Obituary

Ernest Tyldesley

TYLDESLEY, ERNEST, of Lancashire and England, died at his home at Rhos-on-Sea on May 5, aged 73.

Neville Cardus wrote in The Guardian: Ernest Tyldcsley, one of the most accomplished batsmen ever to play for Lancashire, was born in Lancashire, brother of one of the three greatest professional batsmen in the game's history. As a boy he played for Roe Green, which in a way was a Tyldesley club; for the famous "J.T.T." learned his cricket on the same village green. J. T. Tyldesley kept a more than brotherly eye on Ernest but turned the other way when he saw the youngster's cross-bat. "J.T.T." also tended to bring his bat along a line beginning at third man. "A straight bat's all right to a straight ball," said "J.T.T." one day, "but there are not many runs to be made by straight pushing." "J.T.T." never pushed; but Ernest seldom began an innings without one or two anxious or tentative thrusts. Once he had "seen" the ball he could be as brilliant and as punitive as he was defensively sound.

"J.T.T." was a genius, and it is to Ernest's credit that, though on his entrance into Lancashire cricket he had to survive a disheartening comparison, he never lost faith. "J.T.T." of course, constantly encouraged him. "Some day," he said, "he'll be a better bat than ever I was." Ernest certainly scored a few more runs in his career than came from the broadsword of his brother. Between 1909 and 1936 Ernest scored 38,874, average 45.46; "J,T.T,'s" portion was, between 1895 and 1932, 37,809, average 40.69.

In style they were more than different. Ernest's batting was always courteous; in his most aggressive moods, when he would hook fast bowling vividly, he rarely suggested militancy or the ruthless slayer of bowling. "Johnny" was usually on the kill. . . . If a maiden over were bowled at him, "J.T.T." would gnaw a glove at the end of it. He had, with Macartney, no patience with a good attack; he felt the necessity of falling on it and demolishing it without delay. Ernest was more patient. But when the situation called for valiance Ernest could go into battle with chivalric manners concealing ruthless and belligerent purpose.

In the Test match of 1921 at Old Trafford he was the first England cricketer that year really to treat the conquering attack of Armstrong with contumely. In 1925 at Kennington Oval he played one of the most tremendously incisive, powerful, merciless, and gallant innings I have ever seen. At close of play on the second day Lancashire were apparently at Surrey's mercy. Four wickets had fallen, with 117 still needed to escape defeat by an innings. Hitch began the Surrey attack next morning at a hair-raising pace. He employed five slips. In a quarter of an hour four of those slips had been moved to the leg and on sides--defensively. Tyldesley's hooking was savage and daring: he hooked from his eyebrow. His hits to the off were no less swift and exacting. In five hours he scored 236 without a shadow of error. Lancashire saved the game easily.

Ernest's experiences in Text cricket were peculiar, making strange reading these days when all manner of inglorious Mittens are asked, almost on beaded knees, to bat for England. In 1921 Tyldesley played for England at Nottingham against the ferocious McDonald and Gregory attack. He made 0 and 7, knocked out second innings by Gregory, bowled off his cheek-bone. He was recalled for the Old Trafford Test, when he scored 78 not out, and for the fifth Test at Kennington Oval where he made a pleasant 39. Not until 1926 was he again asked to play for England against Australia at Old Trafford in the fourth Test of the rubber. He scored 81; and was dropped for the concluding game of the same rubber.

He was taken to Australia, one of Chapman's team of 1928-29, but was entrusted with only one Test, in which he made 31 and 21. He was never again chosen for the England eleven against Australia. So, in five opportunities against the strongest cricket power, his record was, and remains, 0, 7, 78 not out, 39, 81, 31, and 21. In South Africa, in the Test matches there of the 1927-28 rubber, he headed England's averages--65 an innings for 520 runs, with these scores: 122, 0, 87, 78, 62 not out, 42, 8, 100, and 21. And South Africa's attack was then composed of Nupen, Merkel, Vincent, Bisset, and Hall.

In 1928 Tyldesley amassed 3,024 runs in the season, average 79.57. In 1926, when he was only once picked for the England eleven (and scored his 51), he made four centuries in successive innings, with a season's aggregate of 2,826, average 64.22, only Hobbs and Sutcliffe his statistical peers. Yet he could not hold a place in the England side. In his career he reached the century 102 times, and twice he scored two centuries in the same match.

Figures alone will give some idea to posterity of his quality. Like his brother, he had the answer to unpleasant wickets. His great cricket in South Africa was achieved on matting, against Nupen spinning viciously. In fact, he preferred a turning ball to the one that came straight through quickly enough to find a slight chink in the armour--the bat just a little out of the straight. But those of us who saw him play and knew him off the field as a friend will remember his batsmanship not only for its skill, resource, and plenty, but mainly because it was so like the man himself--modest yet firm of character, civilised in all its called-for action. He was, in a word, a gentlemanly babuean who, when he needed to assert his authority, never exceeded the privileges of class and manners. His cricket was part and parcel of a Lancastrian of quiet charm, having a modesty that concealed the tough fibre in him of Lancashire. A year or two ago, at a painful stage of his broken health, George Duckworth went to visit him at his home. "And how are you, Ernest?" "Well, George, I was at the specialist's yesterday, and he says my eyes are in a bad way. And I've had awful pains in my thighs, and my chest's been giving me jip." Then he paused, before adding, "But, mind you, George, there's nothin' the matter with me!" That's the Lancashire man for you, all over. We'll not forget him.

© John Wisden & Co