The year 1920 witnessed the births of two cricketers who would wear the White Rose with distinction and Paul Dyson looks at their careers. Both played for England and one would make his mark, internationally, in two sports. The photo of Willie Watson comes courtesy of Mick Pope and is of him with Len Hutton at Scarborough in 1953 – the year of his most famous innings.
Most of Yorkshire’s main wicket-keepers since the Second World War have family names beginning with the letter B (Brennan, Booth, Binks, DL Bairstow, Blakey, Brophy and JM Bairstow) and the first of these was born on February 10th, 1920 in Eccleshill, Bradford. At Downside School, where Don Brennan had one season in the 1st XI, he was a fast bowler; he first played for Eccleshill in 1938 but it was not until after the hostilities had finished that he started keeping wicket with the same club. So impressively did he take to his new role that he became Yorkshire’s wicket-keeper from the start of the 1947 season in succession to Paul Gibb who had temporarily left the first-class game after losing his place in the Test team to Godfrey Evans.
Like Gibb, Brennan was an amateur and the pair were the most significant of those of that status who kept wicket for the county. So competent was Brennan in his first season that he was awarded his county cap in early August of that first year and spent seven full seasons behind the stumps. A stylish operator, he caught the eye of the England selectors and took Evans’s place in the team for the final two Tests of the 1951 season against South Africa, making his debut at Headingley. The following winter was spent touring India, Pakistan and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) on a trip from which many top players were absent. Led by Lancashire’s Nigel Howard, it was Warwickshire’s Dick Spooner who kept wicket in the five Tests (all against India) and England returned to Evans for 1952.