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Throwback Thursday: Yorkshire proclaimed 'joint champions'

— 10 January 2019

Paul Dyson looks back at the events of 1869 when Yorkshire’s fast bowlers were the major factor in their successful season. The picture of Roger Iddison comes courtesy of Mick Pope.

It has often been the case that Yorkshire have had distinct periods of regular success and the late-1860s was the first of those runs of good form and results. In the unofficial ‘championship’ of the time the title had gone the county’s way in 1867, it was the runners-up in the following year and now, in 1869, their end-of-season place in the rankings saw it being declared ‘joint-champions’.

Yorkshire played only five first-class matches in 1869 but as these were all inter-county games they all counted towards their final placing. Their first game was at Trent Bridge and began on May 31st. Roger Iddison, Yorkshire’s skipper, was injured and so took up umpiring duties! It was very much a bowlers’ game. Twenty wickets fell on the first day (Nottinghamshire 111, Yorkshire 43 made slowly in 52 four-ball overs) but the hosts then batted throughout day two to set the visitors a victory target of 273. Despite 55 from Elisha Rawlinson (the only half-century of the game) Yorkshire lost by 101 runs. For Nottinghamshire James Shaw (not Alfred and no relation) took ten wickets and George Howitt nine. Tom Emmett (eight wickets) and George Freeman (seven) were to be Yorkshire’s outstanding bowlers of the season.

Yorkshire’s first home match of the campaign was against Surrey at Bramall Lane and started on June 21st. It was a very low-scoring match played in gloomy conditions, each of the first three innings being below 100, and lasted for only two days. Freeman’s eight for 29 demolished the visitors for 52 and five for each of him and Emmett in Surrey’s second innings of 67 meant that the hosts required a mere 38 for victory which they accomplished with six wickets to spare.

Cambridgeshire travelled to Hunslet for a match which started on July 12th but probably wished they hadn’t as they were thrashed by an innings and 266 runs. Yorkshire socred 352, skipper Roger Iddison making the county’s first century of the season. His 112, made in five-and-a-half hours and worth £5 in presentation money, contrasted with some consistent batting elsewhere in the order, four batsmen all being dismissed between 30 and 40, but Emmett, at number 11, made 47 not out; the tenth wicket-stand was worth 72 and was the highest of the innings. Emmett then took over with the ball and had the astonishing match-figures of 16 for 38 as the visitors succumbed for 40 and 46. For the second consecutive game Emmett and Freeman were the only Yorkshire bowlers used in the entire match. The two counties have never met since.

August 5th saw Yorkshire’s return fixture with Surrey, at The Oval. Consistent bowling from the visitors restricted the hosts to 187 despite 96 from Harry Jupp but an opening stand of 166 and centuries from both Joe Rowbotham and Ephraim Lockwood gave Yorkshire a lead of 97. Both were making the first centuries of their careers, Freeman also made a half-century but no other batsman made it into double figures. More consistent bowling gave the White Rose a target of 80 which they reached for the loss of only three wickets.

Another return match came 11 days later when Nottinghamshire visited Bramall Lane. Although Emmett took another five-for and Rowbotham scored another century Yorkshire had to conceded an eight-run lead. However, Emmett’s seven for 35 (match figures of 12-111) saw the visitors make only 79 and Yorkshire won a crucuial game by five wickets.

  • Iddison, with 199 runs at 49.75, topped the batting averages with Rowbotham the leading run-scorerr with 270. As regards the bowling, rarely can two players have dominated a set of averages so much. Emmett (44 at 9.20) and Freeman (33 at 11.81) took 82% of the wickets which fell, only four other bowlers being used.

    Eight counties were declared to have taken part in 1869’s unofficial ‘championship’. With four wins and one defeat Yorkshire were declared ‘joint-champions’ with Nottinghamshire who had won five and lost one. There was no attempt to create a meaningful fixture list and the teams all played different numbers of matches ranging from Surrey’s 12 (won three, lost seven) to the two played by Middlesex.

    Yorkshire had, again and despite playing against only three other counties, proved themselves to be one of the strongest outfits. They had the best pair of bowlers in England and the improvement in batting would be expected to see them make further progress.

    Main sources:

    • Don Ambrose: 1869 – A Statistical Survey
    • Anthony Woodhouse: The History of Yorkshire CCC