Headingley heroics 30 years on

Posted in Domestic Cricket

Bob Willis

Thirty years ago yesterday Bob Willis skittled Australia with 8-43 at Headingley

In a sport so steeped in history as cricket, it is easy to draw lazy comparisons with yesteryear.

The highlights reels of the game’s televisual age are only a few mouse clicks away. Any young tyro finding reverse swing can be held up alongside Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram and the elegant left-hander essaying a drive through the covers prompts examinations of David Gower in his pomp.

It all becomes a little tiresome. Although sometimes, the parallels are too irresistible to ignore.

When Yorkshire and Lancashire emerged at Headingley Carnegie for day two of their latest Roses encounter, minds were cast back towards the most famous chapter in another of cricket’s enduring rivalries.

It was exactly 30 years ago yesterday that Bob Willis was cranked into a highly-productive funk by skipper Mike Brearley and England claimed perhaps the finest Test victory of them all against Australia in Leeds.

Willis, wiry in stature with an unruly mop of dark hair, charged in from the Kirkstall Lane End to claim Test-best figures of 8-43 and rout the Aussies for 111, 19 short of victory.

With the glacial Carnegie Pavilion rendering that end of the ground unrecognisable from its 1981 vintage, Kyle Hogg grasped the new ball after Lancashire were dismissed for 328 on the second morning.

Since making his first-class debut a decade ago, 28-year-old Hogg has largely been a story of unfulfilled promise.

A naturally laid back attitude was thought to do him no favours – an approach quite at odds with the one Willis displayed while lambasting Jonathan Trott despite being England’s top-scorer in one-day internationals over the winter.

This season, however, Hogg has shown frequent signs that all the pieces are finally coming together.

The languid mop-top charged in from the Kirkstall Lane End to reduce Yorkshire’s top order to rubble. Subtle seam and swing gave way occasionally to vicious bouncers with line maintained impeccably throughout.

Kyle Hogg

Kyle Hogg played Willis' role yesterday, but Richard Pyrah and Ryan Sidebottom replied with a Botham and Dilley-like century stand

Twice on a hat-trick, Hogg’s five-wicket burst was the decisive element in Yorkshire tottering embarrassingly on 45 for eight with no conceivable way back into the contest.

Then things got really peculiar.

When unheralded tail-ender Graham Dilley joined Ian Botham on the fourth afternoon in ’81, England were following on needing 93 to make Australia bat again. With the game up, the pair merrily went about putting on 117 in 80 minutes and laid the foundations for Willis’ incisive last day rage.

“Let’s give it some humpty” was the sum of Botham’s advice to his partner, and yesterday Richard Pyrah and Ryan Sidebottom appeared to concur as they broke a 110-year record for the ninth-wicket at Headingley.

Pyrah lit the fuse. He got off the mark, brought up fifty and surpassed the follow-on target with three sixes, at least one of which seemed to go straight into the confectionery stall and out again.

A fair share of the boundaries came in an agricultural fashion behind square as evidence of the duo’s thrilling refusal to perish wondering, but there was classical strokeplay to delight the purists.

Sidebottom, the Dilley of the piece, secured the fifty partnership with a ravishing pick-up through the covers on the back foot off Glen Chapple.

Pyrah was three short of his maiden LV= County Championship century when Sidebottom departed, but Tim Bresnan strode to the middle to see his fellow muscular all-rounder drive sublimely to the extra-cover fence and reach the landmark.

Yorkshire’s last two wickets plundered 194 and scythed the deficit to 89, while Bresnan was comfortable in the role of supporting good-guy. He careered up the M1 to help his county’s cause after being the odd man out in England’s squad to face India at HQ.

But, ploughing a more robust furrow on the turf trodden on by Willis and Hogg, Pontefract’s favourite son summoned up some more Kirkstall magic. In the blink of an eye Lancashire were three for two. Game on.

The press box rumour that Bresnan was pulled over by police on his way from Lord’s to Leeds because he was wearing his batting pads in the car is almost certainly no more than that.

Yet one can only hope it was true on a day that Yorkshire and Lancashire threatened to write a fresh chapter in cricketing folklore, while offering willowy echoes of the past.

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