The end of the county season is a time for reflection, looking back on the victories and defeats of the past few months. For some it’s a time to bask in the glory of a hard-won trophy or two. For others it’s time to celebrate barely managing to avoid being relegated while paying Jim Allenby a bloody fortune to stink out your middle order. And in a few cases it’s time to look back at a career that has now passed entirely, with only the cold hard reality of retirement to come. The latest in our long-since forgotten about Unlikely Lad series finds himself at that exact point. But it’s his contribution to something that happened back in 2010 that we really wanted to talk about.
That and Jenna Coleman, whom we haven’t mentioned for quite a while now.
Germany 1, England 5. Perhaps the most remarkable result for English football in nearly 50 years. Ask any football fan old enough to remember watching it and the highlights will just roll off the tongue: the slow start and Jancker’s early goal; Owen’s equaliser shortly after; Gerrard’s screamer right on half time; two more clinical Owen goals in the second half followed by Heskey (Heskey!) and the DJ celebration. Even now – 14 long years later – it all seems remarkably familiar.
But why are we talking about this? Well, two reasons, really: firstly, it makes us happy in a way that very few things can (mainly this game and Jenna Coleman). Secondly, it’s the subject of one of the great pub quiz questions: can you name the starting England XI for that match? Ten of them roll off the tongue without a moment’s hesitation: Seaman, Gary Neville, Ferdinand, Campbell, Ashley Cole, Beckham, Scholes, Gerrard, Owen and Heskey. But that last name? That’s a real tough one to remember.
Michael Yardy is essentially the Nick Barmby of England’s 2010 World T20 winning side, the name that no-one ever remembers. Lumb and Kieswetter? Everyone remembers the makeshift opening partnership and how they came to be at the very last second. The middle order dashers Pietersen, Morgan, Collingwood and Wright? Yep, we all remember. And then the frontline bowlers: Bresnan, Broad, Swann and Sidebottom (with Anderson in reserve). No forgetting them, no sir-ee.
But everyone tends to forget Mike Yardy and his left arm darts of doom. It’s not all that surprising: he bowled just a single over in England’s opening two (rain affected) games, before turning in handy figures of 2/19, 2/31, 0/25 and 0/21 from the next four matches as England fought their way to the final. And in that final Yardy was the weak link, targeted by David Hussey and Cameron White and taken for 21 runs in his third over. Such was the level of crisis caused by this, Luke Wright even had to waddle to the crease six times, only the second time England used a sixth bowler in the whole tournament.
That sort of low key contribution sums up Michael Yardy’s career perfectly. A batsman who bowled begrudgingly, and mainly in the shorter formats, he found himself selected for England as a frontline bowler, batting at number ten, and did a decent job without ever threatening to grab the headlines. A First Class average of 36 with the bat and 76 with the ball aren’t exactly the stuff of legend, but he leaves now-relegated Sussex with descriptions such as “fantastic role model”, “an integral part of the club” and “the fat guy, yeah?” from those associated with the club.
Perhaps the most unusual thing about the Michael Yardy story is the end of his international career, caused not by injury or a particular loss of form, but by depression, Yardy returning home during the 2011 World Cup in India. The lack of understanding around the condition isn’t exactly surprising, but Geoff Boycott’s subsequent comments about Yardy not being able to take criticism of his bowling were still a new low for everyone’s second-least favourite Yorkshireman.
And so Yardy moves on, perhaps into coaching, perhaps into working in mental health. Or perhaps he’ll spend his days teaching kids to shuffle across their crease like a poor man’s Shivnarine Chanderpaul. Regardless, we will always be grateful for his understated contribution to one of the great England triumphs. That and providing us with an excuse to watch football highlights on YouTube and demanding Editor Steve pay us for it, with inevitable results.