The truncated 2020 season of first-class county matches ended, when all of the facts and figures were totted up, with Yorkshire players topping both the national batting and bowling averages. Paul Dyson looks back at how rare this is.
When a shortened edition of Wisden was published earlier this year it showed, as usual, the batting and bowling averages for the season’s first-class cricket. The difference with the lists for the 2020 season compared with the usual format was that they were dominated by players who had played only in the Bob Willis Trophy – the competition which replaced the conventional County Championship.
At the top of 2020’s batting averages stood Dawid Malan and the bowling averages were headed by Ben Coad – both, of course, Yorkshire players. Each of these two players appeared only in the Bob Willis Trophy, as far as first-class cricket was concerned, so it was obvious that they both came top of the national averages for the whole of the inter-county cricket which took place in the limited 2020 season.
To see two Yorkshire players sitting on top of the inter-county averages begged the question as to had this happened before and how frequently. For previous seasons, obviously, the study had to relate only to the County Championship. Using the conventional ten completed innings for batsmen and ten wickets for bowlers (which was halved for 2020), a total of ten instances were found and four of these were by pairs of Yorkshire players; no other county has been responsible for this feat on more than one occasion as the following shows.
PLAYERS FROM ONE COUNTY TOPPING BOTH NATIONAL AVERAGES IN SAME SEASON IN INTER-COUNTY CRICKET (1890-2019 County Championship; 2020 Bob Willis Trophy)
|Year||County||Top batter||Runs||Avg||Top bowler||Wkts||Avg|
|1892||Nottinghamshire||A Shrewsbury||920||41.81||W Attewell||97||12.79|
|1947||Middlesex||DCS Compton||2033||96.80||JA Young||122||15.81|
|1955||Yorkshire||W Watson||1424||56.96||R Appleyard||73||11.54|
|1957||Surrey||PBH May||1391||55.64||GAR Lock||153||11.58|
|1968||Yorkshire||G Boycott||774||77.40||GA Cope||20||10.55|
|2005||Durham||MEK Hussey||1074||76.71||SJ Harmison||27||14.51|
|2012||Somerset||NRD Compton||1191||99.25||Abdur Rehmann||27||14.18|
|2015||Yorkshire||JM Bairstow||1108||92.33||RJ Sidebottom||41||17.90|
|2019||Lancashire||DJ Vilas||1036||79.69||JM Anderson||30||9.36|
|2020||Yorkshire||DJ Malan||332||66.40||BO Coad||12||7.25|
In the winter previous to the 1955 season Bob Appleyard had been on the Ashes-winning tour to Australia under the captaincy of fellow-Yorkshireman Len Hutton. Not only did Appleyard top the averages for the Test series, he did so for the whole tour as well – including the leg to New Zealand – with 44 wickets at 14.90. He then took that form with him into the 1955 season. It was one of four campaigns in that decade in which Yorkshire finished the season as runners-up – three of these occasions being when Surrey were champions. Vic Wilson was the leading run-scorer with 1,480 and Billy Sutcliffe also passed the 1,000-mark. Johnny Wardle and Fred Trueman both took over 100 wickets and Brian Close had a good all-round season with 941 runs and 74 wickets.
The next decade brought Yorkshire regular success and the 1968 season gave the county a hat-trick of Championship titles for the first time since the 1930s. Geoff Cope played in only four matches but his success as an off-spinner was one of the factors which meant that the Club was prepared to lose the many skills of Ray Illingworth. Don Wilson was the only bowler to take over 100 wickets and Phil Sharpe the only batter to score more than 1,000 runs. Geoff Boycott played in only ten matches for Yorkshire, mainly because of injury; he played in only three of the five Tests against Australia.
As with 1968, the 2015 season also concluded with Yorkshire winning the County Championship – for the second successive season. Jonny Bairstow often rescued the batting after the top-order had failed during that campaign although Andrew Gale also passed the 1,000-run mark. With 65 wickets, Jack Brooks was the leading bowler and Tim Bresnan, one of only two players to appear in all 16 matches, had a wonderful season with 849 runs (second in the batting averages) and 45 wickets.
So to 2020 and the shortest first-class season since 1945. As with all of the other 17 counties, Yorkshire played in a mere five first-class matches. Dawid Malan, newly-signed from Middlesex, played in three of them but was still the leading run-scorer; Jonny Tattersall and Harry Brook each scored over 250 and the leading bowler was Jordan Thompson who had an outstanding campaign with 234 runs and 15 wickets.
Despite the restrictions placed on cricket in the never-to-be-forgotten 2020, Yorkshire came first in the North Group table, the Championship being cancelled, this performance and its young players giving much hope for the future.