Batting with Sobers a wonderful experience
England legend Geoff Boycott has fond memories of batting alongside West Indies great Garfield Sobers at the humble settings of Somerset Cricket Club four decades ago.
Shortly after earning his first cap for England in 1964 Boycott toured Bermuda with a star-studded Yorkshire team that included future England captain Ray Illingworth and West Indies skipper Sir Garfield Sobers who played as a guest player.
During a match against Cal (Bummy) Symonds’ all-conquering St George’s Cup Match team Boycott and Sobers produced a memorable partnership that rescued the visitors from early danger.
In reply to St George’s’ humbling total of 48 all out, Yorkshire lost their first five wickets before crossing their opponent’s score.
But any thoughts the home team might’ve had of springing an upset dissipated as Boycott and Sobers produced 202 runs for the sixth wicket to spare the tourists the blushes.
Both batsmen scored centuries, with Sobers reaching the milestone first despite Boycott being in the 70s when he arrived at the crease.
“That was an absolutely wonderful experience because Sobers was the iconic player of that era and any era,” Boycott told
The Royal Gazette. “I think he’s the best batsmen I’ve ever seen, never mind the best all-rounder.
“I wish I had been as good as him, but I wasn’t. He was a bit special.”
Although the match stats suggests the two men had things all their own way at the crease, Boycott said batting on a concrete track covered with a coconut matting actually proved quite challenging something St. George’s had figured out earlier.
“It was bloody quick let me tell you. There was some real bounce and pace in the concrete with the matting,” he said. “I was concerned that I might get a broken finger because when we returned from the Bermuda trip I was going on me first tour for England to South Africa.
“I didn’t want to get a broken finger and remember borrowing somebody’s long handled bat so I can get me hands out of the way a bit further up the handle.”
One St George’s bowler that stood out during the match was none other than Clarence Parfitt, Cup Match’s all-time leading wicket taker.
“There was a man called Clarence Parfitt who bowled left-arm fast cutters,” Boycott recalled. “He was a fine bowler and on the matting on concrete it turned and turned quickly. Clarence struck me as being pretty good.”
Boycott, the first England batsman to score 8,000 Test runs and first Englishman to average 100.00 runs in a single season, toured Bermuda with Yorkshire again in 1969 but was unable to play due to injury.
“John Snow (former England fast bowler) broke my hand in a county match about three days before the Gillette Cup final which Yorkshire played in and won,” he said. “I came to Bermuda and sort of helped organise everybody but I had me left hand in a plastic cast and a sling.”
The ICC Hall of Fame inductee also toured Bermuda in 1974 with England, then governed by the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC)), after helping them salvage a 1-1 draw with the West Indies in a five-match Test series in the Caribbean.
“We were outplayed through most of the series and won the last Test in Trinidad,” he recalled. “Tony Greig got 13 wickets (13 for 156) bowling off cutters and I made in a low-scoring game 99 and 112.
“We virtually starred in the match and we came to Bermuda on the way home and I got a hundred in the three-day match. I think I’m the last MCC man to get a hundred in Bermuda.”