Now it is vibrant again, 1971

Reshaping Lancashire cricket

John Kay

Although the Lancashire County Cricket Club was not officially born until 1864 there are plenty of records to prove that cricket had been played at county level in the earlier days of the century and in 1842 the Manchester Cricket Club, the forerunner of the county club itself, sent a side to Lord's to play the Gentlemen of the M. C. C. They were overwhelmed and gave up the match when the opposition reached 200 after tumbling their visitors out for 59 in the first innings. A bad start -- but no deterrent to the future of a club that has been a power in the cricketing world since the beginning of the twentieth century, some eighty years after the formation of the Manchester Club whose part in formulating the Lancashire side was marked by the original title: The Lancashire County and Manchester Cricket Club, a description maintained until midway through the 1950s when the Manchester Club as such ceased to exist and Lancashire took overall command.

All England Beaten

Lancastrians could look with pride upon the early achievements of a club that was eventually to become the county one. In 1844 the club met and defeated an All-Yorkshire XI and later an All-England side led by the redoubtable George Parr and from 1849 until the official formation of the club, fifteen years later, there were regular matches against Yorkshire before the club moved to its present ground at Old Trafford, which was to become a historic cricketing venue and the scene of many stirring Test Matches. When the lease was officially signed at an agreed purchase price of £1,100 it was pointed out, with some degree of pride, that underneath the pavilion is an excellent wine cellar. Old Trafford is now much changed and the wine cellar has been put to other uses but it remains the home of the Lancashire county Cricket Club and has played a memorable part in cricket history at both test and county level.

A club that had its beginnings, first in Salford and then in Hulme, established itself in what was then the countryside adjacent to the city of Manchester but few even today link Manchester with Lancashire from the cricketing point of view. Old Trafford is synonymous with cricket the world over. Down the years tributes have been paid to the near-perfect amenities. Players commend the state of the pitch and the high quality of the light. Official visitors praise the hospitality they encounter and the ordinary man in the street sings praises because of its ability to house a crowd with comfort and afford every spectator a good view of the game. But Lancashire has more to offer than Old Trafford.

The club's history is liberally sprinkled with names of players who have made their mark in all the cricketing parts of the world and from the administrative point of view Lancashire have provided their share of leading officials who have maintained a link with M. C. C. and Lord's held one of its rare outside functions at Old Trafford -- a dinner for its North-West members. Need it be said that the official view after that memorable night was that Lancashire and Old Trafford had excelled once again.

Noted Secretaries

The strength of Lancashire cricket lies in the names of the men who have made it famous. Some of those present at the foundation of the club in 1864 boasted names that have been synonymous with good cricket and astute administration. First and foremost among them was S. H. Swire who became the first and only honorary secretary, doubling his duties off the field with occasional effort as a batsman in the middle and remaining in office until 1906 when it became apparent that the growth of the club and the ever-increasing popularity of the county club called for full-time administrators. Since that year five men have served in the secretarial capacity and each has made a name for himself in one direction or another. T. J. Matthews was in office from 1906 to 1921, when H. Rylance took over and continued until 1932 when he gave way to Captain Rupert Howard. Captain Howard eventually became Major Howard, managed two M. C. C. touring sides in Australia and New Zealand, and made himself one of the most respected officials in cricket before passing on an onerous post to C. G. Howard of Surrey, who served from 1949 to 1964 and also managed M. C. C. touring teams in Australia and India before returning to The Oval and being succeeded by the Yorkshire-born J. B. Wood, a man who has contributed much to the recent emergence of Lancashire as a cricketing power after years in the doldrums from a playing point of view.

Illustrious Players

The club's list of captains, from E. B. Rowley in 1866 to J. D. Bond in 1971, contains an illustrious band of famous players, several of whom played also for England and led their country in Test matches at home and abroad. Talk of Lancashire cricket in the early days and the names of the Hornby family vie with those of the Rowley brothers -- all distinguished administrators as well as players. Few would argue against the age-old belief that when one discusses Lancashire captains, the name of A. C. MacLaren means most. A majestic figure on and off the field, captain of Lancashire and leader of England, the mighty MacLaren gathered round him a county side that included the master bowler, S. F. Barnes, the stylish amateur batsman, R. H. Spooner, the first of the famous Tyldesleys, Johnny of run-scoring fame, and the devastating fast bowler, Walter Brearely. This, it was said, was Lancashire's vintage time and when the county was at full strength, it was a vintage team.

