Their post-war history, 1969

Yorkshire the top county

John Bapty

John Bapty, Sports Editor of the Yorkshire Evening Post from 1947 to his retirement at the end of 1965, began his professional link with Yorkshire cricket in the early days after the 1914-18 war. From 1931 until the close of the 1961 season he travelled with the Yorkshire side, being away only for Test cricket. He went to Australia with the M.C.C. teams of 1950 and 1954.

Yorkshire's 31st Championship success in 1968 stands as their eighth since the war, their seventh in the last ten seasons and their fourth with D.B. Close as captain. Only Lord Hawke, eight in 28 seasons, and A.B. Sellers, six in eight seasons, achieved more than the man who in 1963 became the county's second professional captain.

Whether Close's 1969 side can turn Yorkshire's fifth hat-trick of Championships into a run of four remains to be seen. The 1924 side completed four; so did Sellers and his second Championship hat-trick side when the 1946 title was put with those gained in 1937, 1938 and 1939.

Now Close and the county committee face a major reconstruction. Two men who have taken 3,135 wickets for Yorkshire have gone -- F.S. Trueman into retirement with 1,745, R. Illingworth to Leicestershire with 1,390 -- and with them K. Taylor, who, like Trueman and Illingworth, has been in the side in seven Championship seasons.

Close, J.G. Binks, D.E.V. Padgett, P.J. Sharpe and D. Wilson, have been there as well, and with Trueman, Illingworth and Taylor, make eight of the 32 Yorkshire caps since the war.

The last cap went to R.A. Hutton in 1964. It followed those for G. Boycott, J.H. Hampshire and A.G. Nicholson in 1963. The next two caps must fit a pace man and an off-spinner if the traditional character of the Yorkshire attack is to be preserved.

Close, capped in the fourth season after the war, spent ten seasons before he shared in an outright Championship; Trueman, capped in 1951, spent eight.

Men such as W. Watson and J.H. Wardle, both capped in 1947, F.A. Lowson in 1949, and R. Appleyard, capped with Trueman in 1951, never enjoyed Championship success. Sir Leonard Hutton had only one post-war Championship, that of 1946, to put with four before the end of 1939.

Recollections of these men, their runs, their wickets and their ability in the field, make the failure of Yorkshire to do better than finish second between the end of 1949 -- when they shared top with Middlesex -- and 1959 -- when J.R. Burnet began his second season -- as remarkable as the command developed under Wilson and Close in the last nine seasons.

Indeed, Yorkshire's work since the war may readily be divided into three parts -- that of almost complete reconstruction immediately after the war, that of contrasting brilliance and frustration from 1950 to the end of 1958, and that which, furnished and maintained in the Yorkshire style, has produced what Yorkshire folk had for as long looked for in vain.

Beginning in the Championship year of 1946 without H. Sutcliffe, H. Verity, A. Mitchell and A. Wood, Yorkshire lost M. Leyland, W. Barber, C. Turner and P.A. Gibb before the next season and then W.E. Bowes (1947) and T.F. Smailes (1948). Sellers retired in 1947 but stood in for N.W.D. Yardley when there were Tests with Don Bradman's 1948 men.

At that time about all that was left of the pre-war attack was found in E.P. Robinson's off-spin, Hutton's modest leg-breaks, and Yardley's ability to snatch a few wickets now and then.

But, most important, Hutton's bat was there to ring truly as in the days before the war. He had the proper lead for the county's batting in 1949, the season of Championship division with Middlesex, when it seemed that all was right with Yorkshire again.

The happenings of 1947, when Yorkshire had finished as low as seventh were ... well, just one of those unfortunate memories. Sellers in the 1948Wisden told of Championship hopes for the early 1950's. The cricket of 1949 was confirmation. Big days were near again. Yorkshiremen all over the world believed in them.

But expectation and realisation were not related. Yardley went through eight seasons as captain with nothing better than 1949's split title, and the thought of what might have been. More than once when Surrey were riding high, Yorkshire started as favourities without providing justification.

Sometimes they failed when they should have been fighting; their slips were all the more marked because often they were not in the Yorkshire line. The team seemed to settle in the second position too readily. Yet in 1950 their two Championship defeats -- by Lancashire at Sheffield, where they were beaten by 14 after Close had been run out, and Derbyshire at Bradford, were followed by 22 Championship games without defeat.

And five years later, when Yorkshire had 21 wins and, for them, a record number of points, a run of three defeats in June, for which there was no adequate explanation, settled the argument. Surrey finished 16 points in front. Yorkshire were beaten by 21 runs at Hove where a third-day drizzle produced curious happenings; at The Oval there were 41 runs in it: at Bradford Hampshire, with a total of 224, were allowed to win by an innings when Yorkshire followed-on.

