When George Hill scored 151 not out against Northamptonshire in a County Championship match earlier in the season his score was one of the highest maiden centuries scored by an uncapped Yorkshire player since the Second World War. Paul Dyson looks at how his feat compares with other similar players who were also successful.
George Hill clearly enjoys playing at Northampton. His highest first-class score before the current season came there in 2021 – an innings of 71 scored on the first occasion on which he had been promoted to become Adam Lyth’s latest opening partner.
Hill made his first-class debut in the shortened season of 2020 when he played in two games in the Bob Willis Trophy; in his two innings he made a top score of 29. In the following season he made 263 runs in seven matches with two half-centuries, including the one against Northamptonshire. Although averaging only 23.90 for the campaign, Yorkshire clearly knew that he was someone to invest in and the second match of 2022 brought him a very impressive 151 not out – his maiden first-class century. It seems like a high score for a first ‘ton’, especially for an uncapped player and, since 1945, there have been only six higher ones as the following shows.
HIGHEST MAIDEN CENTURY IN COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP SINCE 1945 BY AN UNCAPPED PLAYER
(excluding overseas players)
|Wait for cap
There are a further two players who would have come into this table had they not scored their maiden Championship centuries after receiving their county caps: Willie Watson made 153 not out against Surrey at The Oval in 1947 in his 29th match but had received his cap six weeks earlier; Craig White’s 146 against Durham at Headingley came in 1993 in his 41st such game but he had been capped just two weeks earlier.
Billy Sutcliffe’s maiden Championship century was a score of 171 not out made against Worcestershire at Worcester in June, 1952 in his 40th game. He was capped in the same month but the date of that event is not known so there is, at this stage in the ongoing research, no way of knowing whether he was capped prior to this innings or afterwards.
It will be noted that Ray Illingworth and ‘Dickie’ Bird both scored their maiden Championship centuries at an earlier stage in their careers than any of the other players mentioned above. The playing exploits of Illingworth are very well-known but Bird had the ignominy of being dropped after the above innings. He was not the only one to lose his place in the team: Ken Taylor and Illingworth replaced Bird and Jack Birkenshaw, the latter having had second-innings figures of five for 54; returning captain Ronnie Burnet came in for Phil Sharpe, who had made 45 in his only innings; Mel Ryan returned to replace Bob Platt. All of the four who were dropped were uncapped players, as was Ryan, but seniority rather than performance was the over-riding criterion. Bird had nine other innings in that Championship season but scored only a further 135 runs and was released at the end of the campaign.
The other notable statistic from the above table is that of Jim Love having to wait four years for his cap after his first Championship century. His 1977 season was very similar to his previous year but his two following seasons were fallow years when he made fewer than 500 in each campaign. In 1980, however, the tide turned and he made over 900 runs and the great day came just before the end of August of that year. George Hill will be hoping that he does not have to wait four years before he gains the elevated status of being a capped player.
NOTE: Credit is due to Chris Hardy, Chairman of the Archives Committee, for ongoing research into former players’ exact dates of them being capped. Without that information much of the analysis in this piece would have been impossible.