly was in the newspapers. 98th against Australia, 99th against Warwickshire, surely the 100th would come at his home ground – Headingley. No pressure then!
He went on to make 191 as England won by an innings to regain the Ashes. He became the 17th cricketer to achieve the historical landmark but the first to achieve it in a Test match
Only eight cricketers have achieved the landmark since and 25 in the history of the sport.
A reminiscent Boycott added: “I kept telling myself: ‘Just look for the gap around extra cover or through the on side’. In case I mistimed the ball in my enthusiasm, I was determined not to hook – even if Chappell dug one in invitingly. I’d faced 231 deliveries before Chappell came running in again. I’d struck 14 fours. The 232nd ball brought my 15th boundary – and my century.”
More recently Jonathan Agnew launched an audacious on-air prank live on Test Match Special. In it he claimed an ICC press release clarifying the First-Class status of several matches throughout his career meant his milestone at his beloved Headingley was now in doubt. “That’s a load of tripe! That’s ridiculous,” said Boycott before realising it was all a prank.
Back to the business of 100s and it was something Boycott specialised in.
“The most magical moment of my life” said the now charismatic and forthright commentator for BBC Test Match Special.
22,500 were already inside the ground but the gates were thrown open after tea to let more people witness a piece of sporting history. And that they did.
Hundreds rushed on to the pitch to shake his hand and congratulate him on a quite remarkable achievement.
A place in history awaited. Legendary status! secured!
England will take on Australia at Emerald Headingley from Thursday 22nd August (Bank Holiday Weekend), the Tourists’ first visit for an Ashes Test Match since 2009. Pakistan will be facing England in the Fifth Royal London One Day International on Sunday 19th May (11am start) and will be eager to make-up for their four-wicket defeat in September 2016.
Tickets are now on general sale. Days one to three have now sold out, with a limited number of tickets on sale for Day Four in the East Stand and Emerald Stand.