Yorkshire 8 for 0 v Lancashire
Less than a mile from Emerald Headingley lies 6 Welton Grove, an unremarkable red-bricked terraced house of the type that wouldn’t attract a second glance were it not for the blue plaque fixed to its outside front wall. That informs visitors they have found the birthplace of Hedley Verity, one of the greatest left-arm spinners in the game’s history and the bowler who, so the plaque also reveals, dismissed Don Bradman on ten occasions.
One or two county cricket clubs distance themselves from their heritage. One has even decided not to place photographs connected to the game in the building used for corporate hospitality. Yorkshire, by contrast, reveres its past, and the club’s respect for one of its greatest cricketers is shared across the city. There is even a pub named after Verity on Woodhouse Lane, the road that leads from the centre of Leeds towards Yorkshire’s ground
There is also, though, a temptation to regard former players in any sport with excessive reverence; to forget that they were people, too, and that it should be possible to learn from their example even as one honours them. This is particularly relevant in the case of Verity, whose character inspired much more than respect, and whose death from wounds in Italy in 1943 will always colour his memory with tragedy and regret. Typically Yorkshire began the task of preserving his memory in the most useful way possible. County Championship cricket did not resume until 1946 but in the previous summer, 48 hours before VJ Day, in fact, a first-class Roses match began at Bradford, with its proceeds going to Verity’s family.
Other tributes were less practical but more poignant. When Len Hutton led his England side out to Australia for the 1954-55 Ashes series, the SS Orsova stopped in Italy in order for the team to pay their respects to the late Captain Verity. The players laid a wreath, a single white rose and a Yorkshire scarf on his grave at Caserta. And there is another plaque to Verity near the Hutton Gates at Headingley.
It is unrealistic to think that all six of the Yorkshire cricketers currently appearing in their first game against Lancashire have anything like an intimate sense of their county’s history. Yet it is not absurd to think that something will rub off. Such thoughts were to the fore when the teams for this match were announced and one realised that ten players would be getting their first taste of a Roses match. As it happened the frequent showers which limited our cricket to a mere 13 balls allowed only one of them, George Burrows, to take any significant role in the action.
Burrows, who is making his first-class debut, bowled Lancashire’s second over and began with his career with a full toss which Tom Kohler-Cadmore gratefully drove to the cover boundary to collect his first runs in three innings. The remainder of the over was respectable, though, and a few moments later the rain swept in from the direction of Kirkstall and Bramley. This will not go down as one of the great days in the history of Roses cricket.
Yet it was probably significant in that it might well have been the first Roses match that some Yorkshire members had not attended for many years. These occasions are days of obligation in the county and only the prohibitions caused by the pandemic could justify absence. Some members elsewhere show similar commitment but rarely on the scale one finds at Headingley or Scarborough. Within Yorkshire such devotion is expected, and therefore less remarkable; but for outsiders it is still retains a novel fascination however many times one samples it. Something of this, as one might expect, was captured by Duncan Hamilton as he recalled the county’s contrasting fortunes in the 1960s and ’70s in his introduction to Wisden on Yorkshire:
“It seemed to me then that nowhere else was so absorbed in cricket or regarded it so earnestly; nowhere else studied it so thoughtfully or followed it with such obsessive passion, as if the scorecards were parchment scripture; and certainly nowhere else were the vagaries of the game so cherished, so understood or so utterly and deeply felt. In my eyes those who played or merely observed cricket in Yorkshire were sure of, and never lost, an appreciation of where they came from and the proud, firm sense of self it gave them. Being from, and belonging to, the geography of Yorkshire was fundamental to them.”