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J Thewlis
— 11 January 2018

Paul Dyson, with the help of images from Mick Pope, looks back at the events of 1868 when Yorkshire’s fast bowlers were the major factor in their good season.

Having been declared unofficial ‘champion county’ in 1867, Yorkshire were very much hoping that they could repeat the feat once again. The nucleus of their team was still present but, although they still played only seven games, their fixture list was now a much more challenging one.

Yorkshire’s season began in late June with Surrey’s visit to Bramall Lane, Sheffield. The visitors made 222 and this was, surprisingly, more than enough for them to win by an innings, the home side making only 71 in their first innings, James Southerton taking a total of 11 wickets.

Trent Bridge was the next venue, in early July, and a heavy defeat for the hosts with George Freeman dominating the first two innings of the game. Firstly he top-scored with 53 in Yorkshire’s 213 and then took five for 25 as Nottinghamshire were swept aside for a mere 60. The home side followed on but, thanks to Tom Emmett’s six for 45, Yorkshire needed only six for victory.

  • Tom Emmett

    Totals of 30 and 34 were all that Lancashire could muster at Holbeck a week later as Yorkshire handed out a thrashing by an innings and 186 runs. Freeman exceeded his performance in the previous game with the astonishing match-analysis of 12 for 23. He then took another similar haul against Middlesex at Sheffield (12 for 61), taking his second hat-trick in the space of only five days as Yorkshire again won by an innings.

    Yorkshire’s winning run came to an end in the last match in July when their game extended into a third day – their first to do so in 1868. Freeman’s six for 64 in the first innings was followed by Emmett’s amazing nine for 34 but their batsmen let them down badly, scores of 85 and 76 enabling Nottinghamshire to achieve victory by the convincing margin of 108 runs.

    Both the remaining two games were away fixtures in August. First up was a visit to Islington to play against Middlesex who were not yet based at Lord’s. This was the closest game of the season but, yet again, Yorkshire’s batsmen led the county down. An all out total of 60 was all that they could manage but seven for 43 from Emmett restricted the home side’s lead to 26. This despite Freeman spraining his ankle after bowling 11 overs for just three runs. Yorkshire then more than doubled their first-innings effort by making 138 and so Middlesex’s target was 113. They were in serious trouble at 30 for four but recovered to win by three wickets.

    After a two-day gap Yorkshire were in action at The Oval. The home side were confident of a high score after reaching 177 for three but five more wickets for Emmett was the most important factor in their collapse to 195 all out. Yorkshire’s reply was in complete contrast to the rest of their season, them being only 19 short of Surrey’s total when their first wicket fell. John Thewlis (108) made his county’s only century of the season and Ephraim Lockwood, his nephew, scored 91 on his first-class debut. Their team-mates followed their example and Yorkshire eventually totalled 389 – easily their highest of the season. George Atkinson’s wicket-tally for the season stood at three but his stepping into Freeman’s shoes was so effective that his six for 19 demolished Surrey for 52 and gave Yorkshire victory by an innings and 142 runs.

    So, Yorkshire had won four and lost three, the press (there was no official Championship) deciding that Nottinghamshire (won four, lost two from six games) were champions with Yorkshire pipping Middlesex to third place. Of the season’s 27 matches none were drawn!

    Emmett led Yorkshire’s bowling averages with 56 wickets at 8.12, Freeman finishing with 37 at 9.72. Skipper Roger Iddison scored most runs – 231 – but, apart from the efforts of Thewlis and Lockwood at The Oval there were only three other half-centuries and it was this aspect of their cricket which cost them to lose out on the ‘title’.

    Main sources:
    David Robertson: 1868 – A Statistical Survey
    Anthony Woodhouse: The History of Yorkshire CCC

    Captions: Roger Iddison – Yorkshire’s 1868 skipper and leading run-scorer.

    Tom Emmett – top of the bowling averages and the county’s leading wicket-taker.