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Spinners who always did Yorkshire a good turn
[April 29, 2006]

Spinners who always did Yorkshire a good turn


(Yorkshire Post Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)Yorkshire's Greatest XI Chris Waters Today marks the conclusion of the Yorkshire Post's competition to vote for the greatest Yorkshire XI. We have been asking you to pick your best team from our carefully selected shortlist of 36 players, divided into six categories. In the final part of the series, Chris Waters spotlights the club's premier spin bowlers.



Bob Appleyard IT is impossible to comprehend how Bob Appleyard must have felt when, aged 15, he walked into the bathroom of the family home in Bradford and discovered the bodies of his father, step-mother and two little sisters.

John Appleyard, a railwayman, his wife and their two children, Wendy and Brenda, aged about three years and 18 months respectively, were lying on a mattress that had been put over the bath, an improvised bed in a room thick with gas.


Bob, who had been sent to stay overnight at his grandmother's, ran for assistance and the police were called.

At the inquest, it was stated simply that John Appleyard had been greatly disturbed following the recent outbreak of the Second World War.

Today, more than 66 years on, Bob Appleyard's memory of that family tragedy is understandably hazy; he cannot remember the exact sequence of events and has rarely talked of those harrowing hours.

"It is difficult even now to recall the details," he relates in the highly acclaimed biography No Coward Soul. "I think I'd been spending some nights at my grandma's. She was on her own, and I spent quite a bit of time with her." Bob's own mother had left home when he was aged just seven, while his sister Margaret died of diphtheria.

Following the terrible discovery at Bradford, he was taken in by his step-mother's parents, whose Christian faith sustained him and has remained with him since.

In times of happier reflection, Bob Appleyard, a right-arm seam and spin bowler with a deceptively innocuous style, was one of the greatest cricketers the game has known, the only man to have taken 200 first-class wickets in his first full season and so much more than your everyday cricketer.

A member of Len Hutton's Ashes-winning squad of 1954-55, he has encountered peaks and troughs that few of us experience, the wonder of it all being that he has retained his equanimity and zest for life.

In adulthood, the daggers of fate have been no less brutal, for Appleyard lost his son, Ian, to leukaemia and later his grandson, John, to the same disease, and as a young cricketer spent 11 months in hospital after being diagnosed with advanced tuberculosis. He had to learn to walk again and had the upper half of his left lung removed.

He missed two summers due to the illness yet battled back bravely with trademark resolve. Even now, freshly installed as the county's president in this, his 82nd year, there is an inner peace about him at variance with those hardships.

Such is the heart-rending nature of Appleyard's life story, it is easy, from a distance, to overlook his impact.

Yet team-mates and contemporaries were always adamant - Appleyard was touched with greatness and, if no less a judge than Fred Trueman is to be believed, "if you were picking an all-time England side, you'd have to consider him very seriously." Devastating on a wet pitch and invariably economical, Appleyard came late to first-class cricket, aged 26, and played only nine times for England.

His return of 31 Test wickets at 17.87 points to how good he was - and how much more he might have achieved had injuries not forced a premature retirement.

After leaving the game, Appleyard became a successful business representative and worked for the British Printing Corporation, where he was an employee of Robert Maxwell's for 18 months.

When Maxwell sacked him, Appleyard battled for a fair settlement and won, at the same time shrewdly removing his money from the BPC pension fund. Not many take on Maxwell and emerge triumphant - further evidence of Appleyard's tenacity.

In later years, he has been a keen campaigner for Bradford Park Avenue and was largely responsible for the establishment of the Yorkshire Cricket Academy.

In his book, he states: "I should be getting to that time of life when I relax. But I still see things that need doing, and I still want to do them", which sums him up perfectly.

Those haunting words 'No Coward Soul' - borrowed from the pen of Emily Bronte - apply no less appropriately to our next nominee, whose story was also touched with triumph and tragedy.

Hedley verity Hedley Verity, one of the long line of great Yorkshire left-arm spinners, was one of the sporting world's most high-profile casualties of the Second World War.

A captain in the Green Howards regiment, Verity died of shrapnel wounds after leading a company of men across a blazing Sicilian cornfield under heavy machine gun fire from the Hermann Goering Division in July 1943.

His last words were said to have been 'keep going', sentiments he embodied in cricket and in life.

As a bowler of close to medium-pace, Verity was the successor to the great Wilfred Rhodes, whose shoes he filled with remarkable aplomb.

Although he did not break into the team until he was 25, Verity took 188 wickets at 13.13 in his first full season and developed into one of the finest bowlers of the 1930s.

His greatest achievements included a world record 10-10 against Nottinghamshire at Headingley in 1932; figures of 10-36 against Warwickshire on the same ground the previous summer; 14 wickets in a day during the Lord's Test against Australia in 1934 and 17 wickets in a day against Essex at Leyton in 1933.

