Geoffrey Boycott - Test Match Career - Early Career

Early Career

England hosted New Zealand and South Africa in 1965. Against New Zealand, Boycott scored 23 and 44 not out in the first Test at Edgbaston and 76 in the second at Lord's, but missed the third Test owing to injury. He returned against South Africa at Lord's, but after scores of 31 and a slow 28 in 105 minutes, the press began to speculate that his may lose his place in the team. In the second Test, Boycott made a duck in the first innings and later took 140 minutes to score 16 runs when England needed to score quickly; Wisden described the latter innings as a "dreadful effort when courage was needed". Subsequently, Boycott was dropped and replaced by Eric Russell. Boycott returned to the team at the end of the season for the tour to Australia. In the 1965-66 Ashes series, illness dogged his performance initially. He then hit a form of "brighter cricket" during the First and Second Tests. Uncharacteristically, he hit a four from his very first delivery at Perth, and put on 98 in 16 overs with Bob Barber in the Second Test. In the Third Test, Boycott and Barber shared an opening partnership of 234 in four hours; Boycott hit 84, his highest score of the series. But in the Fifth Test he monopolised the strike, ran out Bob Barber and took 75 minutes to make 17 runs. His form deserted him again when the MCC went on to tour New Zealand.

In 1966, England faced the West Indies. Boycott was omitted from the first Test, but shared a partnership of 115 with Tom Graveney. However, he struggled during the series, and managed an average of 26.57. It was a disappointing year for Boycott both for England and Yorkshire, and his average for the former fell to 36.60. Furthermore, he had only passed 50 twice in his last 12 first-class innings. The following summer, he rediscovered his form. On 8 and 9 June 1967, he made his highest Test score of 246 not out against India on his home ground of Headingley. Batting for 573 minutes, Boycott struck thirty fours and a six at a strike rate of 44.32. He began his innings slowly, taking six hours over his first 106 runs; he scored 17 in the first hour and 8 in the second. This particularly frustrated the England selectors as the pitch was excellent for batting, and the Indian attack was weakened by injury. Their frustration was exacerbated when Boycott added 140 runs in four hours on the second day. Ian Wooldridge wrote in the Daily Mail that Boycott "could not be excused by his nearest and dearest relations." He did not bat in the second innings and England won by six wickets.

Boycott's slow scoring led to increasing media pressure, and owing to his perceived selfish attitude, he was dropped from the team after the match. He remembered in 1987 that "the decision stunned me at the time, though looking back now I see that it had become inevitable. I was mortified with embarrassment and filled with an angry, burning sense of injustice which I can remember clearly an painfully to this day." A combination of low confidence and a throat infection limited Boycott to two further Test appearances, playing once more against India and once against Pakistan, for the rest of the year. He nevertheless again topped the domestic averages with 1260 at 48.46. In 1967, Boycott toured the West Indies with England, where he hit a rich seam of form. He scored 463 runs at 66.14 in a series England won 1–0.

Over the next two years, Boycott appeared only intermittently in the Test team. A back injury forced him to miss half of the 1967 season, and an average of 32.40 against the Australians during the 1968 Ashes was unspectacular. Domestically, his injury also limited his contribution, however he did hit five centuries before he was forced to stop playing in June 1968. Health problems with his spleen and trouble adjusting to wearing contact lenses meant that Boycott missed the tour of Pakistan in 1967–68, but he returned to the team by the summer of 1969, scoring 128 against the West Indies at Old Trafford, and another century at Lord's. However, he lost form in the rest of the season; he scored 12 and 0 in the third Test and averaged only 20.20, with two ducks, in the three Tests against New Zealand.

Boycott was left out of the first three Tests against the World XI in 1970,he played in the fourth and scored 15 and 64, and in the final Test of the summer scored 157. He won the Walter Lawrence Trophy for this century. He was selected for the 1970–71 tour of Australia, and averaged 95.93 over all first-class matches. He scored 173 in the opening first-class game, followed by 124 against Queensland. In the third Test match, having hit good partnerships in the first two, Boycott made 77 and 142 not out. During the second match, Boycott allegedly told Basil D'Oliveira, the latter having just announced that he had worked out the action of Australian spinner Johnny Gleeson, that he had "sorted that out a fortnight ago." This incident was used as evidence for Boycott's selfish attitude for many years after. His highest score was 142 not out in the second innings of the Fourth Test at Sydney, in a 299-run victory. The Fifth Test was drawn, Boycott making 12 and 76*, and in the Sixth Test he was run out for 58. Boycott initially refused to leave the ground in disbelief, and eventually walked off to jeering from the crowd. He made 119 in the second innings but injured his arm against fast bowler Garth McKenzie in a following one day match and missed the final Test, when England retained the Ashes. He later maintained that the injury permanently affected his wrist, and that he carried a squash ball in a sock in his pocket, which he could squeeze to keep his wrist strong. He ended the series with 657 Test runs at 93.85.

In 1971, Boycott made his One Day International debut against Australia, the press by then touting him as the best batsman in the world. He was the first batsman to receive a ball in a one day international and his was the first wicket to fall, after he had scored eight runs from 37 balls. In the summer of 1971 he enjoyed an average of over 100 in domestic cricket, and scored 121 not out against Pakistan at Lord's. He played only two Tests in 1972 owing to a series of injuries, but rejoined the team in the West Indies under Denness' captaincy. Boycott was dismissed for 99 in the first innings against the West Indies at Port-of-Spain in 1973–74 and scored 112 in the second, followed by a career-best first-class score of 261 not out against a West Indies Board President's XI. Boycott and Denness did not get on well, and at the end of the tour they clashed over Boycott's preference for a one day match over a three day game against Bermuda. Boycott recalled in his autobiography that when Denness confronted him on the issue he replied "Get out of here before I do something I'll regret." Boycott had "no confidence in Denness's professional ability and no respect for him as a man and another tour like the previous one to the West Indies was the last thing I wanted."

Read more about this topic:  Geoffrey Boycott, Test Match Career

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