Headingley's humiliating history

England's defeat in the first Test was all too predictable, argues Henry Blofeld
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The Independent Online
The worst aspect of England's defeat at Headingley was the manner of it. After playing plenty of solid cricket in the first three days, they were swept away in a humiliating avalanche of runs which made a mockery of their earlier efforts.

If England had picked up four or five wickets before the West Indies had won they would have gone to Lord's next week confident that they had a more than worthwhile chance of victory. As it is, Carl Hooper and Brian Lara's magnificent onslaught has left the West Indies with a massive psychological advantage.

Mike Atherton has shown that he is able to lift his players, and he must do it with a vengeance at Lord's before it is too late.

Not that he is the first English captain to endure humiliation in Yorkshire. England's cricketers have suffered many indignities at Headingley, particularly in recent years. In 1989 and 1993 Allan Border's Australians trampled on the bowlers before Terry Alderman, with 10 wickets in 1989, and Paul Reiffel, eight, and Merv Hughes, six, in 1993, completed the job.

In 1987 Pakistan won by an innings and 18 runs with Imran Khan taking 10 wickets, including his 300th in Test cricket. This victory enabled Pakistan to win their first series in England. Four years earlier at Headingley, New Zealand gained their first victory in 29 Test matches in England by five wickets.

More than a generation earlier, perhaps the greatest humiliation that English cricket has ever suffered at Headingley came at the hands of the Australians in 1948. After making 496 and leading Australia by 38, Norman Yardley declared the second innings after two overs on the final morning at 365 for 8, leaving Australia to score 404 in 344 minutes on a pitch which was taking a lot of spin.

The England selectors had left out both leg spinners, Doug Wright and Eric Hollies, and there was only the irregular Chinamen and googlies of Denis Compton to support Jim Laker's off-spin.

Arthur Morris made 182 and Don Bradman 173 not out, his last Test hundred, while England missed eight catching or stumping chances. Compton bowled well, but Godfrey Evans had one of his few bad days, and Australia won by seven wickets, scoring at almost 90 runs an hour.

That was a huge psychological blow for that England side, and when they won the toss and batted in the next Test at the Oval they were bowled out for 52. Let's hope we have no such parallels at Lord's next week.

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