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Tuesday, 23 July 2019
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Hedley Verity


The Man With No Breaking Point

Most probably the greatest player to represent Middleton, the story of Hedley Verity is one of highs and lows - culminating a great sadness. Following in the footsteps of the great left arm Yorkshire tradition of Peel and Rhodes, Verity was one of the most skilful bowlers in the games history. Indeed, Sir Donald Bradman regarded him as England’s best ever spinner adding “His physique, run up were co-ordinated in a perfect delivery position with a superb command of length and direction”. Indeed, it was Verity who dismissed the Don more than any other bowler in Test Match Cricket. Similar superlatives were accorded on Verity by Hutton, Hammond and Compton - all the dominant batsmen of the era.

Verity struggled as a young man to break into a strong Yorkshire side, mainly because the great Wilfred Rhodes was the prime spinner and was keeping Verity out. So, in order to gain experience he was signed as Middleton Professional in 1928. After 3 successful seasons at Towncroft, which included the Wood Cup, Verity finally got his chance with Yorkshire. It was worth the wait as he took wickets-a-plenty, quickly erasing the glorious memory of the retired Rhodes. From 1935 to 1937 he exceeded 200 wickets in a season, bowling Yorkshire to Championship Victory. He twice took all 10 wickets in an innings, including a world record 10 for 10 against Nottinghamshire at Headingley. Even in his last match, he took 7 for 9 against Sussex at Hove in 1939.

Verity got his chance, after years of practice and graft, of playing for England in the 1931 Test at the Oval. In 1934, he bowled England to their only victory against Australia at Lords in the 20th Century taking a remarkable 15 for 105 (14 in one day) including the wicket of Bradman twice. It was reported that Verity loved bowling on a batsman’s pitch, as he saw it more as a challenge than a spinner’s paradise. Verity continued to play for England up until the last Test before the Second World War. His Test figures stand at a remarkable 144 wickets at an average of just 24 - unbelievable for a slow-left arm spinner. In all First class Cricket he took 1956 wickets at an amazing average of 14.90.

Verity was also a useful lower order batsman, averaging nearly 21 in Test Cricket, scoring 3 fifties. At Adelaide during the 1936/37 Ashes series he was promoted to opening the batting when no openers were available. He repaid the faith given to him by holding on, enabling England to get off to a good start in the Test. Verity was also an outstanding backwards point fielder, and apparently caught anything off his own bowling.

When the Werchmacht marched into Poland in September 1939, all Professional Cricket was halted, so Verity joined the Green Howards hoping to do his bit for King and Country. He rose to the rank of Captain and was involved in Montgomery’s Eight Army attack on Sicily in 1943. One of his companies’ objectives was a ridge with strong points and pillboxes. Behind a creeping barrage Verity led his company forward 700 yards. When the barrage ceased, they went on another 300 yards and neared the ridge, in darkness. As the men advanced, through corn two feet high, tracer-bullets swept into them. Then they wriggled through the corn, Verity encouraging them with "Keep going, keep going." The moon was at their back, and the enemy used mortar-fire, Very lights and fire-bombs, setting the corn alight. The strongest point appeared to be a farm-house, to the left of the ridge; so Verity sent one platoon round to take the farm-house, while the other gave covering fire. The enemy fire increased, and, as they crept forward, Verity was hit in the chest. "Keep going," he said, "and get them out of that farm-house." When it was decided to withdraw, they last saw Verity lying on the ground, in front of the burning corn, his head supported by his batman. It was later reported he was captured by the Italians and died on 31st July 1943 in a POW camp in Italy itself.

It was statement to the man himself that he told his men to keep going, and proof that this man had ‘no breaking point’ - he was neither beaten nor afraid and persisted to the end. The story of Hedley Verity is one that proves Cricket is only a game and occasionally, there are more important things to comprehend. 

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 12 April 2017 )
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Middleton C.C. currently compete in the Lancashire Cricket League.

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