Author: Alan Birkinshaw
In his book the Art of Captaincy Mike Brearley described leg spinners as a different breed. The league’s most prolific wicket taker of all time, David Batty, certainly conforms to that description.
In a career spanning 40 seasons he took 1,823 Bradford League wickets at an amazing average of 15.51. His collection of honours included seven league titles – three with Bradford & Bingley, three with Bingley and one with Lidget Green – six Priestley Cup winners’ medals and one Division Two winners’ medal.
Batty won the league bowling averages in 1979 and 1983 and was simply a player whose skill won him widespread admiration. He took over 50 wickets in a season 16 times with a best haul of 68 achieved on three occasions in 1984, 1989 and 1993.
He was a feisty character who simply wanted to win, a great competitor who loved the game and worked hard to hone his skills.
It was no surprise that his sons Jeremy (left) and Gareth (right) both followed him into the Bradford League before going on to play first class cricket.
The only shock was that both made their mark as off spinners. Jeremy played for Yorkshire and Somerset while Gareth is in the autumn of a long career which has seen him play for Worcestershire and Surrey as well as earning nine caps for England.
Batty launched his career with Lidget Green in 1960 and his first two seasons saw him bowl just 14 overs in first team cricket and pick up just one wicket for 69 runs.
An indication of his rich promise surfaced in 1962 – a season when Lidget Green were relegated – and he took 36 wickets at 16.53.
The next year he took 57 wickets at 13.98 as Lidget Green won promotion at the first attempt, and Batty followed up by taking 53 wickets at 15.92 as Lidget Green took Division One by storm and clinched the title.
Batty – more commonly known as George - was gaining a big reputation and after taking 53 wickets again in 1965 at 13.25, he moved on to join Bingley.
His performances at Wagon Lane were simply staggering and it was during his first season there, 1966, that he took his career best figures of 8-42 against Brighouse.
Bradford & Bingley's title-winning side from 1990: Back, from left,: John Goldthorp, Mark Duffy, James Robinson, Mark Best, Richard McCarthy, Billy Holmes. Front: Chris Dobson, Jeremy Batty, Neil Hartley (captain), David Batty, Phil Padgett.
Two men who had the privilege of captaining Batty at Wagon Lane are the former Yorkshire player Neil Hartley and league management board member Bill Holmes.
“George was an incredible performer who always wanted to bowl,” said Hartley. “You have to remember that the game we played then was different to what you see now.
“There was no limitation on the number of overs a bowler could bowl and because teams could play for a draw under the old points system, it meant George could attack more.
“We would have attacking fields with slips, short legs and a silly point when George was bowling, The batsmen of today would probably be trying to hit him out of the park, but most of the time we were having to winkle them out to get the two extra points for a win.
“George had great control and would vary his pace and flight cleverly. If he saw a batsman was nervous against him, he would try to rush through his over as quickly as he could to keep the pressure on.
“He also had lots of theories about how to get batsmen out. It was a case of deciding as captain which ones you would go with.”
Hartley admitted that there were times when Batty’s feisty nature surfaced. “You just had to know when his genuine enthusiasm was getting the better of him and get him to focus on his bowling again.”
One of the big mysteries of Batty’s distinguished career is that he was never voted man of the match in a Priestley Cup final despite twice taking seven wickets in the showpiece game.
Bingley celebrate their 1979 Priestley Cup final win at Park Avenue
In 1979 he was pipped to the honour by Hartley who scored 119 in a victory over Manningham Mills, while in 1987 it was wicketkeeper John Goldthorp who took the honour despite Batty shining with the ball again in victory over Pudsey St Lawrence.
“If anybody was going to deprive George of being man of the match that day it was James Robinson who scored a quick half century just when we needed impetus, but even that would have been a tough call,” said Bingley’s captain that day, Holmes.
“We went into the match with only three bowlers and that quickly became two as Mark Best was injured in the opening overs and couldn’t bowl again so we just had Carl Smith and George to bowl the overs.
“Carl bowled unchanged for 25 overs while George bowled 22 from the other end and took 7-105. It was an incredible effort but not enough to impress the adjudicator.”
Holmes added: “George was a great asset to have in your team. He was a strike bowler and we were able to set attacking fields for him.
“He had plenty of variations in terms of pace and flight, but I am not sure he had a googly. If he did, he used it sparingly.
“His strength was his ability to put batsmen under pressure and force them to make mistakes. He was simply a great bowler to have in your side.
“Of course, there were times when he would get a little over excited, but once the mist cleared he would be back doing what he did best, getting batsmen out.”
|DAVID BATTY'S AMAZING BOWLING RECORD|
|1988||Bradford & Bingley||1||301||77||872||56||15.57|
|1989||Bradford & Bingley||1||322||53||1109||68||16.31|
|1990||Bradford & Bingley||1||307||51||978||45||21.73|
|1991||Bradford & Bingley||1||247||49||849||44||19.30|
|1992||Bradford & Bingley||1||194||38||737||33||22.33|
|1995||Bradford & Bingley||2||218||52||656||39||16.82|
|1996||Bradford & Bingley||1||241||30||958||44||21.77|