His performance against Nottinghamshire ended with seven wickets in 15 balls, including the hat-trick, and inspired a 10-wicket victory.

Afterwards, Rhodes - an interested on-looker - told him: "Well bowled, Hedley, but it should have been 10-6 tha' knows." In 1939, his final season, Verity took 191 wickets and rounded off with another staggering performance - 7-9 against Sussex at Hove in the last county match before the war.

George Macaulay George Macaulay, our next candidate, also passed away during the war - he was 43 when pneumonia claimed him while serving as an RAF Pilot Officer in the Shetland Islands - and, like Appleyard, he was adept whether bowling seam or spin.

Famed for his aggression and intense approach, Macaulay started out as a fast bowler before George Hirst encouraged him to develop quickish off-spin. Macaulay went on to become Yorkshire's fourth-highest wicket-taker with 1,774 at 17.72, with only Rhodes, Hirst and Schofield Haigh above him in the pantheon.

Macaulay, who shares with Trueman the distinction of having taken the most hat-tricks for Yorkshire (four), took a wicket with his first ball in Test cricket, against South Africa at Cape Town in 1923, and also scored the winning run to give England a one-wicket triumph.

It was once written of him: "His cricket was played with a white-hot fervour that bordered on the fanatic to many spectators. His appeals snapped their way to the ring, and rejection of an appeal seemed almost a personal insult.

"He appealed so often that one umpire said to him, 'there's only one person who makes more appeals than you, George, and that's Dr Barnardo'." DON WILSON No less enthusiastic than Macaulay, but somewhat less volatile, was Don Wilson, who took 1,104 wickets for the county at 20.49 in a career that might have embraced greater heights had it not been for the presence in the England side of Derek Underwood, which restricted the Yorkshireman to six Test appearances.

Born in Settle, tall at 6ft 3in and a carpenter's apprentice, Wilson was recommended to Yorkshire by Len Hutton - the equivalent, one fancies, of a painter being recommended by Picasso - and quickly became an important, unmistakably buoyant member of the county team.

Unrelentingly adventurous, superb in the field and a dashing late-order batsman, Wilson thrived under the captaincy of Brian Close, who shared his commitment to all-out aggression. On leaving Yorkshire, Wilson famously went on to carve out a second career as coach to the Indoor School at Lord's.

Johnny Wardle Our final two nominees, Johnny Wardle and Bobby Peel, were both prodigiously gifted left-arm spin bowlers whose Yorkshire careers ended with the sack.

In Wardle's case, his dismissal came about following repeated clashes with Ronnie Burnet, the man who entered county cricket aged 39 from the Bradford League and who won the Championship in his second and last season.

To cut a long story short, Burnet got the captaincy ahead of Wardle, who was then overlooked as senior professional.

Matters deteriorated throughout that 1958 season and came to a head during a match against Somerset at Sheffield, when the committee informed Wardle he was no longer required.

No sooner had news of his sacking broke than the Daily Mail signed Wardle for a series of exclusive articles in which the player heavily criticised the club, Burnet and the conduct of some of the younger players. MCC responded by withdrawing their invitation for Wardle to tour Australia in 1958-59.

It was a sad finish to the career of a man who was the seventh-highest wicket-taker in the club's history and hugely popular with the Yorkshire crowds.

And it was a sad finish that JM Kilburn, the former cricket correspondent of the Yorkshire Post, famously declined to investigate on the newspaper's behalf on account of the fact he considered it the job of a news reporter, rather than that of a cricket correspondent, to get the low-down on Wardle's dismissal.

BOBBY PEEL No less regrettable was the demise of Peel, who was the successor to Ted Peate in the Yorkshire side of the late-19th century.

Again, accounts differ as to the exact circumstances of Peel's downfall, although there is no doubt that he took to the field one morning decidedly the worse for drink.

According to George Hirst, the Yorkshire captain Lord Hawke told the player: "Leave the field at once, Peel." To which Peel replied: "Not at all, m'lord. I'm in fine form this morning." Then, as if to demonstrate the fact, Peel wheeled over his arm and sent the ball scurrying in the direction of the sightscreen. Suggestions that Peel urinated against the sightscreen have never been confirmed.

Peel was the first Englishman to take 100 wickets against Australia, a more-than-handy batsman - boasting a top-score of 210 not out against Warwickshire in 1896 - and 123 times claimed five or more wickets in an innings.

The Lancashire and England captain Archie MacLaren placed Peel "first on my list of great left-handed bowlers on account of his wonderful judgement, his diabolical cleverness and his great natural ability." Coming from a man who played county cricket with the great Johnny Briggs, it was some compliment.

chris.waters@ypn.co.uk The winner of last week's competition to win tickets for the Test at Headingley was Elizabeth Little, of Baildon.

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