This is the fourth all-time XI post I have done (Surrey, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire were the first three). I have an ancestral connection to Yorkshire, and I lived in Barnsley for six years. As you would expect of the county that has by far the most outright championships (32 at the present time), there is a positive embarrassment of riches to choose from.
YORKSHIRE ALL TIME XI
- Herbert Sutcliffe – a big occasion player, as witnessed by the progression of his averages (overall FC 52.02, overall test 60.73, Ashes 66.85), he also overlapped for a few years at first class level and rather longer at club level (both were raised in Pudsey) with the person I have chosen as the other opener. He could claim that both World Wars affected his career since the first prevented his entry into first class cricket until he was 24, and the second led to his retirement from the game (and his 1939 performances were not those of a man preparing to lay aside his bat for the last time, though resuming after a six season layoff when past the age of 50 was obviously not going to happen). He tallied over 50,000 first class runs in total with 149 centuries.
- Leonard Hutton – a man who averaged 56.7 in test cricket and was also hugely productive in first class cricket, in spite of missing six of what would have been prime development years to World War II, from which he emerged with one arm shorter than the other due a training accident. In 1953 as captain he regained the Ashes which had been in Australian hands since Woodfull’s 1934 triumph, and eighteen months later he led England to victory down under.
- David Denton – in the first decade of the 20th century only one Yorkshire cricketer gained England selection purely on the strength of batting skill, and that person was David Denton. He was known as ‘lucky’ Denton because he seemed to benefit from plenty of dropped chances but there are two counters to that, firstly there is Napoleon’s “give me a lucky general rather than a good one”, and secondly people noticed him benefitting from dropped chances for the very simple reason that he made it count when such occurred.
- Maurice Leyland – a left handed bat and a bowler of ‘chinamen’, he scored heavily for both Yorkshire and England.
- Joe Root – the current England test captain, and a bat of proven world class, though his off spin would not see much use in this team, and you will note that I have not named as captain of this team.
- George Hirst – rated by his long time county captain Lord Hawke as the greatest of all county cricketers, he batted right handed and bowled left-arm pace. He achieved the season double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in first class matches 14 times, 10 of them in successive seasons. In each of 1904 and 1905 he had over 2,000 runs and 100 wickets, and in 1906 uniquely he had over 2,000 runs and 200 wickets. He was also noted for his fielding at mid-off.
- *Wilfred Rhodes – the other of the ‘Kirkheaton twins’, a right handed bat and slow left arm bowler with over 4,000 first class wickets and almost 40,000 first class runs in his career, the longest ever test career in time terms (31 and a half years between his first and last appearances) his astonishing career linked the era of Grace with that of Bradman. I have named as captain because although being a humble professional he never officially had the job I believe he would have been excellent at it- when asked about Percy Chapman as England captain Rhodes said “‘ee wor a good ‘un – he allus did what me an’ Jack telt him”.
- Tom Emmett – a left arm pace bowler who took his wickets very economically and was a good enough wielder of the willow to have a first class hundred at a time when they were not easy to come by. He accounted for W G Grace 36 times (as well as Gloucs v Yorks, there were fixtures such as North v South, Gentlemen vs Players etc, so top cricketers came up against one another frequently) and was highly rated by ‘The Doctor’.
- Fred Trueman – “T’finest bloody fast bowler that ever drew breath” at least in his own oft stated opinion, and it was close enough to true for the exaggeration to be pardonable. He was the first to take 300 test wickets, and in a 20 year first class career he bowled an average of 800 overs per year. He could also handle a bat and was a good fielder.
- Schofield Haigh – a right arm quick medium/ off cutter bowler and lower order bat who sometimes made useful contributions. He often bowled devastatingly in tandem with Hirst and/or Rhodes.
- +David Hunter – the only non-international in the XI, he made 1,200 dismissals as Yorkshire wicket keeper, and with the depth of the batting in this side I felt it right to go for the best wicket keeper irrespective of batting ability.
There are a stack of players who could have merited inclusion but for the limit of 11. Among the openers Louis Hall, Jack Brown and Percy Holmes (partner of Herbert Sutcliffe in 74 century opening stands, 69 of them for Yorkshire) could all have been considered, while Brian Close would have his advocates in the middle order, as would various others. Off spinning all rounders Ted Wainwright and Billy Bates could have had a place, and there are a number of slow left armers who could have been given the nod – any of Ted Peate, Bobby Peel, Hedley Verity, Johnny Wardle or Alonzo Drake. Among the faster bowlers for whom no space could be found were George Freeman, Emmett’s regular opening partner for a few years, who took his first-class wickets at less than 10 a piece, George Macaulay, Emmott Robinson, Darren Gough and Chris Silverwood, all of whom might have their advocates. Similarly I could have given the gloves to Arthur Dolphin, Arthur Wood (“always wor a good man for a crisis” when coming in at 770-6 at the Oval in 1938), Jimmy Binks, David Bairstow or Jonny Bairstow. One big name who I refuse to call unlucky to miss out is Geoffrey Boycott – I pick teams to win, not to draw, and Yorkshire’s record in the two seasons in which Boycs averaged over 100 is testimony to the problems his approach created in that regard. Undoubtedly he has the best career record of anyone I have neglected to pick for one of these teams, but too often his runs were not made in a winning cause. I try to balance my sides as well as possible, and in the one I chose I have five top of the range batters, two of the greatest all-rounders to ever play the game, three great and contrasting bowlers and a super gloveman. The bowling options include two different types of left arm pace (Emmett and Hirst), right arm pace (Trueman), right arm medium fast (Haigh), left arm spin (Rhodes), left arm wrist spin (Leyland) and at a push off spin in the person of Root and right arm leg spin courtesy of Hutton. Also, if I am going to err in selecting a side it will be in the direction of stronger bowling rather than stronger batting – you will note that both two actual overseas players I have picked in previous posts and the potential one that I mentioned in the Surrey post are all bowlers. There are examples of teams with less than stellar batting but excellent bowling being big winners – Yorkshire in several of their most outstanding periods, Surrey in the 1950s and a few others, but there are few examples of the converse. Sussex in the the first decade of the 20th century had a powerful batting line up, with Fry and Ranjitsinhji among the all time greats and Joe Vine are top drawer opening partner for Fry plus a few other useful contributors, but they never came close to being champions because they did not have the bowling to press home the advantage that batting should have given them.