Geoffrey Alan Cope
Geoffrey Alan Cope
February 23, 1947, Burmantofts, Leeds, Yorkshire
Right-hand bat, Right-arm offbreak
3 August 1970. YCCC Cap No. 114.
BATTING AND FIELDING AVERAGES
Geoff grew up in Crossgates, Leeds and showed early potential at Manston Junior School when he took 10-26 in a Cup Final match. He played his early club cricket for Leeds Zingari and Leeds CC in the Yorkshire League. He played for England Schools and then the Yorkshire 2nd Team from 1964.
He made his debut for the 1st Team against Hampshire at Bradford Park Avenue when Ray Illingworth was on England Test duty. Despite taking 40 wickets at 13.82 in 1967 he didn't win a regular first team place until 1969 when Illingworth moved to captain Leicestershire.
He won his Yorkshire cap in 1970 but was twice forced to remodel his off break bowling action after he was suspended in 1972 and again in 1978 much to his chagrin. “It was a bad time because you were never allowed to defend yourself. A committee met and made a decision, which was then passed on down the lines. You didn’t know who was on that committee or what they thought. But Dickie Bird and a lot of other people have said, ‘Geoff, there’s nothing wrong; if you were guilty, then an awful lot of others were.’ I think that’s a fair comment - it was just one of those periods.”
He worked on his action with the great Yorkshire spinner Johnny Wardle and after good seasons in 1974 and 1975, played in an England Test trial at Bristol in May, 1976. Derek Underwood took 4-10 in the second innings while Cope took 5-27 as they combined to skittle The Rest of England for only 48. Geoff was not selected for a Test that summer, and so escaped the might of the West Indian batting line-up, but was selected for his first major tour, to India, Sri Lanka and Australia for the Centenary Test that winter. Despite a good start in the Indian tour matches he did not appear in Test Matches as Tony Greig adopted a seam based strategy to win the series 3-1.
He was a highly accurate off spinner who Ken Barrington described as more accurate than Derek Underwood. He built pressure on batsmen by denying them scoring opportunities. He was often required to bowl long defensive spells throughout the 1970’s, which was alien to his natural attacking instincts.
He toured Pakistan in 1977-78 playing in all 3 Tests and in 2 ODIs. On his Test debut he nearly took a hat-trick when he dismissed Abdul Qadir, bowled Safraz Nawaz with his next ball and then thought he’d had Iqbal Qasim caught at slip by Mike Brearley. The umpire raised his finger, but Brearley was not sure whether he had taken the catch cleanly and called the batsman back to the crease.
Of that incident Geoff recalls, “Iqbal Qasim came in, a little left-hander. I chose to go round the wicket and obviously we put men round the bat, ‘Brears’ at first slip, Graham Roope, Bob Willis, ‘Both’ all round the bat. I just bowled it right and it was magic really; it just turned a fraction and bounced, and ‘Iqqie’ nicked it. Brears just dived to his left and caught the ball about a foot off the ground, landed in front of Roopey and Willis, Iqqie just looked up the wicket at me, nodded, said, ‘Well bowled’; the umpire went bananas, shaking hands and saying, ‘I’ve never seen a hat-trick before, well bowled.’ And ironically this was on my debut. 12 months previously, on the same ground, Peter Petherick of New Zealand had just done the first hat-trick ever on debut, so it would have been 12 months to the day and it would have been a unique place in history. But Mike in landing got a lot of gravel on the back of his hand. Iqqie left the field and all the lads were up there when suddenly Brears started saying, ‘I’m going to bring him back be I don’t think I caught it cleanly.’ All the lads around him were adamant he had caught it a foot off the ground, but he said, ‘No, for the best interests of this series I’m going to bring him back.’ So he brought him back – and for the best interests of the series, six of us were lbw in our first innings. It happened, but it was a moment of disappointment because something like that on a Test debut is very special. As somebody once said, ‘If bad luck hadn’t been invented, we’d have had none at all!’”
He took 686 first-class wickets in 246 games with a best of 8-73 against Gloucestershire at Bristol in 1975. His average of 24.70 compares very favourably with other similar bowlers of his generation. He took his largest seasonal haul, 93 wickets at 24.13, in 1976 and averaged just 13.82 with the ball in taking 40 wickets in 1967.
He scored several first-class fifties, usually grinding affairs to stave off defeat, but never scored a century in any form of cricket. He often was sent in as a nightwatchman and opened on occasion in emergencies. His highest knock was 78 against Essex in Middlesbrough in 1977.
After leaving the first-class game he played for Yeadon Cricket Club, helping develop the club and the ground, before finally retiring from the game completely at 40. He was elected to the Yorkshire Committee after Brian Close retired from his seat and appointed Yorkshire's Director of Cricket in 2002.
Geoff began his career wearing glasses and in 1972 turned to contact lenses. Further deterioration in his sight left him officially registered blind but though his peripheral vision very poor he can still see directly in front of him and watch play on the field. He is still a regular at Headingley Carnegie accompanied by his trusty guide dog Kemp.
JMB October 2010