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— 7 January 2021

Paul Dyson looks back at the events of 1871 when Yorkshire continued its established position as one of the better counties.

Having been declared (unofficially) ‘champion county’ for 1870, as well as having been ‘joint-champions’ in the previous season, there were high hopes that Yorkshire could continue its run of success amongst the better counties of the ten which were designated to have first-class status at this juncture in English cricket’s history. To the nine which played in 1870 was added Derbyshire.

The White Rose county’s first game of the season, as it had been in 1870, was against MCC at Lord’s. A total of 21 wickets fell on the first day (May 22nd); five wickets for Yorkshire’s Robert Clayton were cancelled out by five for Frank Farronds and MCC led by just 16 runs at the halfway stage but then scored 69 for one before close of play. It was WG Grace, with 98 (run out), who turned the game – no one else made more than 19 – despite another five-for for Clayton and Yorkshire’s target of 190 was too much by 55 runs and the game ended on the second day. Farrands took another five-for as did his Nottinghamshire team-mate George Wootton.

Yorkshire’s first inter-county match came in mid-June and was against Surrey at Sheffield; unfortunately, rain and bad light intervened quite severely and so the game ended in a draw. James Southerton (slow round-arm) took the honours for Surrey with match figures of 10 for 130, Yorkshire’s totals being 107 and 218. In the latter innings Ephraim Lockwood scored 89 to go some way to make up for the hosts conceding a first-innings lead of 58, despite seven wickets for George Freeman. Surrey were indebted to the Humphrey brothers, Richard (80) and the elder Thomas (60 not out).

A week later Yorkshire were at Trent Bridge and again Freeman took seven wickets, six of them being bowled; this helped Nottinghamshire to be bowled out for only 78 but the visitors did not score enough runs in either innings and the hosts, with 50 not out from skipper Richard Daft, chased down 142 to win by four wickets.

Old Trafford was the next port of call and the first Roses match for three years. Yorkshire had an emphatic win by 222 runs, Lancashire being bowled out for 90 and 95 (11 for 85 for Tom Emmett who bowled unchanged with Freeman in both innings). Yorkshire’s line-up batted consistently and there were half-centuries for Freeman and Andrew Greenwood.

The return fixture took place at Sheffield in mid-July and the boot was very much on the other foot with the Red Rose county romping home by ten wickets. Lancashire batted first and slipped to 168 for eight but Arthur Appleby (99) and William Hickton (55) shared an eighth-wicket stand of 111 and helped take their side to 343, although Clayton took six wickets. Roger Iddison made a half-century but it was not enough to avoid his side being asked to follow on, Appleby continuing his impact on the game with five wickets.

There was then a gap of a month before Yorkshire travelled to London to play against Surrey at The Oval. In yet another low-scoring game Allen Hill had the outstanding figures of 12 for 57 for Yorkshire. Although the hosts had a small first-innings lead they were bowled out for only 72 second time round. This meant that Yorkshire needed 85 to win and 48 not out from skipper Joe Robotham saw them home without losing a wicket. A London-based Yorkshire supporter presented Greenwood, Hill and Robotham with silver cups.

  • Tom Emmett – Yorkshire’s leading wicket-taker in 1871

    The season’s final game saw Nottinghamshire come to Sheffield and suffer Yorkshire taking revenge for their earlier defeat. Emmett had an outstanding match, taking 13 for 90 (including a second-innings eight for 31); the visitors were all out for 77 in their second innings and this gave the hosts victory by 140 runs. Emmett also top-scored with 64 not out to complete the rare feat of making a half-century and taking at least ten wickets in the same match. The game was watched by huge crowds.

    So, Yorkshire’s record in their six county matches was won three and lost two. With only three of the remaining nine counties acting as opponents and those nine playing any number of games from two to 13, comparisons are unfair but the better counties appear to have been Sussex (played four, won four) and Nottinghamshire (played six, won four, lost one).

    With 40 wickets (at 13.37) Emmett was easily Yorkshire’s leading bowler of the season although Freeman took 23 wickets at a better average in a mere three matches. However, the averages were topped by Hill who, in what was his debut season, played in the same number of games as Freeman and took 19 wickets (10.57). The batting was led by Lockwood who scored 312 runs (24.00), Iddison and Greenwood also passing the 200-mark.

    Yorkshire used a total of 19 players throughout the seven-match season; eight of them played in six or seven which meant there was a solid backbone to the side. It was felt that those coming briefly into the team contributed well and demonstrated promise for the future.

    The picture of Tom Emmett comes courtesy of Mick Pope.