Having won a hat-trick of County Championships in 1966-68 and seven titles in the previous ten seasons, Yorkshire’s experience in 1969 could not have been more different. Paul Dyson looks back at the season of half-a-century ago. The photo of a young Barrie Leadbeater, Man of the Match in the Gillette Cup final, comes by courtesy of Mick Pope.

Could it all have been different? Could the dive from first place to 13th – Yorkshire’s lowest-ever position at that point in its history – have been avoided? There was still a strong nucleus of players from the successful era: Geoff Boycott, Phil Sharpe and Doug Padgett had all played Test cricket and John Hampshire would make his England debut during the season. All- rounders Brian Close (still the captain) and Richard Hutton had bowling support from Tony Nicholson and Don Wilson but there was considerable reliance on the inexperienced Chris Old and Geoff Cope although the presence of the brilliant Jimmy Binks behind the stumps was always one of reassurance

Yorkshire lost only one of its first ten games of the Championship season – but it only won one and this was the story of the season. A total of 15 of the 24 matches were drawn even though it was not a particularly wet summer. In fact, only one county drew fewer than 11 games. Yorkshire’s first defeat came in its second match and was by only five runs. In a low-scoring game against Warwickshire at Bradford Yorkshire conceded a first-innings lead of 48, only two batsmen making double figures, but fought back and their victory target was only 121. However, on a pitch which suited the seam bowlers seven for 34 (to add to five for 21 in the first innings) from Tom Cartwright was the match-winning performance.

Three of the succeeding five draws were caused by the weather but Yorkshire then beat Gloucestershire by an innings at Middlesbrough. Although Yorkshire made only 202 (Boycott 84), Old (seven for 20) bundled the visitors out for 41 then took four for 26, satisfyingly on his home ground. A month later the tables were turned at Gloucester with a five-wicket defeat; the hosts’ target was 151 in 105 minutes but they reached it with three overs to spare. After a battling draw at Chesterfield against Derbyshire Yorkshire were joint-bottom of the table. But this was followed by the second victory of the season: a convincing win against Worcestershire at Sheffield started with a century opening stand between the inexperienced pair of Barrie Leadbeater and John Woodoford.

But it was a false dawn: only one of the final 11 games ended in victory and there were four defeats in the final nine. One of the many draws occurred in the Roses match at Sheffield but it was not without drama; good performances from Old (five for 34) and Boycott (80) meant that Yorkshire needed 65 from 19 overs; only one run was required from the final over but Ken Higgs not only bowled a maiden but also took three wickets and the scores finished level.

No batsman scored over 1,000 runs, only Boycott scored a century and only two batsmen (Boycott, 43 and Sharpe, 36) averaged over 30. Wilson took 85 wickets and each of Hutton, Nicholson and Old took at least 50. Old (17.10) and Wilson (17.97) were the only bowlers to average fewer than 23. The title-winners were Glamorgan for only the second time ion their history.

The 1969 season was also the debut of the Sunday league – bearing the title John Player’s County League in its in augural outing. Yorkshire finished seventh equal, winning seven and losing seven of its 16 scheduled matches. The county constantly veered between the excellent and the dire. All-out totals of 94 against Middlesex at Lord’s, 88 against Essex at Hull contrasted with big wins over Nottinghamshire (by 134 runs) at Bradford, Kent at Canterbury and Worcestershire at Headingley. It was in this last-named match that Hutton took seven for 15 and this still stands as Yorkshire’s record for all List A cricket.

However, compensation for this miserable year came in the form of success in the Gillette Cup now in its seventh season. A routine win over Minor County Norfolk gave Yorkshire a visit to Old Trafford. The Lancashire innings never really got going and an opening stand of 137 between Boycott and Sharpe led the way to a seven-wicket victory which came with 67 balls to spare. Surrey at The Oval were also brushed aside. Boycott (92) and Close (96) made merry again as they had in the 1965 final against the same opponents. This time their second-wicket stand was 159 and Wilson (four for 32) and Nicholson (three for 32) saw to it that their efforts were not wasted, the winning margin being 138 runs.

An image of Lauren Winfield-Hill and Adil Rashid, with the Yorkshire logo and Northern Diamonds logo in the middle

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