Triple Champions

Certainly, Old Trafford was a well populated spot in those far-off and historic cricketing days, but there are many, and some of them are still to be seen on the ground, who reckon the team led by Leonard Green in the middle twenties was a better cricketing combination. It contained the graceful Australian fast bowler, E. A. (Ted) McDonald, the incomparable Cecil Parkin of whom it was said that he could bowl a different delivery with each of his six balls in the over, the perspiring spinner Richard Tyldesley and his namesake Ernest Tyldesley, brother of J. T, but no relation to Dick, who scored more runs (some 34,000) than any other Lancashire batsman. In addition there was the dour Harry Makepeace opening the innings along with the stylish Charles Hallows and the incomparable George Duckworth behind the wicket. This was the team that claimed three of the eight Championships won by Lancashire to date. Leonard Green led his side the County Championship three years in succession, in 1926-27-28, and few will deny his right to be classed with the county's great captains and his team to challenge for the title of the club's best-ever.

The County Championship was won again in 1930 and 1934 under the leadership of P. T. Eckersley, but since the war only one joint share of the Championship has gone to Old Trafford -- in 1950 when N. D. Howard led a side that finished level with Surrey in a summer bedevilled by bad weather and suspect pitches. Lancashire, like all other county clubs, closed down during the period of World War II and saw Old Trafford bombed and battle-scarred before cricket was resumed in 1945 with a victory Test against a powerful Australian Services side ushering in a new cricketing decade.

Post-War Problems

Forced to recruit players from up and down the country in 1946, Lancashire lost more than most to the ravages of war. Paynter, Oldfield, Nutter and Farrimond refused to accept terms or risk the physical consequences of five near-idle years but there remained Washbrook, Place, Pollard and Wilkinson of the old brigade to reshape the future of a proud club. W. H. L. Lister, in charge when play was suspended in 1939, was not available. T. A. Higson, son of the club chairman and a stand-in for Lister in pre-war days, was also unable to continue playing and the choice of captain provided much thought. Eventually it went to J. A. Fallows, son of the club honorary treasurer and a club cricketer with some Minor County experience before the war. Fallows had a distinguished Army record and, although by no means a good player, he did a responsible job in 1946.

His first task was to re-establish team spirit. He leaned heavily on the experience of Washbrook and Pollard, though the latter, who was still in the Services, could play in fewer than half of the matches; he also encouraged the newcomers, J. T. Ikin, a left-hander of great pugnacity, G. A. Edrich, recruited from Norfolk, B. P. King, from Worcestershire, T. L. Brierley who was signed from Glamorgan to plug the wicket-keeping gap. Among home produced players were Place, Wharton, Roberts, Price and Garlick and had it not been for some bad luck with the weather and the toss Lancashire might well have started the new decade by winning the Championship. That they failed was no reflection upon Fallows or his team. Yet the club committee were not satisfied. Fallows had contributed little from the batting or fielding point of view but had done a superb job behind the scenes. Yet he was summarily dismissed and, unfortunately, learned of his dismissal through the Press before being officially informed. It was an action that incensed Fallows, upset his players, and did much damage among the members, though they welcomed his successor Kenneth Cranston as a stylish and promising all-rounder.

The chairman, T. A. Higson, was much criticised but he rode the storm and continued to rule the committee with an iron hand. Cranston captained Lancashire for two years and delighted all with the grace of his batting and the power of his bowling. He narrowly failed to do the double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in his first year and won England caps in what was brief but colourful career in the first-class game. When Cranston went Lancashire were faced with the problem of maintaining the old order or breaking away from the traditional demand that the captain should always be an amateur. On hand, as senior professional and one of the most successful batsmen of the post-war period, was Washbrook, first choice for England and a prolific scorer for both county and country, a man with vast experience and an impeccable reputation on and off the field. But the old order was maintained and N. D. Howard, son of the club secretary and a very promising batsman, was appointed to succeed Cranston. Under him Lancashire enjoyed considerable success. They shared the Championship with Surrey in 1950, and came third in each of the three remaining years of Howard's captaincy, a run of success which they were not to emulate for many years.

