Maurice Leyland

LEYLAND, MAURICE, one of England and Yorkshire's greatest cricketers, died in hospital at Harrogate on January 1 after a long illness, aged 66. His name is famous and will remain so wherever cricket is played. He was admired wherever he went; the length and breadth of England, as well as Australia, South Africa, India, West Indies and New Zealand.

A natural left-handed batsman and bowler, he was born in Harrogate on July 20, 1900 and learned much of his cricket from his father, Ted Leyland, a noted groundsman and one of the best club cricketers in the North. As a boy of 12 he played for Moorside in Lancashire where his father was groundsman-professional and at 14 he played in Lancashire League cricket; when the 1914-18 war finished he left the Army and made cricket his profession. From 1918 to 1920 he was professional to the Harrogate club; he played in Yorkshire Council matches and the Yorkshire 2nd XI.

His first county game was in 1920 against Essex at Southend and that was also the first county game he had seen. His last match for Yorkshire was against M.C.C. in the Scarborough Festival of 1946, though he appeared for odd representative sides in 1947 and 1948. Over a span of 29 years Leyland scored 33,660 runs in first-class cricket, average 40.50; 26,191 of them for Yorkshire, for whom his average was 41.05.

For England, Leyland played in 41 Tests against Australia, South Africa, West Indies and India and scored 2,764 runs in 60 completed innings, 1,705 of which were made against Australia with an average of 56.84. Of his 80 centuries in first-class cricket, 62 were scored for Yorkshire (only Sutcliffe and Hutton have hit more hundreds for the county) and seven of his nine Test centuries were against Australia.

Leyland won his county cap in 1922 and the following season reached 1,000 runs for the first time, a total he surpassed in every season until the war (seventeen times). In three of those years he exceeded 2,000. In 1932 he scored, in 13 innings, 1,013 runs during the month of August. In one of those matches Sutcliffe (194) and Leyland (45) hit 102 off six consecutive overs shared by Farnes, Nichols and O'Connor for Essex at Scarborough.

Leyland had to wait until the 1928-29 tour of Australia under A. P. F. Chapman before making his Test debut for England, in the fifth of the series. At Melbourne in this match, he scored 137 and 53 not out and thereafter no England team looked complete without his name. Though his natural inclinations were free, none was better suited to the task of retrieving a team's fortunes after a poor start, a task to which Leyland brought an impeccable defence and a vast amount of determination. At Brisbane in 1936-37, England's first three wickets fell for 20 runs, but Leyland defied O'Reilly, McCormick and Ward and hit 126, and in the end England won by 322 runs.

In 1938, with a new generation of batting idols, Hutton, Compton and Edrich, springing up, Leyland was omitted from the first four Tests. He returned for the Oval match when England scored 903 for seven declared and beat Australia by an innings and 579, and in that fantastic encounter he scored 187, adding 382 with Hutton for the second wicket, at that time a record for any partnership for England in International cricket, though beaten since.

With Wilfred Barber he shared the record for Yorkshire's second wicket with 346 in four and a half hours, against Middlesex at Sheffield in 1932, and with Sutcliffe the record for Yorkshire's third wicket, 323 against Glamorgan at Huddersfield in 1928. Also, with Emmott Robinson, the record for Yorkshire's sixth wicket, 276 against Glamorgan at Swansea in 1926.

For Yorkshire he hit hundreds against all the first-class counties except Somerset. His highest score was 263 against Essex at Hull in 1936 and his highest aggregate for Yorkshire was 2,196 in 1933, when he also reached his highest first-class aggregate, 2,317, average 50.36.

With any other county than Yorkshire, Leyland would probably have been hailed as a Test-class all-rounder. His left-arm slows had some of the greatest batsmen in difficulties, but when he began his career with Yorkshire, Rhodes and Roy Kilner were established as two of the best slow bowlers in the country and later came Verity as the spearhead of the spin attack. According to Bill Bowes, Maurice claimed he was responsible for the term "Chinaman". Because his chances of bowling were few, he began bowling the occasional left-hander's off-break instead of the normal and natural leg-break. Whenever two batsmen were difficult to shift or something different was wanted someone in the Yorkshire team would say, "Put on Maurice to bowl some of those Chinese things." Roy Kilner explained, "It's foreign stuff and you can't call it anything else."

Leyland could field in almost any position and excelled in the deep, where he covered a tremendous lot of ground, picked up cleanly and returned perfectly, first bounce to the wicket.

A squat, solid figure, his cap slightly a-tilt, Leyland was a great character on and off the field. Yorkshire did not let him go when his playing days were over. They made him their coach from 1951 until 1963 when his long illness laid him low. Some want to change the structure of county cricket. It would not be necessary if there were a few Leylands about today. He breathed the true spirit of cricket and companionship.



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