To return to the start of the second part of Yorkshire's post-war adventures; a new opening attack had to be built for 1951. Ankle trouble had assailed R. Aspinall when the England selectors were becoming interested in him. A. Coxon had taken 100 championship wickets in 1950, but it was his last season.

By that time, of course, Yorkshire were being encouraged by the flashing promise of young Trueman and the way in which another Youngster, the 18-year-old Close, had with seam and off-spin counted 100 wickets in his first season. Trueman, Close and Lowson played for the county for the first time at Fenner's in May, 1949.

Close and Lowson were in the Yorkshire coach from Leeds. Trueman, then 17, boarded it in Doncaster's main street which in those days was part of the A1 and that, looking back, seems to have been a very fair sort of tip. The idea was that the three lads should have a gentle breaking-in at Cambridge and Oxford; but, such was the form fired at once by Close and Lowson that each stayed with the side while Trueman returned to Yorkshire for the next stage of the development planned for his promise of rare pace which was to be so completely fulfilled.

Never before can a county have taken into first-class cricket on the same day three youngsters destined to do so much.

That season Close became the youngest cricketer to play for England, against New Zealand at Old Trafford, and he scored a thousand runs to go with his hundred wickets. He was the youngest all-rounder to complete the double and the youngest Yorkshireman to be awarded his county cap.

Lowson stayed to partner Hutton for Yorkshire and for England, to make 13,897 runs and 30 centuries for his county, and to share 22 century stands with Hutton for the first-wicket.

Trueman, in 1952, when India were here, followed Close and Lowson into the England side to make in the mighty years of his pace one part of the Test record book entirely his own.

That May day in 1949 held even more than that, for in the Yorkshire team at Cambridge were three of the county's next four captains. No one could then have come anywhere near naming them, for the time had not come for even the thought of a professional captain for Yorkshire or, for that matter, for England. Yorkshire expectation, in fact, was the W.G. Keighley, the Oxford University batsman, would follow Yardley.

The county Committee, by special resolution, had qualified the man born in France for the county with which his family had long-standing connections. But Keighley, like the man who was to have the honour and reward of knighthood after his work as England's first professional captain, was not to have the chance. He returned to his Australian home in 1951.

Four years later back trouble put Hutton out of the game, the announcement of his retirement being delayed until the close season before W.H.H. Sutcliffe accepted the county captaincy to which his distinguished father had been so near a quarter of a century earlier.

Young Sutcliffe was in that Yorkshire side at Fenner's in 1949, and so was J.V. Wilson, who in 1960 became Yorkshire's first professional captain since before Lord Hawke's time, and so, of course, was Close whose early climb in first-class cricket was so quick an affair that he was on the boat with the 1950 M.C.C. team when they sailed for Australia.

Yorkshire's fortune in finding the right men did not, however, extend to their immediate development. Close was not able to continue in county cricket; he had to complete his national service when he returned from Australia. Trueman had to begin his when he left the pit, and so Yorkshire had to wait for the establishment of their second post-war attack.

There were difficulties all the way. Only Wardle was there all the time. Appleyard, brought in as an opening bowler when at the age of 26 he first played for the county, had a unique reward of 200 wickets for the thought, skill and variety which he gave to his accurate work in 1951, his first full season, and then, tragically illness took him away until 1954.

Still, by 1951, Yorkshire had five men in Test action against South Africa -- Wardle, Watson and D.V. Brennan, the wicket keeper, as well as Hutton and Lowson -- and there were six, Hutton, Watson, Lowson, E. Lester, Wilson and H. Halliday, with more than 1,000 Championship runs in 1952 when Wardle took 158 Championship wickets and Close 98.

The one bowler on the 100-wicket mark in the Championship in that sad season of 1953 was Wardle. Hutton, Lowson, Watson, Lester, Wilson and Halliday were together again with more than 1,000 Championship runs, but only six games were won and Yorkshire counted few more than half Surrey's 184 Championship points.

Hutton, Brennan (who retired at the end of 1953) and Sutcliffe had captained Yorkshire when Yardley was not there in that season in which there was drastic revision of the county's records.

Glamorgan beat Yorkshire for the first time, and what was perhaps the most remarkable record of the lot went when Nottinghamshire beat Yorkshire for the first time at Trent Bridge since 1891. The margin was four wickets after an optimistic declaration had given Yorkshire's weak attack seventy minutes in which to get out a side needing 110. That was the season, too, in which Northamptonshire, often a two-day job in pre-war times, beat Yorkshire for the first time for forty years.

