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THROWBACK THURSDAY: BORN 150 YEARS AGO – A GREAT OPENING BATSMAN

— 24 January 2019

Four future county cricketers were born in 1869, including one of Yorkshire’s best-ever opening batsmen, and Paul Dyson looks back at their careers. The photo of Jack Brown is by courtesy of Mick Pope.

The first member of 1869’s four future Yorkshire cricketers to see the light of day arrived in Saltburn, Middlesbrough on February 22nd. The most valuable part of Joseph Whitwell’s formative years was spent at Uppingham School where he was in the first eleven for five years and captained the team in his final season of 1887. His solitary game for Yorkshire – as an amateur – came three years later, was against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge, and his contribution was to score four and four and take one wicket. (An elder brother, William, also played for Yorkshire in the same season.) A solid batsman and useful medium-paced bowler he played club cricket for Norton (Durham) and Saltburn. He also represented Durham for seven years; he captained the county in four seasons (1899-1902), the team winning the Minor Counties Championship in 1901. He had a business as an ironmaster and died at Langbaurgh Hall, Great Ayton, Middlesbrough in 1932 at the age of 63.

Another who had a short career for Yorkshire was Luther Whitehead, He was born on June 25th in Hull and his two games, in which he made 21 runs, came in the county’s first official title-winning season of 1893. He played club cricket for Leeds Leamington and had seven seasons with Ossett, including one as professional. He was head of the Leeds Meter Company, Tower Works, Armley and died on business in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1931 when aged 61.

A total of 30 Yorkshire players have opened the batting for England in Test cricket. Some of these were great players and the first of them was Jack Brown; he topped his country’s averages in Australia in 1894/95 and in his 140 in the fifth and final game at Melbourne his first 50 runs came in 28 minutes – a world record which stood for 112 years.

  • Born in Driffield on August 20th 1869 he first appeared for his home-town club at the age of 12 and came top of both its batting and bowling averages just two years later! He gained a place in the Yorkshire team in 1889 after two years as professional with Perth, Scotland. Severe influenza prevented him playing regularly for for Yorkshire for two years but he found a role at Brighouse where he was professional in 1892.

    From 1894 Brown scored over 1,000 runs in ten consecutive seasons in which Yorkshire won the Championship five times. With John Tunnicliffe he formed the first of Yorkshire’s better opening partnerships. In 1898 they broke the world record for any wicket by scoring 554 against Derbyshire at Chesterfield. Brown scored exactly 300 and it was one of the 19 century stands which they shared together.Very effective off the back foot, Brown’s cut and pull were his best strokes; despite being a small man he had considerable power, always looked neat and stylish and was a very good cover fielder. His best season with the bat was in 1896 when he scored 1,873 runs in all first-class matches at 35.33. His career-best score of 311 came against Sussex a year later at Sheffield when he shared a stand of 378 with Tunnicliffe. As an occasional leg-break bowler he had some success although his bowling looked innocuous; Derbyshire were again the victims when he took a hat-trick at Derby in 1896 and two years later his career-best produced figures of six for 52 against Sussex at Bradford. A benefit in 1901 was just reward for his contribution to Yorkshire cricket and his final tally of 345 games for the county brought him 15,694 runs, including 23 centuries, and he also took 177 wickets.

    Rugby was Brown’s other main sport – he played for Driffield – but his all-round interest enabled him to run a sports shop in Halifax for eight years. Sadly, ill-health struck him seriously after the turn of the century; his asthma was not helped by him being a heavy smoker. He had to stop playing in May 1904 due to heart trouble. ‘Congestion of the brain’ added further complications and he passed away in the autumn of that year at the tragically early age of 35, in Pimlico, Westminster, London.

    October 19th, 1869 saw the birth of the final member of the quartet. Ernest Smith was born in Morley, went to school at Clifton College, where he was in the first eleven for two years, and gained Blues at Oxford Universty in 1890 and 1891. He had made his county debut in 1888, in the same year as his debut for Oxford, as an amateur and that status helped him to be chosen to act as Yorkshire’s captain on 16 occasions as Lord Hawke’s deputy.

    Between his first and last appearances for Yorkshire he contributed to seven Championship-winning teams as a very useful all-rounder – an attacking batsman and effective fast-medium swing bowler. He regularly played for both the Gentlemen and the North but his teaching career in Eastbourne, Sussex often restricted his appearances for the county to just the latter part of the summer. However he still had time to play in 154 county matches in which he scored 4,453 runs and take 248 wickets. He often played well at the festivals at Scarborough and Eastbourne and made his final first-class appearance at the latter in 1928. Having made his home in Eastbourne – he was eventually headmaster of a prep school – he died there in April 1945 at the age of 75.

    Main source:

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

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