Washbrook Captain at Last

Howard retained office until the end of the 1953 season when business demands forced him to go. In 1954 Lancashire broke with tradition and appointed Washbrook the county's first-ever professional captain. He did his utmost to see the young players' point of view and never once spared himself in the cause of Lancashire cricket but he found the going hard and the necessity to constantly pacify players with legitimate complaints about pay and working conditions proved too much for him.

Washbrook continued to play and lead Lancashire until the end of the 1959 season, playing on against his real inclination, until the side showed signs of settling down and a new leader appeared. It did not happen. The gulf between players and committee widened visibly season by season. Two amateurs, R. W. Barber and J. F. Blackledge, held the captaincy for brief spells. In 1960 Lancashire came second in the Championship under Barber, who was first picked for England in this same season. But unfortunately their improved form was not maintained.

Good players were recruited from the vast reservoir of talent in the leagues, but a lot more were allowed to by-pass the county (Frank Tyson and Keith Andrew had earlier been two very prominent escapees) and things were allowed to drift on. The public, disappointed with results on the field and mystified by decisions off it, gradually forsook Old Trafford. K. J. Grieves had been appointed as the Club's second professional captain in 1963, but it was a sad wind-up to the club's centenary year in 1964 when the news leaked that the services of Marner, Clayton and Dyson had been dispensed with and that Grieves had been relieved of the captaincy.

The summer of 1965 saw Statham given control after the club had unsuccessfully advertised for a captain -- another example of committee reasoning baffling to members and public alike. It was a move that eventually led to a group of members demanding a special meeting to pass a vote of no confidence in the committee. It also coincided with the departure of the secretary to Surrey and the appointment of J. B. Wood, who found himself taking over with things in turmoil. Resigning but seeking re-election, the old committee surrendered six seats to young and enthusiastic newcomers and although one or two fell by the wayside in the reorganisation so badly needed it soon became apparent that Lancashire were turning the corner.

Statham Takes Over

Statham did his best to reshape the playing side. His skill and popularity as the most successful pace bowler in the history of the club and his mighty deeds for England at home and abroad ensured him the full support of the youngsters who were drafted into the side. A more sympathetic committee, mindful of the need for a new relationship and more security for the players, encouraged the side to better things and the public, at last given evidence of good intent by the new officials, began to return to Old Trafford. What was of equal importance was the committee's determination to move with the times without showing a lack of respect for the past.

New Ideas

New sources of revenue were essential and the bold step of selling part of the club's ground for building purposes on the grand scale was so successful that at the end of the first of a three-phase plan it was possible to call a halt to the possible disfigurement of Old Trafford as a world-class cricketing venue. For years Lancashire had taken little part in the government of the game. Always at Lord's they had been regarded as staunch supporters of the establishment, eager to maintain old standards and showing no great desire to break away from old ideas and ideals. In a word Lancashire had been content to drift along. All this was changed with the upheavals of 1965.

An Inspiring Chairman

Old Trafford became the focal point of several new cricketing ideas. The county proposed and supported the move to introduce overseas players into the English cricketing scene and made a bold bid for the services of the man who had most to offer -- one, G. S. Sobers! Winning the fight to introduce leading cricketing figures from overseas, Lancashire made it quite clear that their own reasons were for merely stop-gap purposes. They wanted time to find and encourage the next generation of native-born players and signed Farokh Engineer and Clive Lloyd to that end. The Indian and the West Indies left-hander have proved admirable signings and the failure to agree terms with Sobers has caused few regrets at Old Trafford where, with the advent of C. S. Rhoades as a live-wire chairman of the committee great things are happening.

It would be folly to credit Mr. Rhoades with all the praise and responsibility for all that has happened in Lancashire cricket in recent years. But he has made his mark not only with his own committee but with his players and with the powers-that-be at Lord's and elsewhere in the cricketing world. His commanding presence, infectious enthusiasm and determination to succeed, have broken down barriers hitherto regarded as unscalable.

