On August 17, 1964, Geoffrey Boycott scored the first of his eventual 22 Test centuries against Australia at The Oval in the fifth and the final match of the Ashes. Sarang Bhalerao goes into rewind mode to talk about the bespectacled Boycott’s 113.
His defence was impregnable, the balance while playing the ball tremendous and the ability to stay on the wicket for long periods was a habit. Welcome to the world of Geoffrey Boycott — a man who put a heavy price on his wicket every single time.
At The Oval in 1964, England were trailing Australia by 197 runs. On the first day, the hosts were bowled out for 182 runs after Neil Hawke ran through the side picking up a six-for. Boycott made 30 in the overcast conditions before being bowled by Hawke. “It flew many a mile at least that is what Neil always tells me and he ought to know since he has a picture of the dismissal hanging on his wall at Adelaide,” writes Boycott in his autobiography Boycott.
Australia scored 379 thanks to 94 from opener Bill Lawry and half-centuries from Brian Booth and Tom Veivers. For England, Fred Trueman picked up four wickets. On Day Three, the Australian innings ended and they led England by almost 200 runs. With a seven-wicket win in the third Test match, Australia, it seemed, had done enough to win the urn. They were now aiming for a 2-0 win.
Boycott batted with assuredness in the second innings, making sure he didn’t commit any mistake. The intent was to bat for long periods. He negotiated the third day (Saturday) and remained unbeaten on 74. The next day was a rest day. On Saturday evening, Boycott went to see the musical Pickwick and met the cast at a small party afterwards.
On Day Four (Monday), England had the aim to keep Australia in the field for long. Boycott got to his maiden century — 21 would follow later. He held one end up and looked for a big score. At 113 he was dismissed by Bob Simpson caught by Ian Redpath. That ended the England opener’s five-hour vigil. But Colin Cowdrey and Ken Barrington scored half-centuries and didn’t let Australia run through with the game.
It rained on Day Five as not a single ball was bowled. Thus, Australia retained the Ashes. The match in the end was a dull draw. Wisden wrote, “The batting of Boycott and Cowdrey, the bowling of Hawke and the slip fielding of Simpson stood out in an otherwise ordinary match. This was the fourth drawn match of the series, Australia winning the rubber by the only game decided, at Headingley.”
The only way England could have made a comeback in the match was to score quickly on the final day and put pressure on the visitors. Wisden wrote, “England finished the fourth day 184 ahead and fast scoring with an early declaration was expected. Unfortunately any chance of a good finish was ruined by the weather which prevented a ball being bowled on the last day. A draw remained the most likely result with the pitch easy paced after the first day, and so the far from attractive series ended on a dismal note.”
Boycott, with his stoic resistance, showed that he was the man to watch out for. How he became England’s lynchpin in the years to come is yet another story. But it all started at The Oval in the season of 1964.
England 182 (Ken Barrington 47; Neil Hawke 6 for 47) and 381 for 4 (Geoffrey Boycott 113, Colin Cowdrey 93*; Graham McKenzie 3 for 112) drew with Australia 379 (Bill Lawry 94; Fred Trueman 4 for 87).
(Sarang Bhalerao hails from a family of doctors, but did his engineering. He then dumped a career in IT with Infosys to follow his heart and passion and became a writer with CricketCountry. A voracious reader, Sarang aspires to beat Google with his knowledge of the game! You can follow him on Twitter here)