What Makes A Great County Championship Batter?

This post, the first of two related posts I shall be producing today, was prompted by a piece I saw via social media about just who was the greatest of all county championship batters. I was not satisfied with the methodology used in that piece, so decided to do my own version.


The first requirement is obviously to have a great record over a long period of time. Secondly, the County Championship was only put on an official footing in 1890, so we are looking at careers after that year only. Thirdly, cricket is a team game, so runs that contribute to championships count for more than other runs.


Although he had an outstanding season in 1895 and a very good one in 1896 WG Grace’s greatest days were done by the time there was actually a county championship, so he is not eligible.

Geoffrey Boycott twice averaged over 100 for an English season, but both these tall scoring years have a massive asterisk against them – on each Yorkshire fared worse in those seasons than they had done the year before when Boycott was less prolific – a nine place drop from 4th to 13th in the first of them, and a smaller drop from 4th to 7th in the second.

Jack Hobbs had an outstanding record, but Surrey didn’t win many championships during his playing career.

Walter Hammond never won a county championship for all his great record with the bat, and his poor captaincy was partly to blame for that.

Phil Mead of Hampshire likewise never helped his side to win a championship, though he holds the records for most runs and most centuries for a single first class team.


Herbert Sutcliffe had his entry into first class cricket delayed by one world war and his first class career terminated by the outbreak of the other. In the 20 years he did play he was a consistent, huge run scorer, more often than not top of the Yorkshire batting averages, although as I have pointed out elsewhere his test record was better than his overall first class record, and his Ashes record was better still. In keeping with this ‘big occasion’ temperament, nine of his championship centuries came at the expense of bitter rivals Lancashire. Also, if we turn to the element of contributing to championship success, Yorkshire were champions in 1919, won four successive titles in the 1920s, and won the championship a further seven times in the course of the 1930s, giving Sutcliffe a playing role in the winning of 12 county championships. I end this section with one example of Sutcliffe scoring runs that altered the outcome of the match. The match in question was against Kent, whose bowling was dominated at that time by leg spinner Tich Freeman. In the final innings of a low scoring affair Yorkshire needed 192 on a pitch that had not previously allowed a total that high. Yorkshire won by two wickets, and 110 of those 192 came from the bat of Herbert Sutcliffe, with the only other innings of significance coming from skipper Sellers (34 not out at the death).


Leonard Hutton, who shared some of Sutcliffe’s triumphs in the 1930s and was the best English batter of the immediate post-war era was probably the closest rival to Sutcliffe, though Peter May scores well when it comes to helping his side win titles. Most overseas players would not qualify due to not playing enough, although three who did were Roy Marshall and Barry Richards (both Hampshire) and Mike Hussey (several counties in the recent past). Most of the best present-day English batters would be unlikely to qualify because international commitments restrict them to only a few championship appearances in any given season.


Even with two blog posts to cater for I have a big photo gallery (please note I will out for most of tomorrow, on a West Norfolk Autism Group outing to Pensthorpe, where I expect to get some particularly impressive photos).

Author: Thomas

I am a founder member and currently secretary of the West Norfolk Autism Group and am autistic myself. I am a very keen photographer and almost every blog post I produce will feature some of my own photographs. I am an avidly keen cricket fan and often post about that sport.

2 thoughts on “What Makes A Great County Championship Batter?”

  1. Interesting how two people can look at one fact, such as “cricket is a team game” and draw differing opinions. My view is that because it is a team game, championships are not a criteria, because one person cannot outweigh the ‘shortcomins’ of the other ten.
    Now as usual my thinking is blinkered by concentrating on my lifetime, but using your logic if championships matter then the batters of Surrey in the 1950s and Yorkshire in the 1960s perhaps deserve a mention? More recent names that spring to my mind are Gatting, Hick and Ramps. Overseas players, I probably should look these up but Moody, Richards, di Ventou etc. It is before my time but Edrich and Compton and the Summer of 1947?
    I agree none of these names may change your conclusion, but where is the fun in not chucking other names in?

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