By Mike Sansbury, of The Grove Bookshop, Ilkley
Of all the great bowlers to play for Yorkshire, few are more fondly remembered than the great left-arm spinner Hedley Verity, whose story is given added poignancy by his death in Italy during World War Two. In a career lasting nine years he played forty Tests for England, but this book focuses on one Yorkshire match, against Nottinghamshire in 1932, when Verity took ten wickets for ten runs, still the cheapest ten wicket return in first-class cricket. Chris Waters, cricket correspondent for the Yorkshire Post, has researched the details behind this feat and produced an intriguing book which brings the legend to life and also contains one or two surprises.
An interview in 2000 with Frank Shipston, who at the time was the oldest living county cricketer, provided the spark for Waters’ fascination with Verity’s achievement. Shipston was in the Nottinghamshire side so comprehensively defeated in that match and his hazy reminiscences inspired Waters to investigate further. The book features interviews with players and spectators as well as members of Verity’s family, and includes a potted biography, a detailed report of the match itself and a look at how Verity’s record sits among the other great bowling feats of cricket history. The actual scorecard, autographed by the man of the match, is reproduced within these pages, and there is a heart-rending account of the official Yorkshire CCC delegation’s 1954 visit to the war cemetery near Naples where the great bowler lies buried.
What really brings the book to life is the wealth of personal memories, from the archives and from the author’s own interviews, remembering the events of July, 1932. John Richardson, a spectator tracked down by Waters, shares his recollections with the author and then insists on playing the piano, while some doubt is cast on the novelist J.L. Carr’s claim to have attended the match only to leave before Verity came on top bowl. Geoff Boycott would nod approvingly at the use of uncovered wickets (which seems to have given Verity little help) and anyone looking for period detail will enjoy the list of entertainment on offer in Leeds on the rest day (including Jimmy James live at the Leeds Hippodrome). Contemporary reaction to the result ranged from the familiar (the worst Notts XI ever?) to the refreshingly downbeat (this was Verity’s second ten wicket haul, which caused many to play down this more impressive achievement).
Published by John Wisden, the book is an impressive production, smartly jacketed in yellow, and it also contains photographs and career summaries for all who participated in this historic match. Verity took his ten wickets in the second innings, sharing the bowling with two other Yorkshire heroes whose personal stories are equally intriguing – the gangling, bespectacled Bill Bowes was a keen conjuror who was a member of the Magic Circle, while George Macaulay served in both World Wars, succumbing to pneumonia while serving in the RAF in 1943.
Selected to tour Australia for the infamous Bodyline series, Verity is quoted in the Yorkshire Post, puffing quietly on his pipe and promising “not to let the Old Country down.” In cricket and in war he lived up to this promise.
Author Chris Waters paid a visit to The Grove Bookshop recently, where he was able to meet bookseller Amy Verity, who is Hedley’s granddaughter.