CRICKETER OF THE YEAR 1931

Beverley Hamilton Lyon

BEVERLEY HAMILTON LYON, whose leadership of the Gloucestershire eleven during the past two seasons was such as to cause him to be spoken of as a possible England captain, is, like A.W. Carr of Notts and R.E.S. Wyatt of Warwickshire, a Surrey man, having been born at Caterham Valley on January 19, 1902.

His earliest recollections of the game go back to the time when at home as a boy he batted and bowled on the lawn with his brother M.D. Lyon of Somerset. At about the age of ten years he had some coaching by Ernie Hayes, the old Surrey player, and before going to Rugby he was at three other schools. While at these establishments he distinguished himself chiefly as a fast bowler.

At Rugby he came under the eye of Willis Cuttel, then the coach there, and was in the school eleven in 1917 and 1918, heading the batting averages in the latter year with figures of 25.70 and a highest innings of 98 not out.

In that season he gave promise of being a brilliant bat, but only in recent years has he fulfilled the expectations then formed of him. Indeed his powers, for one who since the war has, after getting his blue at Oxford, with the exception of one season, played more or less regularly in first-class cricket, have been extremely slow to ripen.

This may quite readily be attributed to the fact that leaving Rugby when he was sixteen and a half years of age and going straight into business he was out of the game for two years -- just the period when the form and style of a cricketer is being moulded. Consequently, when in 1920 he went up to Oxford he was, compared with other schoolboys of four years' experience, very considerably handicapped.

He played in the Freshmen's match for Frank Gilligan's side in 1920, making scores of 42 and 5, but, Oxford having a fine array of young batsmen, he was not further considered. The following year he took part in the Seniors' match yet not even an innings of 70 obtained for him anything more than an appearance in the third trial match the university played.

Still, that year he turned out with moderate success for Gloucestershire, playing eight innings' with an average of just over 14. In 1922, however, G.T.S. Stevens gave him his blue but he had a dismal experience in the Varsity match being dismissed in each innings without scoring. He finished fifth in the Oxford averages with a highest innings of 75 and played quite a lot for Gloucestershire but made only 204 runs with an average of just over 10.

Next year at Lord's he scored 14 against Cambridge and improved generally both for his University and for Gloucestershire. Going down from Oxford he appeared regularly in the following season for his county but was abroad in 1925. On returning to England he made a distinct advance, obtaining 468 runs in nineteen innings and finishing fourth in the county averages with 27.52.

Against Surrey, Somerset and Northamptonshire he played in brilliant form. Taking part in only ten matches his next season was a poor one and not until the summer of 1928 did he make his first hundred in important cricket -- 131 against Surrey at the Oval.

All this time he had held certain views on captaincy, a department of the game in which from his schoolboy days he was deeply interested. When, therefore, in 1929 he took over the command of Gloucestershire he found himself able to put his ideas to practical purpose. As he admits, he was lucky not only to captain a side very generous in their support of his theories, but to have a committee behind him who left him with an entirely free hand.

The result of his brilliant and skilful leadership can easily be traced in the success which attended the efforts of Gloucestershire both in 1929 and in 1930. Gaining more victories than any of their rivals the Western county occupied fourth place in the Championship in 1929, while last season -- again winning more matches than any other team -- Gloucestershire after a most interesting struggle finished second only three points behind Lancashire.

Without in any way detracting from the fine all-round work accomplished by the men under him, it is only proper to observe that this great improvement in the fortunes of Gloucestershire, a better side than at any time since the days of the Graces, was very largely attributable to Lyon as captain, batsman and, by no means least, as fieldsman.

In the season of 1929 Lyon, scoring over a thousand runs for the first time in his career, ranked, up to August, among the leading amateur batsmen of the season. He finished third in the county table, scoring 1,397 runs and with three not outs to help him averaging over 33, while he made three hundreds. Picked for the Gentlemen at Lord's he did not do much, being out for scores of 0 and 17.

Last summer was his best. He made four hundreds -- two of them in a match against Essex at Bristol -- and, with an aggregate of 1,355 and an average of 41, wound up only second to Hammond. In all first-class matches he made 1,576 runs with an average of over 38, and hit up 70 and 102 for M.C.C. against Oxford University at Lord's.

Unfortunately he failed in the Gentlemen and Players match and also against the Australians in the tie game at Bristol but, taking his work as a whole, he had every reason to look back upon it with a great amount of personal satisfaction.

His long sight is bad so as captain he naturally prefers to be close to the wicket to see what his own bowlers are doing and how the opposing batsmen are playing them. Wearing glasses, he fields usually at fine-short-leg or in the slips and no matter which position he is in he brings off many seemingly impossible catches. As a batsman of the forcing type he is especially good in his driving on the off-side.

© John Wisden & Co