Yorkshire and Lancashire have always been great rivals and Headingley has hosted Lancashire more times than any other county. Paul Dyson looks back at an encounter with a close finish almost 70 years ago. The photo of Frank Lowson is by courtesy of Mick Pope.
May 31, June 2, 3, 1952: Yorkshire 347-2dec (L Hutton 152, FA Lowson 120, JV Wilson 51*) & 145-8dec; Lancashire 260-9dec (C Washbrook 63, FS Trueman 4-60) & 146-8 (JG Lomax 52, DB Close 5-36). Match drawn.
This match came at a time when both of the Roses counties had strong teams. In each of the two previous seasons both had finished in the top three of the County Championship, Lancashire being joint-champions with Surrey in 1950 and Yorkshire joint-champions with Middlesex in 1949. They also both started 1952 in excellent form, neither county having yet lost a game. Yorkshire had won three and drawn one and Lancashire had two wins and a draw.
Yorkshire won the toss, decided to bat on a damp pitch but did not lose a single wicket on what turned out to be a rain-interrupted day. A pair of batsmen who had opened the batting together in each of England’s last two Tests of 1951 had shared an unbeaten first-wicket stand of 170 by the time stumps were drawn for the day. Len Hutton was 92 not out and Frank Lowson 71 not out.
The pair continued their partnership on the second day in an enterprising manner in a positive effort to make up for lost time. The stand was worth 245 when Lowson lost his wicket for 120 to Brian Statham and Vic Wilson then made a rapid, hard-hitting 51 not out. He shared a partnership of 87 with Hutton in an hour before the latter was also dismissed by Statham, for an entertaining 152 which was made in 270 minutes and contained 20 fours and one six. Yorkshire declared shortly afterwards during the lunch interval. It was then the turn of Lancashire to also bat positively and each of the top five scored bwteen 20 and 65. Former England opener Cyril Washbrook made 63, sharing an opening stand of 82 with Jack Ikin, making light of Yorkshire’s bowling, but wickets fell fairly regularly thereafter, four to Fred Trueman, and the visitors finished the day on 260 for nine. A total of 437 runs had been scored in the day’s play.
Despite being 87 in arrears, skipper Nigel Howard declared at the overnight total; Yorkshire’s response was to bat as quickly as possible in order to set up the third declaration of the match and the target they set Lancashire was one of 233 in 210 minutes. Although Ikin left early, Lomax, promoted to open in place of Washbrook who had a badly bruised thumb, and Geoff Edrich shared a stand of 72 and took their side to the 100-mark. Victory was a distinct possibility but it was then that Brian Close intervened to considerable effect. Not only did he dismiss both Lomax and Edrich, he took five successive wickets and a total of seven were lost for the addition of a mere 28 runs. With the scoreboard showing 128 for eight all hope of victory had disappeared. Yorkshire claimed the extra half-hour but Washbrook, with his thumb heavily strapped, came out to join wicket-keeper Alan Wilson and together the pair inched towards safety. Skipper Norman Yardley had been employing six bowlers but despite their best efforts the breakthrough would not come and so a hard-fought encounter had to conclude with homours even.
Both counties continued their very good form throughout the rest of the season and, for the third consecutive year, finished in the top three places. It was Surrey, however, who were the champion county and deservedly so, their 20 victories contrasting with the 17 of runners-up Yorkshire.
Inextricably linked with the great Len Hutton, Frank Lowson was his opening partner throughout the final part of his distinguished career. The pair opened regularly for Yorkshire as well as in the first two of Lowson’s seven Tests for England. With his unflappable temperament and excellent technique, not only did he model himself on Hutton it was often mentioned that distinguishing between the pair was not always immediately easy.