One of his major tasks was to win back the essential goodwill of the smaller cricketing powers in Lancashire. The county has long been the home of the most powerful and world-famous cricketing leagues. Within 20 or 30 miles of Old Trafford have been playing the best cricketers in the world, delighting league crowds and attracting more publicity than the county game itself. Lancashire's new chairman made it his job to go round the county. He has won back the faith and the confidence of minor cricketing officials who were often ignored or unknown at Old Trafford. In doing so he has done much to achieve a united front in Lancashire cricket.

Bond Begins His Reign

The new secretary, J. B. Wood, has also been a great help in this respect and with the appointment of J. D. Bond as captain to succeed Statham in 1968 there was forged the third link in a chain that has seen Lancashire emerge as trend-setters of the new cricket and pullers of the new crowds that are now watching the game. Bond's appointment was greeted with reserve by many Lancashire followers. They had seen him come and go as a batsman capable of pleasing but seldom conquering. He was a little man with limitations as a batsman, but now a cricketer who has found his forte in leadership. Do not be misled by the apparent reserve of this little man from Bolton. He has the happy knack of making friends and keeping them. He has welded Lancashire into a strong and attractive side by the simple but all-important belief that no one man is more important than the other. He ignores averages and has banned their publication on the dressing-room notice board until the end of each season.

He has earned respect instead of demanding it. He praises and criticises with equal fervour and will fight hard in support of each and every player -- in form or out of it. Whimsical at times but deadly serious when the occasion demands, Bond accepted the introduction of the John Player League as a means of letting off steam. He knew the only way to win back the crowds was to play the Sunday cricket happily. Ignoring the threat to take away the players' only day off, he gathered the Lancashire side around him and said: "This new league can be the making of cricket. We may not like sacrificing first-class principles in order to provide a spectacle but it is worth a try. Let us go out there and enjoy ourselves; if we do that the crowds must surely enjoy themselves, too."

Bond's assessment of the new order was correct. Lancashire threw themselves into the hurly-burly of Sunday cricket with great enthusiasm and no little skill. Their attitude was the correct one. They have been Champions two years in succession and last summer extended their honours by winning the Gillette Cup for the first time. Finishing third in the County Championship, Bond and his men were disappointed that the big one got away, but they are confident that Lancashire now have their priorities right. They have won back the crowds and entertained them. In response the club committee have made cricket a worthwhile career for the players by giving them top wages and long-term security.

Decent Contracts for Players

Newcomers have been attracted to the game not only because of the money they can earn but also because Lancashire now link cricket with industry and commercial life by also ensuring their youngsters employment all the year round. Long-term cricketing contracts and worthwhile jobs in the winter coupled with schemes to help finance business ventures when their playing days are over have done much to break doe the barriers that held Lancashire in bondage for so many years. There is still much to be done and there are still critics of the way Lancashire play the game and sustain it. But they are outnumbered and last summer Old Trafford housed big crowds. Not only did they come on Sundays but also on Saturdays and in mid-week, too, and seldom did they go away disappointed. It is true that Old Trafford's once sacred turf was trodden underfoot by masses of cheering cricket followers, that beer is now drunk openly on the pavilion side, and that many a member feels he is entitled to remove his collar, and sometimes his shirt, to enable him to watch the game in comfort. Old ideas and ideals have been sacrificed in certain respects, but Lancashire cricket is now vibrantly throbbing with enthusiasm and skill. Old Trafford is no longer a neglected sports venue. It is alive with incident and crowded with eager spectators.

It may well be a long cry from the dignity and grace of the days when MacLaren and Spooner stroked their way to majestic centuries and Barnes and Brearley wreaked havoc with their pace and swing. But who can deny that Bond and his merry men have also got something to offer? An hour of Clive Lloyd at his best must still remain one of cricket's major joys. That Lloyd is not Lancashire born may worry the few but not the masses. Cricket today has broken down age-old barriers and Old Trafford has figured prominently in the transformation. Who could ask for more?

More Spectators

Cricket attracted more spectators in 1970, the Test and County Cricket Board has revealed that spectators through the turnstiles at county matches--including the John Player League -- increased last year from 607,535 to 631,919. Biggest attractions were Lancashire, who increased on 1969 by 13,507, while the County Champions, Kent, increased by 15,331 to 66,739.

© John Wisden & Co