I’m reading a John Hotten’s book ‘The Meaning of Cricket‘ at the moment that highlighted Harold Pinter’s famous poem about Sir Leonard Hutton (read more about Pinter and cricket here) and inspired this. I should add that the tale of Verity is true – more below.
I missed Len Hutton in his prime,
His runs were scored before my time,
I missed Fred Trueman steaming in,
All fire, speed and will to win,
I missed the years of Wilfred Rhodes,
The years and years – for there was loads,
I even missed the Boycott era,
When wickets came a little dearer,
My favourite player of them all, I saw once on a tavern wall,
Some pencil sketches of a ball, I’d read so many times.
He too was gone before my time, his final test in ‘39
I toasted the image with my wine, and went about my night,
We’ve seen their stones and passed their gates,
We know their numbers and their dates, they never go away.
A sacred group revered by those who dream of whites adorned by rose,
The only difference Yorkshire chose, them to go out and play.
It was about five or six years ago, and I was visiting a good friend and his then girlfriend and now wife in Selby; it was before the days of the real ale boon, so I was still niche in that regard. On our way to the curry house of choice and, shamefully I remember neither the name of that, nor the pub we visited beforehand, we stopped for a drink.
After picking up my drink, which was more likely beer than wine, I noticed a pencil sketch on the wall – a series of a skeleton of a cartoon character bowling a ball. To blank faces, I said immediately ‘That’s Hedley Verity’. I’d never seen Verity bowl, but I could tell from all I’d read that, without a doubt, it was him. I toasted the great spinner, no doubt regaled by then glossy-eyed friends with tales of his feats, and continued the night.
As a final note, I decided it best to excise the following couplet,
I did see Moxon, did see Gough,
Sachin before he buggered off.