On July 12, 1932, Hedley Verity produced a dream spell. When Nottinghamshire were taking on Verity’s Yorkshire, his mind-boggling figures of 10 for 10 bowled them out for a paltry 67 which setup a memorable victory for his side. Nishad Pai Vaidya goes down memory lane to revisit one of the finest spells in cricket history.
Champions raise the bar with each passing milestone. There is a burning desire to take up a challenge and invariably rise to the occasion. In the pre World War Two era, Hedley Verity’s slow left-arm orthodox redefined the word champion and set new benchmarks for the generations to come. In 1932, he crafted a spell that leaves everyone spellbound. His bowling performance remains etched in history and is an unrivaled milestone in the record books even after 80 years.
Wilfred Rhodes was a legendary figure in the county circuit for Yorkshire and Verity lived under his shadow for quite some time. Verity’s chance came when Rhodes was into his last season for Yorkshire in 1930. As John Ward wrote in CricketArchive, “Comparisons with the great Rhodes were inevitable, but Verity was a different type of left-arm spinner, being taller and quicker through the air, which did not satisfy many harsh judges. He had an easy action and superb control of length and flight, and was particularly dangerous on bad or drying pitches.”
By the time the 1932 season commenced, Verity had made a mark and shown that he was carrying Rhodes’ legacy forward. In his first two seasons for Yorkshire, he had picked 252 wickets at just around 13. In a game against Warwickshire in the 1931 season, he recorded figures of 10 for 36. Those performances won him many accolades and he was named one of the five Wisden Cricketers of the Year in 1932. He continued that form into the 1932 season and one particular game in July was to be a landmark for history.
The fateful game begins
As the game between Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire began on July 9 at Headingley, Leeds, the visitors won the toss and elected to bat first. The innings stuttered right through and it was only due to the efforts of Harold Larwood and Ben Lilley that they extended their score to 234.
The next day, the armoury of Larwood and Bill Voce had Yorkshire in all sorts of trouble as they finished the day on 163 for nine. Larwood had done most of the damage with figures of five for 73.
The clouds gave way over Headingley and play only resumed at 12:30 PM on July 12 with Nottinghamshire firmly in control. But, just then, the Yorkshire captain Brian Sellers had a outrageous idea when he declared the innings at 163 for nine, which ‘handed’ Nottinghamshire a good 71-run lead.
The Challenge for Verity
The declaration was a shock. Alan Hill writes in Hedley Verity: Potrait of a Spinner, “The absurdity of the gamble caught the breath as did similar daring by a man close to Sellers in temperament, Stuart Surridge*, during Surrey’s great years in the 1950s. Sellers, like Surridge, had two spinning aces at his command. And in Hedley Verity, he had a bowler who, perhaps more than any other of his time summoned every ounce of energy in crisis.”
All eyes were on Verity, but the conditions were still moist because of the rain. Sellers said, “you told him it all depended upon him.” As Hill wrote, “Verity never failed to respond to this trick. It stung his vanity as an artist.”
In the stands, Verity’s father watched the proceedings. Verity himself prayed for the sun to come out to help him. He kept it extremely tight and aimed to keep the batsmen quiet. He was successful as he only conceded a run after bowling nine maiden overs. The game seemed to be meandering towards a draw as the Nottinghamshire openers William Keaton and Frank Shipston were content in blocking.
However, things changed drastically after the lunch break. As the players returned, the stage was set for Verity with the adamant openers before him. After bowling two maidens, he bagged his first success when Keaton edged to George Macaulay in the slips. The openers had put up 44 and had extended Nottinghamshire’s lead to 115. That was where the floodgates opened as Shipton gave a catch to Arthur Wood to become Verity’s second victim with the score on 47.
Arthur Carr, the Nottinghamshire captain walked in with his side crumbling to Verity’s spin. What did he decide to do? Attack is the best form of defence they say and Carr tried to smash Verity for a six, a move that backfired terribly. Wilfred Barber caught him on the boundary straight down the ground to hand Verity his third victim. Carr became the first of two players in the game to fall to Verity in both the innings. Within the space of seven runs, the visitors had lost three wickets.
There was a recovery of sorts with Willis Walker and Arthur Staples in the middle. The duo added 12 runs as Nottinghamshire moved from 51 to 63. However, one couldn’t keep Verity out for very long and he was plotting another miracle. With the score on 63, he had Walker caught by Macaulay in the slips in his 18th over. Charles Harris walked in with Verity at the top of his mark. The batsman only ended up giving a catch to Percy Holmes at backward point off the very first ball he faced. Verity was on a hat-trick. Nottinghamshire had collapsed to 63 for five and were under his vicious spell.
George Gunn walked out to face the music. Like his captain Carr, he was one of Verity’s victims in the first innings. Wanting the hat-trick, Verity tossed it up in the air to the new man under pressure. The ball did not turn and went straight through to trap him leg before. The great left-armer had his hat-trick and Yorkshire’s gamble was paying off. Did Sellers envision it? Or was it his faith in his best bowler that led him to take that bold decision? We can only leave it to conjecture.
Verity could have almost had another hat-trick in the bag, but that wasn’t to be. Arthur Staples lobbed a catch to slip in Verity’s 19th over and then Yorkshire’s destroyer Larwood only managed to spoon a catch to Herbert Sutcliffe, who latched on to the opportunity standing at extra cover. To complete the hat-trick, Verity had to return for another over as the two wickets were off the final two deliveries of his previous. He could have easily had it, but Lilley found an edge that missed the stumps and fetched him a triple. Those runs were worth their weight in gold!
Voce was Verity’s ninth victim and Sam Staples was the last man to fall as he was stumped to hand Verity his perfect 10. Nottinghamshire had been bundled out for 67 thanks to the genius of the man.
That left Yorkshire with only 138 to get for victory. Holmes and Sutcliff finished the job with ten wickets to spare to cap off a miracle.
It was a performance that made Verity a big star. As Hill wrote, “At the end of the day, the scorecards were bought at souvenirs by spectators as fast as they could get printed. Hedley Verity, as the hero of the hour was besieged in the pavilion. Hundreds of people clamoured for his autograph.’’
The statistical highlights
Andy Bull pointed out in The Guardian, “In the space of 52 balls he had taken all 10 wickets for eight runs, and in his last 15 he had seven for three.” The hat-trick had come in the last 15 balls. Hill pointed out that Nottinghamshire imploded to Verity’s spin in only 65 minutes and had managed 23 runs in that interval.
Even today, Verity’s analysis of 19.4-16-10-10 remains the best in the history of First-Class cricket. He went past George Geary’s record of 10 for 18, which was set in 1929. In those 19.4 overs, he had bowled 113 dot-balls, which means he was scored off only five deliveries. Can we even fathom such control in today’s day and age?
The fact that Verity’s exploits remain untouched after all these years speaks of its greatness and his legendary skill as a bowler.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)
*Stuart Surridge had a penchant for making bold decisions. In one game, he famously declared when Surrey were at 92 for three. The opponents Worcestershire were bundled out for 25 and 40 as Surrey won by an innings and 27 runs.