1951: Essex v Yorks.

Essex v Yorkshire 1951

‘Fiery’ Fred Trueman (Yorks. & Eng.) demonstrating the classic, side-on action. 

Yorkshire 380-6 Dec. (107 overs) & 237-7 Dec. (99 overs).  Essex 317 All Out (99 overs) & 186 All Out (71 overs).  Yorkshire won by 114 runs.

Between their return to The Old County Ground in 1934 and their final departure in 1969, Essex played a total of fifty-one County Championship matches at Brentwood.  They played every one of the other sixteen first-class counties (Durham weren’t elected to the County Championship until many years later) – most of them a minimum of three times during the period.  Yet Yorkshire were only the visitors on one occasion.

Nobody knows quite why this should have been the case.  In those days, the County Championship consisted of 28 games, meaning that some sides only played others once rather than twice a season – and for sure there were one or two seasons where Essex only played Yorkshire once.  Perhaps it was simply that Yorkshire were regarded as such a great attraction that the Essex Committee thought it would be a good thing for the benefit of their spectators to give them a game at all the festival grounds in the County.

Be that as it may, Brentwood got its chance to host the mighty Yorkshire in 1951, at a time when Yorkshire were near the crest of a wave (they ultimately finished second in the Championship that year) and Essex were, as was all too frequently the case, enjoying mid-table mediocrity.

Yorkshire turned up with their usual star-studded side, including such household names as Len Hutton, Willie Watson, Norman Yardley, Johnny Wardle, Bob Appleyard and Fred Trueman – England players all of them.  Plus a young batsman called Billy Sutcliffe, who was the son of the great Herbert Sutcliffe (who took part in the opening stand of 555 against Essex at Leyton in 1932) and whose middle name was “Hobbs”.  No pressure on him to succeed at cricket then!

Yorkshire batted first and declared half an hour before the close of the first day at 380-6.  Since Essex didn’t take a wicket until after lunch when the score had reached 152, they probably thought they had done quite well to ‘restrict’ the Tykes, despite Len Hutton scoring 141 and passing 30,000 first-class runs during his innings.

Essex were clearly not overawed and responded on day two with 317, mainly due to a century from Paul Gibb and a fifty from Dick Horsfall – both of them Yorkshiremen by birth!  Gibb actually played for Yorkshire for a number of years either side of the War.  He was something of an eccentric, keeping wicket wearing thick spectacles, and, after retiring and becoming an umpire, famously living in a caravan throughout the summer months which he used to pull behind his battered old car in order to save on hotel bills.

Yorkshire, 91-2 overnight in their second innings, batted on until after lunch on the final day before declaring for the second time in the match and leaving Essex a target of 301.  A glance at the scorecard suggests that Essex had a bit of a go at it – Ray Smith, an explosive hitter, was put up the order and Trevor Bailey, just the opposite, went in at ten – but all the signs point to Yorkshire being fairly unimaginative in their declaration and the game finished as a draw, albeit with Essex’s last pair at the wicket.  Yorkshire drew no fewer than twelve of their 28 games that season after leading on first innings: perhaps had they been a bit more inclined to dice with defeat in pursuit of victory they might have turned a few of them into wins and claimed what would have been their only Championship between 1949 and 1959.  But that wasn’t the way they did things then.

So as far as one can tell, this was the only time that Fred Trueman played at the Old County Ground, and the photograph below is something of a collector’s item therefore, showing Fred in his iconic delivery stride with the majesty of Merrymeade House, hardly changed, outwardly, in the ensuing half century, in the background.

Malcolm Webb
Brentwood Cricket Club

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