Yorkshire have visited five venues in Somerset but 69 of the county’s 92 first-class matches in the west county have been in Taunton, as is this year’s. Paul Dyson looks back at a game which ended in a surprising manner. The photo of Fred Trueman, dating from the 1960s, is by courtesy of Mick Pope.
May 12, 13, 14, 1954 at Taunton: Yorkshire 350 (FA Lowson 115, JV Wilson 91, WW Watson 78) & 171-7dec; Somerset 216 (JG Lomax 78, R Appleyard 5-72, FS Trueman 4-41) & 48 (R Appleyard 7-16). Yorkshire won by 257 runs.
The 1954 season was to be the 56th year of the County Championship and in all that time Somerset had never won the title; their best season had been as long ago as 1892 – only their second year of first-class cricket – when they finished third. However, their recnt form was poor; in five of the eight seasons since the Second World War they had finished in the bottom half of the table and in each of 1952 and 1953 had been awarded the wooden spoon. Yorkshire, however, had won the title outright on 22 occasions prior to this match and had had six top-four finishes since 1945.
Each of the two counties had played one previous competitive game in 1954 and the results were as expected, Somerset losing theirs and Yorkshire winning theirs. The visitors had brought a very strong team to Taunton, including eight current or future Test players, but excluding Len Hutton. Somerset’s side, though, contained only two such participants and were captained by Ben Brocklehurst who, in later life, was owner of The Cricketer magazine and father-in-law of Richatrd Hutton.
Yorkshire won the toss, batted, and gained ‘an early grip on the game’ (Wisden) by virtue of an opening stand of 194 between Frank Lowson (115) and Vic Wilson (91). Lowson was at the crease for three-and-a-half hours before he was caught-and-bowled by Geoff Lomax. Wilson was also caught by Lomax, but off the bowling of Jim Hilton. Both batsmen were dismissed within 16 runs of each other and had it not been for the efforts of Willie Watson (78), who also fell to Lomax, the innings would have disintegrated rapidly. As it was the last nine wickets fell for 140, the top three in the order making 48% of Yorkshire’s total of 350. Johnny Lawrence, who bowled only six overs and was the sixth bowler to be used, finished with the best figures of three for 19. Fred Trueman, who took the wickets of both openers, and Bob Appleyard soon had Somerset in trouble at 27 for three and they had limped to 41 for three by close of play.
Soon on the second day Peter Wight was lbw to Brian Close but thereafter all of the rest of the wickets fell to Trueman and Appleyard. Lomax stood in their way, however, and Somerset would not have saved the follow-on but for his ‘resolute batting’ (Ibid). He shared a stand of 49 with Hilton but that was the longest of the innings, Appleyard mopped up the tail to finish with five for 72, Trueman taking four for 41. Yorkshire’s batsmen then set about setting a target. Wilson went early, Lowson (38) and Watson (48) then shared a half-century stand but wickets fell regularly, 108 for two becoming 118 for five. Close hit out well and was 38 not out when Yardley decided that 306 was enough for Somerset to chase. Trueman again dismissed both openers and the hosts had struggled to 22 for two by the time stumps were drawn for the day.
The final day – what there was of it – belonged to Appleyard. Somerset scored 26 runs and lost eight wickets in the process to be all out for 48 and lose by the huge margin of 277 runs. On a damp pitch the home team were ‘utterly perplexed’ (Ibid) by the tall bowler’s off-breaks. His analysis read 9.3-3-16-7 and he finished with match figures of 12 for 88, Trueman taking seven for 59. The match was over before noon.
The end-of-season placings reflected the two counties’ performances in this game. Somerset finished in the bottom position once again, winning only two matches while Yorkshire finished as runners-up, 22 points behind Surrey. The London-based county had won two games more than Yorkshire and had won the title for the third consecutive season; they were to add four more such successes to this sequence.
Man of the Match
As Appleyard has previously been profiled in these columns attention turns to his partner-in-crime in this match.
The smooth acceleration followed by the pure and high action were the hallmarks of Fred Trueman’s delivery, the results of which elevated him to the status of being regarded as Yorkshire’s, and probably England’s, greatest fast bowler.