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Yorkshire's Bowling Greats

For a 15-year period all three of Yorkshire’s best-ever bowlers – in terms of wicket-aggregate – were operating together. They were in the teams which won seven of the county’s first nine Championship titles. This included, in 1900, the trio taking exactly 400 wickets – almost 90% of those which fell to bowlers.

  • Of this illustrious trio, George Hirst and Wilfred Rhodes are featured here. Schofield Haigh’s 1876 wickets (av 15.61) place him third on Yorkshire’s list. His pace was fast-medium but he also bowled a sharply-turning off-break. He had many outstanding days: in only his second season he had innings figures of 8-78 against The Australians and in the following year took 7-17 against Surrey. His 19-year career ended in 1913.

  • Schofield Haigh (left) and George Herbert Hirst

  • Tom Emmett (pictured) made his debut only three years after the Club was formed and enjoyed considerable success over a 23-year career. Variety was the key to his bowling. His own phrase, ‘First a wide and then a wicket’ summed up the results of his often erratic use of the crease. Later in his career a slower pace enabled him to impart greater movement. He was the first bowler to take 1000 wickets, finishing with over 1200. His average of 12.71 remains a record for bowlers with over 1000 victims.

  • One of the earliest of Yorkshire’s line of world-ranking left-arm spinners was Bobby Peel (pictured). He made his debut in 1882, taking nine wickets in his first game and soon demonstrated his mastery of length, flight and pace which enabled him to succeed even on unhelpful pitches. In 1888 he produced the astonishing match figures of 14-33 against Nottinghamshire at Bramall Lane. His career ended in 1897 with over 1300 wickets.

    The county’s first great bowler of the inter-War period was George Macaulay. He began his career in 1920 as a fast-medium bowler, swinging the new ball, but also dropped his pace and developed the art of off-spin. He was the leading bowler in the four title-winning seasons of 1922-25, taking 200 wickets in 1925. He took six for eight at Northampton in 1922 when there were only three scoring strokes from his 69 deliveries. He retired in 1935 with 1774 wickets – Yorkshire’s fourth-best.

  • Two bowlers – Bill Bowes and Hedley Verity – played a vital part in Yorkshire’s seven titles in the 1930s and featured on 16 occasions in the top three of the national Championship averages. Bowes made his debut in 1929 as an unlikely-looking pace bowler. He gained a great deal of bounce on hard pitches and swung the ball both ways. His bouncers to Jack Hobbs in a match against Surrey in 1932 proved influential in the development of ‘Bodyline’. He lost four stones as a PoW and retired in 1947. He took over 1300 wickets and his average of 15.71 has been beaten by only three players with over 800 wickets.

  • The greatest slow left-armer the world has ever seen – Hedley Verity

  • Despite his tragically short career Verity was possibly the greatest of Yorkshire’s left-arm spinners. In 1931 – his second season – he took 169 wickets including ten for 36 against Warwickshire. He improved on that a year later, again at Headingley: his ten for ten against Nottinghamshire remains a world record. Verity used his height to extract bounce and his subtle variations in pace and length were allied to outstanding control of spin and flight. His seven for nine at Hove in 1939 proved to be his farewell performance for he died of wounds in Italy four years later. A decade of skill had produced over 1500 wickets at 13.70 and a host of records.

  • Johnny Wardle (pictured) first played in 1946 as the next left-arm spinner. Although he bowled in the traditions of the style, he would also regularly produce the ‘Chinaman’ when conditions were in its favour. He was most consistent and took at least 120 wickets in every season from 1950 to 1956. On the field he often entertained the crowd but, sadly, his behaviour behind the scenes led to him being sacked during the 1958 season. Nevertheless his haul of over 1500 wickets proves his valuable contribution.

  • Yorkshire’s greatest fast bowler, Fred Trueman, burst onto the scene in 1949 with deliveries at extreme pace. He had great strength and stamina and developed clinical control of seam and swing with no batsman ever feeling settled against him. He took five wickets in an innings on almost 100 occasions and ended his career with over 1700 wickets. His greatest pleasure, however, came in his final season (1968) when he captained Yorkshire to victory against the Australians at Bramall Lane.

  • Fred Trueman in action for Yorkshire

  • The 642 wickets taken by Bob Appleyard (pictured) stand as scant reward for such a talented bowler. He made a late debut in 1950 (aged 26) but took 200 wickets a year later. As with Macaulay, he began as a fast-medium swing bowler but later added off-spin to his repertoire. Sadly he contracted tuberculosis and missed two successive seasons; later in his career he suffered from injury and further illness and retired in 1958. What would a full career have produced?

  • Yorkshire’s finest regular off-spinner was Ray Illingworth. He came onto the scene in 1951 but did not establish himself until his first 100-wicket season came in 1956. He was a most accurate bowler and spun the ball considerably when conditions were in his favour. One of his highlights was figures of 7-6 against Gloucestershire as Yorkshire won the Championship at Harrogate in 1967. He left the county at the end of the following season, returned in 1979 as manager, took over on the field three years later and ended his career in 1983 with over 1400 wickets to his name.

  • Ray Illingworth

  • One of the unsung heroes of the 1960s Championship-winning sides was Tony Nicholson. He made his debut in 1962 at the age of 26 but made up for lost time by becoming the best opening partner Trueman ever had. At fast-medium pace, he bowled with control and variety, his strong physique enabling him to bowl for long spells into the wind. Although often overshadowed, his career-best figures of 9-62 propelled Yorkshire to an important win Eastbourne in 1967. He retired in 1975 having taken over 1000 wickets, including almost 900 in first-class matches, and the county never had a more honest trier.

    If bowlers win matches, these eleven players have won many in their service for their county.

    NOTE: All career figures and records mentioned above apply to Yorkshire CCC only, unless specified.

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