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Throwback Thursday: SIX OF THE BEST

— 26 November 2015

Last week’s announcement of the Test squad to tour South Africa this winter acts as a reminder to Paul Dyson that earlier in 2015 six Yorkshire players were on tour in the West Indies and he learnt that this was a new record.

  • England’s first Test tours to Australia and South Africa – up to and including 1901/02 – were often organised in what appears, from this distance, to be a haphazard manner. The party to go to Australia and New Zealand in 1876/77, for instance, was organised by James Lillywhite and drew on the forces of only four counties. Although it became significant in that it featured what is now regarded as the very first Test match, it was clearly not representative of the best that county cricket had to offer. This loose arrangement continued into the 20th century with various individuals, including Lord Hawke, organising their own tours and choosing their own players. However, for the winter of 1903/04 the MCC decided to take matters into its own hands and, from then on, organised all tours involving Test matches as well as – very importantly – chose the participating players.

    The following table, therefore, relates only to the period from that tour onwards. It also relates only to the original party chosen for each tour, i.e. takes no account of later additions or replacements.


    Number of players County Season Venue Players
    6 Yorkshire 2014/15 West Indies JM
    Bairstow, GS Ballance, A Lyth, LE Plunkett, AU Rashid, JE Root.
    5 Surrey 1958/59 Australia & New Zealand JC Laker, PJ Loader, GAR Lock, PBH May, R Swetman.
    5 Middlesex 1964/65 South Africa JM
    Brearley, JT Murray, PH Parfitt, JSE Price, FJ Titmus.
    5 Surrey 1998/99 Australia MA
    Butcher, BC Hollioake, AJ Stewart, GP Thorpe,,AJ Tudor.

    The six Yorkshire players were chosen as members of the county which had won the Championship and this was also true of the five Surrey players on the 1958/59 tour. The selections for the two other tours, however, followed campaigns in which Middlesex finished sixth in 1964 and Surrey fifth in 1998. It is interesting to note that there have been a total of 11 seasons when the Champion county has provided not a single tourist for the following winter’s main tour. One of these was, in fact, Yorkshire in 1968. Geoff Boycott was in the original party to tour South Africa but, following the D’Oliviera Affair, made himself unavailable for the replacement venues of Ceylon (later Sri Lanka) and Pakistan. Amazingly, Worcestershire have won the Championship four times but not provided a single tourist for each of the succeeding winter’s Tests.

  • Bill Edrich (left) and Peter May prepare to bat during the Scarborough Cricket Festival, circa 1950. Below, the England Cricket Team during their tour of Australia – 1998/99.

  • It is also interesting to note that each of the four lists of players contains the rarest type of tourist – a wicket-keeper. Bairstow and Murray did not appear in any of the Tests on either of the relevant tours but Swetman, despite also being the reserve, played in four (out of seven) as Godfrey Evans bowed out of Test cricket. Stewart was captain so played in all five Tests but kept wicket in only the first three before handing the gloves to Lancashire’s Warren Hegg.

    Although three current Yorkshire players will be involved in the Tests in South Africa, who is to say that more will not join them later? All Yorkshire supporters will wish them well.

    The writer is indebted to Keith Walmsley, Statistical Officer of The Cricket Society, for some of the information contained in this article.