In 1946 when Yorkshire's one defeat gave Hampshire at Bournemouth their first home win over Yorkshire since 1911, the feat -- and it was regarded as a considerable feat -- gained celebration speeches from the front of the pavilion. But, as it turned out, that was only the prelude to defeats each of which marked the end of a long period of Yorkshire domination. Counties whose men had suffered for years delightedly took plunder.

The Middlesex 1947 win at Headingley was their first in Yorkshire for 27 years, Leicestershire's at Bramall Lane in 1948 was their first in Yorkshire for 38 years. Worcestershire's on the same ground in 1949 was their first in Yorkshire for 40 years, and Warwickshire's at Edgbaston in 1948 was their first at home against Yorkshire since 1893.

There was no hint at what was to come in 1953, at the end of which the Yorkshire annual report had to regret the worst season from a playing point of view since 1892. Yorkshire, unbelievably, had dropped to the thirteenth position -- and that in Hutton's second season as England's captain.

With Hutton in the England eleven which regained the Ashes at The Oval were Trueman, who then took his first four Australian wickets; Watson, who shared with Hutton the only two England Test centuries that summer, and Wardle.

Besides giving those men to England, Yorkshire had Trueman for only a handful of games, when freed from the Royal Air Force. Close fell out after two games. An injury from the football season put him aside, with Appleyard who, happily, was making the recovery which enabled him to display his considerable skill to the game when he returned in 1954.

A grim echo of it all was heard at Chesterfield in 1953 when the Yorkshiremen, having failed against Gladwin and Jackson, went down by ten wickets. It was Yorkshire's third defeat by Derbyshire in four seasons -- their third, in fact, since 1905. A solitary spectator, just about the last to leave the ground, flung into the old press tent as he passed: "They're not even common amusement now." Only he knew whether he was an embittered Yorkshireman or a delighted Derbyshire supporter!

Wardle, Appleyard and Wilson went with Hutton's 1954-55 M.C.C. team to Australia, where Wardle and Appleyard had their parts in keeping the Ashes. Wilson did not make the Test side, and it must be regarded as something of a curiosity that when 1959 came with, at last, a Championship for Yorkshire, he was the only one of the four in Australia five years earlier to be with Burnet's side.

Hutton's victorious side returned to a summer of sunshine, and Yorkshire went into the 1955 campaign with reasonable hope that the bowling partnership of Trueman and M.J. Cowan, a left-hander who seemed to be built for the task, would lead powerfully the attack in which Appleyard, Wardle and Close each had a place of his own and in which young Illingworth, the off-spinner, was making progress.

But the most important happening of Yardley's last season as captain was the end of the distinguished career of the great batsman who was soon to become Sir Leonard Hutton. Because of back troubles Hutton had been unable to keep the England captaincy after having been, for the first time, appointed for a complete home series.

But at Trent Bridge he made his 85th century for Yorkshire -- his 60th for the county in post-war cricket. In 10 seasons after the war he had taken his Yorkshire total for 8,750 to 24,807, and 2,640 of those runs had been made in 1949 when his aggregate was 3,429, the highest by a Yorkshire player. He left a gap much too wide to be measured.

The victory which gave Yorkshire most satisfaction in 1955 was that over Surrey at Headingley where in the three days there were 60,000 people.

Surrey, unbeaten since July 1954, led by 102 on the first innings, only to find the heat generated by Cowan and Trueman too much for them on the Monday evening. Cowan's 5 for 15 was a promise with a fine flourish, even if the light was such that when next Yorkshire passed through London a Surrey man saw to it that they had, with his compliments, a supply of night-lights!

That was the fast attack for which the county had been waiting. Yorkshire, however, were not to have the full benefit of it, for Cowan hurt his back in Pakistan that winter and, though he returned to the side after a long absence to get a cap, his and the county's hopes were not completely fulfilled.

Sutcliffe, who went to Pakistan that winter with the M.C.C. team in which there was also a place for Close, returned to a two-year spell as captain. His hopes also were to be unfulfilled. At the end of 1956 the county's annual report talked of "a difficult year for the new captain" before making plain the belief that the final position would have been above seventh had "the men played in a more determined manner on all occasions."

Appleyard, Trueman, Watson and Wardle had places against the 1956 Australians but Trueman had no more than 355 Championship overs for 33 wickets. Injury dogged him, Cowan and Appleyard.

There were, however, occasions when the side did not look like a Yorkshire side, so far were the men in it short of their own potential and so far was the side short of the old spirit. Take the game at Bramall Lane, where Surrey, on their way to their fifth Championship in a row, were allowed to complete their first Yorkshire double for 36 years -- and that without Laker's spin.

