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Graham Stevenson’s day under the Sun

GRaham Stevenson © Getty Images
Graham Stevenson took 488 First-Class wickets at an average of 28.84 © Getty Images

By Michael Jones

Graham Stevenson, who died in January after suffering a stroke, was an unfulfilled talent. Yorkshire fans wanted to claim that he was as good as Ian Botham, but he lacked the international record to back it up: only two Tests and four One-Day International (ODIs) spread over little more than a year with no fifty or five-wicket haul.

The highlight of his England career came on his ODI debut, when he picked up four for 33, including the prize scalp of Greg Chappell to bowl Australia out for 163. England’s reply didn’t get off to the best of starts: Graham Gooch held the innings together with 69, but the rest of the top seven scored 13 between them as Dennis Lillee ran amok, finishing with four for 12 off his ten overs. Stevenson walked out to join his Yorkshire teammate David Bairstow at 129 for eight with 35 still needed to win — and proceeded to get stuck into Jeff Thomson, hitting 28 off 18 balls to grab a two wicket victory. His debut figures remained the highest score and best bowling of his international career.

Discarded by England after the 1980-81 tour of West Indies, he played out the remainder of his career with Yorkshire; he finished with the useful tally of 488 first class wickets at an average of 29, but his one glorious moment in the sun came with the bat.

A year after Stevenson made his last international appearance, Yorkshire travelled to Edgbaston for a County Championship match. On winning the toss, they chose to let the home team bat first – a decision which paid off as wickets fell at regular intervals, with Stevenson and Chris Old picking up three each; Warwickshire were all out for 158. Yorkshire fared no better, though: Geoffrey Boycott battled through to stumps, finishing the day on 40 not out, but Gladstone Small ran through most of the rest, Bob Willis chipped in with a couple of wickets and the visitors had limped to 91 for seven by the close.

Small dismissed Arnie Sidebottom early on the second morning; Chris Old thrashed a quick 27 out of a partnership of 35 for the ninth wicket, but when he also fell to Small, Yorkshire were 143 for nine, still 15 behind the home team’s first innings total. Boycott had reached his fifty, but Stevenson recalled his teammates preparing to field as he left the dressing room, clearly expecting that the innings would be over soon; no-one bothered to give him any instructions — it wasn’t worth it.

Judging that Stevenson was less comfortable against pace than spin, Boycott initially tried to farm the strike when Willis was bowling, telling his partner to ‘steel himself’ every time he had to face Warwickshire’s spearhead. Stevenson solved the problem himself, by hitting a drive straight back at Willis which injured his bowling hand as he tried to stop it. He continued bowling, but was well below full pace for the remainder of the innings, and with Small tiring, batting started to become slightly easier. After beginning cautiously, Stevenson decided to get stuck in, hitting Willie Hogg for six over midwicket. By lunch he had reached fifty — while Boycott continued at his usual pace at the other end — and Yorkshire had already built a sizeable lead.

Stevenson continued in similar vein in the afternoon session, soon overtook Boycott, and in another hour had brought up his century. As Jack Bannister wrote in Birmingham Post, “All the time the fascinating prospect existed that when he got out, an opening batsman was going to carry his bat for an appreciably lower total than that scored by the number eleven, and if that is not a record, it should be.” Willis eventually turned to the part-time leg-spin of Asif Din in an effort to break the last wicket partnership; Stevenson treated him with greater caution, but Boycott  — who later lamented that “I couldn’t get a run while he was whopping it everywhere” — fancied his chances of adding a few to his score, and tried to take most of the strike against Din.

Their partnership had reached 149, beating the previous Yorkshire record for the tenth wicket — set by Lord Hawke and David Hunter against Kent in 1898 — by one run, when Boycott attempted an untypically risky sweep against Din and was bowled. He had made 79, including just 29 of the last wicket partnership; Stevenson finished high and dry on 115 not out with 15 fours and three sixes. Bannister recalled the sight of Boycott on one knee, still “contemplating the horror of his dismissal” as the rest of the players left the pitch and the roller came on, before finally walking off with the thought that his 340 minute innings had been overshadowed by his partner’s whirlwind knock.

From the near parity of first innings totals which had seemed likely a few hours earlier, Yorkshire had a lead of 134. By the end of the day, the match was all but over — Dennis Amiss stood firm, but no-one else reached 20 as Old and Sidebottom shared most of the wickets, Stevenson chipping in with one. Old ended Amiss’ resistance on 75 shortly before stumps, and Warwickshire closed on 148/7. The third morning was a formality – Yorkshire quickly polished off the tail and knocked off a target of 33 to win by nine wickets.

Warwickshire’s ten wickets managed 158 and 166 in their two innings; Stevenson and Boycott had scored almost that many in a single partnership. Stevenson is one of twelve number 11 batsmen to score a first-class century, but he remains the only one to do so with an opener at the other end — and his share of the partnership is the highest of them all.

Number 11 Score Partnership % share Partner Position Score
GB Stevenson

115

149

77.18

G Boycott

1

79

WC Smith

126

167

75.45

AWF Somerset

9

55

TPB Smith

163

218

74.77

FH Vigar

5

114

C Macmillan

109

148

73.65

DP Viljoen

4

61

V Sivaramakrishnan

115

158

72.78

M Shrinivas

10

42

Ahsan-ul-Haq

100

150

66.67

Abdus Salaam

9

117

AER Gilligan

101

177

57.06

JH Naumann

7

134

Maqsood Kundi

109

196

55.61

Nadeem Yousuf

8

202

Ali Raza

126

239

52.72

Aqeel Arshad

9

105

TJ Hastings

106

211

50.24

M Ellis

9

118

SN Banerjee

121

249

48.59

CT Sarwate

10

124

A Fielder

112

235

47.66

FE Woolley

5

185

(Michael Jones’s writing focuses on cricket history and statistics, with occasional forays into the contemporary game)

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