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THROWBACK THURSDAY: Born 150 years two great Yorkshire players

— 11 February 2016

Three Yorkshire players were born in 1866 and Paul Dyson assesses their differing impacts.

What do William Fletcher and Fred Trueman have in common? Read on. Fletcher was the first of the trio of Yorkshire cricketers to see the light of day in 1866, being born in Whitkirk, Leeds on February 16th. He played in only six first-class matches, which were all for Yorkshire. One of these was in 1891 and five were the following year, only three being in the County Championship. His debut was against Liverpool and District at Aigburth and he played as an all-rounder, batting in the middle order and bowling fast.

Fletcher’s best performances came in his first match of 1892 when he scored 31 not out and 27 against the MCC at Lord’s as well as taking four for 45 and one for 45. His first-innings performance included the hat-trick and he was only the fifth Yorkshire player to achieve the feat. (He and Trueman, as well as both being right-arm fast, are the only Yorkshire bowlers to take a hat-trick against the MCC.) Sadly, he was brought down to earth by Sussex in the next game, in which he made a pair, and never really recovered, his career at county level ending with 100 runs (avge 12.50) and nine wickets (24.66).

From 1893 Fletcher had a long career in club cricket, playing for some teams as a professional; he played for Meanwood, Low Moor, Leeds and Middlesbrough in the 1890s, as well as Yorkshire II, but moved into Lancashire after the turn of the century playing for Colne and then having an eight-year stint with Rishton, this lasting until he was aged 45. In his later years he acted as an umpire in second-eleven county matches from 1924 for 11 seasons. During this period he lived at Woodhouse, Leeds but died in Knaresborough in 1935 aged 69.

Only four of Yorkshire’s many great opening batsmen have scored more runs than the 19,435 put together by John Tunnicliffe and ‘Long John’ still holds several fielding records. Born on August 26th in Lowtown, Pudsey, he played for Pudsey Britannia from the age of 16 and made his first century two years later. His first game for Yorkshire was in 1891; he became a vital member of the side and was involved in all of the county’s first seven Championship titles. He played on until 1907 when he was aged 41 and then became coach at Clifton College, a post he held for 15 years, one of his pupils being Wally Hammond. Settling in the west country, he joined the Gloucestershire committee and his son acted as that county’s secretary from 1921 to 1935.

  • Yorkshire County Cricket Team, winners of the County Championship, pictured in Leeds, September 1896. Back row (left-right): Mr J Wostinholm (secretary), unknown, David Hunter, Edward Wainwright, Schofield Haigh, Bobby Peel, unknown. Seated: John Tunnicliffe, FS Jackson, Lord Hawke, E Smith, Arthur Bairstow. On ground: George Hirst, R Moorhouse, David Denton, Jack Brown.

  • John Tunnicliffe ‘Long John’ (above)

    Tunnicliffe gained his nickname from his considerable height (6 ft 2 in) and he used this to bat in an aggressive manner. As he became more mature and found that the team depended on him he took on the sheet-anchor role forming a formidable opening partnership with Jack Brown who, unlike Tunnicliffe, represented his country in Test cricket. The pair had a tremendous run of form in the last part of the nineteenth century. In 1896, at Lord’s against Middlesex, they became only the second pair in all first-class cricket to record century stands in both innings, their second innings stand of 147 undefeated seeing their side home by ten wickets. (The first pair had also been a Yorkshire duo.) One year later they shared a stand of 378 against Sussex at Sheffield but in the following season they broke the world record for any wicket with a colossal 554 (Tunnicliffe 243, the highest innings of his career) against Derbyshire at Chesterfield.

    Also in that same season, Tunnicliffe showed his true value to the team in a completely different way by endeavouring to hold then innings together against Middlesex on a brute of a pitch at Headingley. Yorkshire were all out for 45 but the opener made 31 of these in a total in which the next-highest score was five and on a day during which 17 wickets fell. Nevertheless his more productive days were many and he scored 1000 runs in every season from 1895 to 1907 except in 1903. Although international honours never came his way he appeared for the Players against the Gentlemen on ten ossasions and was one of the Wisden Five for the 1901 edition – a year when four of the quintet were Yorkshire players!

    It is possible that Tunnicliffe was the best slip fielder which Yorkshire have ever had. Not only has he taken more catches (665) for the county than any other player, his average of 1.4 catches per match is better than anyone else with over 500 victims to their name. In 1901 he took 70 in the season and this has only ever been equalled – by Phil Sharpe in 1962. Four times he passed the 50-mark in a season; this also has been equalled – by Vic Wilson. In 1897 against Leicestershire at Headingley he took seven catches in the match; he himself equalled this feat against the same opponents three years later at Leicester. Three fielders have since also taken seven catches in a match but none have done so twice. He stood very still in his fielding position and would then suddenly lunge out when the ball came in his direction.

    As a Methodist lay preacher and teetotaller he was much admired by Lord Hawke, his captain throughout his career. Hawke regarded Tunnicliffe as someone he could ask advice of or confide in and even described him as his right-hand man. So much so, in fact, that despite being a professional Tunnicliffe led the county in ten matches; eight of these were in the Championship and the results were six wins, one draw and one defeat. A clear feather in the cap of a successful and respected cricketer.

    The third, and final, Yorkshire cricketer who was born in 1866 is one who played for the county over a period of 12 seasons but who was a regular in the side for only four of these. Bobby Moorhouse was born at Berry Brow, Huddersfield on September 7th and made his debut for the county at the age of 21. A middle-order batsman who also bowled off-spin, he was a brilliant fielder at cover point – regarded as one of the best of the era.

  • The Yorkshire County Cricket team, circa 1904. Back row, left to right: Lees Whitehead, Wilfred Rhodes, John Tunnicliffe and Henry Wilkinson; middle row, left to right: George Hirst, Francis Stanley Jackson, Lord Hawke, Ernest Smith and David Hunter; bottom row, left to right: David Denton, Schofield Haigh and Alfred Brown.

    As a batsman he was plucky; despite being short in stature he stood firm against the faster bowlers and received many bruises when batting on unreliable surfaces. He did not have a sound technique but because of his bravery he sometimes scored runs when others found them hard to come by. An example of this was when he made 39 and 38 not out against Surrey, including Tom Richardson, on a tricky pitch at Bramall Lane. Yorkshire scored 98 and 91 and won by 58 runs!

    Moorhouse played over 25 matches in each of the seasons from 1894 to 1897 but passed the 1000-run mark only once. In a career of over 200 matches he managed to score over 5000 runs but averaged fewer than 20 and he may well have played ahead of others because of his fielding. A good turn of speed and a safe pair of hands were characteristic of his prowess in this department. Moorhouse initially played for Armitage Bridge; after his playing days he coached at Sedburgh School and died on Taylor Hill, Huddersfield in 1921 at the age of 54.

    Main sources:

    Yorkshire Cricketers 1839-1939 by Peter Thomas (1973)

    A Who’s Who of Yorkshire County Cricket Club by Tony Woodhouse (1992)