Yorkshire, who had put Surrey in, began the last innings wanting 97. There was a possible 85 minutes left on that Monday. Next morning Yorkshire still wanted 67, and, after two and a quarter hours they needed 14 when Lock ended it. It was a game Yorkshire could have won on the Monday.

Sutcliffe's captaincy ended in 1957 with the side in third place. Illingworth, becoming more and more important, had a thousand Championship runs. Watson and three other left-handers -- W.B. Stott, Close and Wilson -- were with him. No bowler had earned a hundred wickets, and Yorkshire moved into the fateful season of 1958 with J.R. Burnet, a successful captain of the Colts, answering at the age of 39 a call he certainly had not expected at the beginning of 1957.

Rain came -- 17 of the county's 23 blank days were in Yorkshire -- and Lowson and Appleyard, and then Wardle, left the side as Watson had done at the end of 1957 when he secured the release which enabled him to captain Leicestershire.

Wardle, captain in eight of the first 10 games when Burnet was injured, was last in the Yorkshire dressing-room on the first morning of the August Bank Holiday game at Old Trafford. He did not unpack his bag. Two days earlier, during the Somerset game at Sheffield, he had been called to the Committee-room and told that his services would not be required after the end of the season.

The sensation circled the cricket world, for, as things developed, with Wardle's Yorkshire place went his place in M.C.C.'s 1958 team for Australia. And, after the Committee's decisions, Burnet, at the beginning of the third part of Yorkshire's post-war story, found that his job had to do with the rebuilding of the attack. Trueman and Close, and J. V. Wilson, were there to link the first chapter with the third.

Taylor, Padgett, Stott and Sharpe, young batsmen with so much to give in the field were there as well, eager and ready, and Binks, on his way to records of skill and stamina, was sure in his place with the other six -- Pinder, the Hunters, Dolphin, Wood and Brennan -- who have manned Yorkshire's wicket-keeping post for over 100 years.

D. Wilson moved into the place in which Wardle had taken, with his varied spin, 1,537 wickets, and, against all the odds, Yorkshire at once went to their first Championship for thirteen hard years.

Never had a side with more than five defeats finished at the top. But there were 14 victories and the vital one came at Hove, in the last match, a few days after Yorkshire had been put out for 35 at Bristol.

There was no argument about the Hove affair. Two hundred and fifteen runs had to be made in one hundred minutes for the Championship. They were. Stott had 96 of them in eighty-six minutes.

The youngsters has answered the call, with Trueman, R.K. Platt and Illingworth leading the bowlers -- and they answered it again in 1960 when Burnet, his job done, retired and J.V. Wilson completed something started by T.F. Smailes in 1947.

Up to 1947 Yorkshire had always found an amateur when the need was there for a stand-in for the captain. Smailes captained the side occasionally in 1947 and 1948, and, the door having been opened, Hutton, Watson and Wardle in the following years filled the post which had never been occupied by Yorkshire's great professionals before the war.

And when, at the end of 1962, Wilson retired with two Championships in three seasons, the authorities turned again to the senior professional, and Close had the satisfaction in his first season as captain of holding, in the county's centenary year, the Championship regained in 1962.

The 1963 Centenary Banquet was taken (as had been that which in 1949 commemorated the centenary of Roses cricket) to Sheffield, and in that season Boycott, destined to step in England's batting where H. Sutcliffe and Sir Leonard Hutton had stepped, produced his first Championship 1,000 runs.

By then Trueman had another opening partner -- his last. A.G. Nicholson has settled where in turn there had been Appleyard, Cowan, Platt, Ryan, and, briefly, such as Whitehead, Holdsworth, Hodgson, Pickles and others. Two years went without the title, the Gillette Cup, superbly won, was taken in 1965, since when there have been Championships all the way for the side, at its best in the field where Close's close-in lead has never faltered.

Close became the third Yorkshireman to captain England in post-war cricket when in 1966 he took over against West Indies at the Oval. He left the post a year later, after the Edgbaston affair had produced the Advisory County Committee's condemnation of Yorkshire's time-wasting tactics against Warwickshire.

To go with the 1968 Championship there is for the aggressive team moulded by Close, Trueman and Illingworth the warm memory of comprehensive victory over the Australians at Bramall Lane -- something accomplished by no Yorkshire side since Sir Stanley Jackson and G.H. Hirst put out the 1902 Australians for 23 at Headingley.

But there is a tale of changed times in the gate figures. Just over 14,500 paid at Sheffield for last summer's Australian game. In 1953, the season in which Yorkshire were 13th in the Championship, there was for Hassett's Australians an aggregate playing attendance of 42,670 on the same ground.

One other financial note -- in the years since the war, benefits, testimonials and grants for men with a Yorkshire cap have produced over £95,000.

© John Wisden & Co