When Yorkshire defeated Essex at Chelmsford early in 2018’s Championship season they had been bowled out for a mere 50 on the very first morning of the match. Paul Dyson looks back at how rare such a feat has been. The photo of Holmes and Sutcliffe comes from his own collection.

It may well surprise the reader to learn that there have been a total of 32 instances of Yorkshire being dismissed for 50 runs or fewer in a first-class match. Of these 32, a large proportion (75%, i.e. 24 matches) ended in defeat, as may well be expected. On a further four occasions, Yorkshire were saved by the weather and the games ended as draws. However, most surprisingly, the game at Chelmsford was the fourth occasion when such a humiliating total has merely been a prelude to an unexpected victory. The potted scores of these four games are as follows:

  • Trent Bridge, August 26, 27, 28, 1875: Yorkshire 49 (A Shaw 5-21, F Morley 5-26) & 183 (A Shaw 5-81); Nottinghamshire 87 (RO Clayton 6-36) & 58 (T Armitage 5-8). Yorkshire won by 87 runs.
  • Sheffield, July 23, 24, 1888: Nottinghamshire 24 (R Peel 8-12) & 58 (R Peel 6-21); Yorkshire 46 (H Richardson 6-12) & 37-0. Yorkshire won by ten wickets.
  • Hove, August 26, 28, 1922: Yorkshire 42 (MW Tate 5-20, HE Roberts 5-20) & 228; Sussex 95 & 83 (W Rhodes 6-13). Yorkshire won by 92 runs.
  • Chelmsford, May 4, 5, 6, 2018: Yorkshire 50 (SJ Cook 5-28) & 329 (HC Brook 124); Essex 142 & 146 (SA Patterson 6-40). Yorkshire won by 91 runs.

There are distinctly noticeable parallels between the first, third and fourth of these remarkable matches. In each of these three games Yorkshire batted first and conceded a first innings lead but eventually won by a comfortable margin. Although the third innings of each of these three games produced the highest total of the match, only Harry Brook made a score of 50 or more, the 2018 game showing the greatest difference between Yorkshire’s two innings totals.

So, the events at Chelmsford in the May of 2018 were last experienced by a Yorkshire team 96 years previously. That 1922 game began under sunshine but only after a late-summer heavy dew and this ‘made the pitch very awkward’ (Wisden) so much so that the visitors were dismissed for 42, ‘collapsing in such sensational style’ (Ibid.) that their innings lasted no longer than 90 minutes. Maurice Tate, fast-medium, and Henry Roberts, medium pace, each took exactly five for 20 and no other bowlers were used. Sussex then began with an opening stand of 30 but collapsed in similar style to the spin of Roy Kilner (left-arm) and George Macaulay (off-spin). Although they more than doubled Yorkshire’s total to give them a lead of 53, their innings lasted only two hours. In complete contrast to what had gone on before, the opening pair of Percy Holmes and Herbert Sutcliffe then put on 75 together before the end of a day which had seen some ‘truly startling cricket’ (Ibid.).

Only one more run was added to the total before Yorkshire lost their first wicket at the start of the second day. There had been heavy rain overnight but this, apparently, ‘eased the wicket’ (Ibid.). Even so, there was a very uneven aspect to Yorkshire’s scorecard. Five batsmen made at least 35 but the remaining six were all out for six runs or fewer. Sutcliffe top-scored with 48 but Kilner ‘hit finely’ (Ibid.) and Emmott Robinson took part in significant stands with both he and Macaulay. Tate added another three wickets to his match analysis and the hosts required 176 to win. Again Sussex began well, the first pair putting on 34 together, but three wickets fell at the same score to leave the total on 69 for six and Wilfred Rhodes, left-arm spin, was almost unplayable. He later took three wickets in one over and these were the final ones to fall, the visitors winning an amazing match by 92 runs and the third day remaining unused.

Yorkshire led the Cham[iopnship table after this victory and won the title in their next game – against Essex at Leyton. It turned out to be the first of four consecutive title-victories – a feat never before achieved by any county.

Finally, a couple more facts relating to Yorkshire’s ‘half-century’ at Chelmsford:

  • a) it was Yorkshire’s lowest first-class score since making 43 against Surrey at The Oval in 1973;
  • b) Yorkshire’s previous total at Chelmsford, in the final game of the 2017 season, was 74 and this meant that the county had made its two lowest scores in Essex, on any ground, in consecutive innings.

PS For those who are regular followers of Throwback Thursday, research by Brian Sanderson has revealed that there wetr five captains in Yorkshire’s Championship season of 1951. Although 2018’s instance is still the first since 1956, it means that it was the fifth such occurrence and not the fourth as stated in the TT.

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

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