Jim Greenhalf looks back at the history of Yorkshire County Cricket Club in the year of its 150th anniversary

Yorkshire County Cricket Club was founded 150 years ago and, according to the White Rose club’s view of things, has the most illustrious history of any of the 18 English first-class counties.

Yorkshire won the first of its 32 County Championship titles in 1893 under the captaincy of the imposing Lord Hawke, and the last in 2001. Two other Championships were shared.

Yorkshire have also won five major domestic one-day trophies. Over the years the country has also supplied the England Test team with outstanding captains. Leonard Hutton, Ray Illingworth and Michael Vaughan share the distinction of leading England to victory in Ashes series against Australia, although it must be admitted that Illingworth was with Leicestershire when he did it.

Since 1891, the club has played matches at what is now Headingley Carnegie Cricket Ground in Leeds, and also play home games at North Marine Road, Scarborough – the home of the world famous Scarborough Cricket Festival.

They also used to play at Bramall Lane, Sheffield, and Park Avenue in Bradford.

It was at the tidy little Park Avenue ground in 1961 that one Geoffrey Boycott, a miner’s son from Hemsworth in South Yorkshire, made his debut against Pakistan.

More than a quarter of a century and 151 first-class hundreds later, Boycott retired.

The structure of the first-class county game has seen many innovations since that occasion – Sunday, one-day cricket with the teams wearing multi-coloured clothing, Twenty20 cricket under floodlights, and county sides divided into two leagues linked by relegation and promotion.

What would Lord Hawke have thought? This redoubtable man who reportedly brought discipline to the club 20 years after its foundation, captained Yorkshire for 28 years and went on to become Yorkshire president and president of the game’s ruling body, the MCC.

Bradford has played its part in establishing and maintaining Yorkshire’s playing tradition. Mighty all-rounder Brian Close, David Bairstow, Doug Padgett, Sir Leonard Hutton and his son Richard, both of whom played for England, Ray Illingworth, Ronnie Burnet, Bob Appleyard, Anthony McGrath and the bowler Adil Rashid, are just some of the local lads, or relatively local lads, who made their mark in the White Rose cap.

In 150 years, the club has seen some true legends of world cricket pass through its playing squad – Hedley Verity, Bill Bowes, George Hirst.

In addition there were Herbert Sutcliffe and Percy Holmes, opening batsmen who scored between them a record 555 against Essex; slow left-arm bowler Wilfred Rhodes who took 3,598 first-class wickets; and fast bowler Freddie Trueman, who bowled 1,000 overs a season and took 307 wickets in 67 Test matches for England.

In the past 32 years, Yorkshire has provided England with formidable fast bowlers such as Chris Old, Darren Gough, Craig White and Matthew Hoggard.

The Headingley Carnegie ground has staged many memorable international matches down the years.

Don Bradman enjoyed the Leeds air, scoring 334, 304, 103 and 173 not out in four Tests between 1930 and 1948. Ian Botham (149) rescued an impossible situation in 1981 to set up a Bob Willis (8-43) inspired victory after England had followed on.

And England beat the West Indies in two days in 2000. The West Indies were dismissed for 172 and 61 as Yorkshire’s Michael Vaughan (76), Darren Gough (3-59 and 4-30) and Craig White (5-57) ran riot.

And what true Tyke could forget the evening of August 11, 1977, when Geoff Boycott drove Australia’s Greg Chappell for a legside boundary to notch up his 100th first-class century, the first cricketer to do this in a Test match. The late Christopher Martin-Jenkins and Fred Trueman were in the commentary box.

Boycott had not long returned to international cricket after a three-year absence. He was a man accompanied by controversy especially after Yorkshire took away the captaincy and then, in the twilight of his career, attempted to remove him from the club by not offering him a contract.

Awkward and egoistic as he sometimes could be, Boycott had also turned down the lucrative opportunity of joining Australia media mogul Kerry Packer’s cricket circus.

Hated by some, loved by many, Boycott’s successful battle against Yorkshire’s ruling committee, convoluted as it became with claim and counter-claim, was headline news for months.

This was not the first time the club had been at odds with its greatest players from the 1960’s multi-Championship winning teams. Illingworth was to leave for Leicestershire and Close departed to Somerset.

But it was the MCC’s treatment of Close in August 1967 that caused the T&A to blast the story across the columns of its front page and prompted hundreds of letters from its readers. Close, the last word in courage and commitment, had been summarily sacked as England captain and dropped from the forthcoming West Indies tour, after being accused of time-wasting tactics during a Championship tussle with Warwickshire.

Controversy off the field has been a poor substitute for victory on it.

The Yorkshire public has been starved of significant success since the Championship title in 2001, the first for 33 years. Perhaps Andrew Gale can return the title to Headingley to add to Yorkshire’s 150th birthday celebrations.

  • Former T&A cricket correspondent David Warner’s history of the club, The Sweetest Rose, is published by Great Northern Books at £20.