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Biographies of players

Lives in Cricket

Maurice Leyland

Written by Mike Popplewell

Maurice Leyland was a pillar of powerful Yorkshire and England sides between the world wars. The left-handed batsman’s nine centuries in 41 Tests included 187 at The Oval in 1938, when he shared a second-wicket partnership of 382 with Len Hutton, still an England record. The Bodyline tourist was also, as one team-mate said in a tribute on his death, ‘such a good man’; does that explain why this is the first biography of him?

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Brian Sellers: Yorkshire Tyrant

By Mark Rowe

Brian Sellers, the ‘most successful county captain of all time’ (Wisden 1940) led a great Yorkshire team: among those who played under him were Herbert Sutcliffe, Bill Bowes, Hedley Verity and later Leonard Hutton. Having established his authority, he urged his men to win matches. That led to six Championships in eight seasons to 1939, and the first post-war Championship in 1946. Sellers went on to serve in Yorkshire and MCC administration and helped make decisions – Yorkshire’s sacking of Johnny Wardle in 1958, the start of one-day county cricket in 1963. Did he turn dangerously tyrannical? The outcry after the sacking of Brian Close in 1970 – and the equally fateful choice of Geoffrey Boycott as captain – suggested he did. Sellers, feared and foul-mouthed, gave his life to Yorkshire cricket, and his body to Leeds Medical School.

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George Raikes: ‘Muscular Christianity?’

By Stephen Musk

Stephen Musk, the author of two previous ‘Lives in Cricket’ (Michael Falcon and Lionel Robinson) has made it a trio of Norfolk-related biographies. As in his earlier books, Stephen shows his mastery of the sources to link the man to his age and to reveal a man of many parts: Raikes kept goal for Oxford University and England at football before becoming a vicar and an early googly bowler. In his cricket career, Raikes captained his county to two pre-1914 Minor County Championships.

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Lionel Palairet: Stylist ‘Par Excellence’

By Darren Senior

Lionel Palairet made 15,777 career runs and was the first great batsman for Somerset, for whom he scored all of his 27 first-class centuries. His father, five times archery champion of England, was instrumental in Somerset becoming a first-class county. Lionel was well educated and a stylish batsman. This book shows a private family man, well-respected and a good organiser; whose contributions particularly to cricket and golf have gone unnoticed.

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Brief Candles 2: More One-Match Wonders

By Keith Walmsley

This second volume of Brief Candles once again looks at the lives, in and out of cricket, of a batch of players who flickered only briefly on the first-class scene.

Most earn their inclusion because of an unusual achievement that they recorded during their brief careers at that level. So you can read here about the five cricketers who played an innings in the 90s in their debut game, and the five who shared in century partnerships on debut when batting at No. 11 – and yet none of them was ever picked again.

Others are included because of something that happened to them during their one and only first-class match – like the three cricketers who were no-balled for throwing on their debuts, whereupon they disappeared from the first-class game altogether.

Another two earn their appearance because of a pair of unhappy coincidences: though unrelated they shared the same unusual surname, and both met their deaths in the most tragic of circumstances.

And finally there’s the clergyman who played his only first-class match when just six months short of his 60th birthday.

Brief Candles 2 explores the lives of these and some others who deserve to be better remembered for their unusual, if very short, contributions to the history of the first-class game.

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John Jackson: The Nottinghamshire Foghorn

Written by Gerald Hudd

John Jackson was noticed at an early age by William Clarke after moving from his native Suffolk to Wellow in Nottinghamshire. He soon became an integral part of
the Nottinghamshire and All-England Elevens. Bowling fast round-arm – his pace was described as ‘fearful’ – he took wickets by the dozen all over the country as well as on tours of North America in 1859 and Australia and New Zealand in 1863/64.

Injury brought his career to a gradual close during the late 1860s. Having no qualifications of any kind, Jackson had nothing to fall back on after his playing
days had finished. The once great fast bowler ended his days in a Liverpool workhouse in 1901.

Gerald Hudd charts the life of this great bowler who in a later era would undoubtedly have had a highly successful career in Test cricket and who might have had a more dignified old age.

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Frank and George Mann: Brewing, Batting and Captaincy

Written by Brian Rendell

Father and son Frank and George Mann both captained Middlesex to the County Championship and led successful England sides on tours of South Africa. Until the takeover frenzy of the 1970s, the family’s highly successful brewery, based in East London, was a leading player in the social fabric of southern England. Mann’s Brown Ale can still be found on supermarket shelves today.

Both men served in Britain’s armed forces outside its shores. Both filled middle-order batting positions for county and country; they took catches, often painfully, at mid-off; and every so often they sent down a few deliveries to help bring a match to its conclusion. Frank’s mighty hitting emptied beer tents, sometimes to the detriment of sales of his brewery’s products. George’s management skills were brought to bear on the administration of English cricket.

Using material from a wide range of sources, Brian Rendell here brings together a story far larger than the 19,585 first-class runs they scored between them.

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Norman Yardley: Yorkshire's Gentleman Player

Written by Martin Howe

In today’s world, when cricket is driven by commercial considerations and the true spirit of the game is easily lost in a win at all costs attitude, it is refreshing to have a biography of a man who respected cricket’s traditions and played the game for the joy of it. Such a man was Norman Yardley, a fine all-round cricketer who scored over 18,000 runs, took almost 300 wickets in his first-class career, and, as an amateur, was a natural choice to captain England and Yorkshire after the War.

A knowledgeable and astute captain, nevertheless some Yardley lacked the ruthlessness of a Bradman and was not hard enough on some of the rebellious characters in the Yorkshire dressing room. But if his record as captain was disappointing, this was more to do with the strength of the opponents than any shortcomings of his own.

Martin Howe’s biography covers not just Yardley’s cricket career but also his life in business, journalism and broadcasting and his committee work for Yorkshire CCC. No one had an unkind word to say about Norman Yardley. His personal qualities shone through in all he did on and off the cricket field. He was indeed Yorkshire’s gentleman cricketer.

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Alec Watson: Chucker?

Written by Duncan McLeish

There have been doubts raised about certain features of Alec Watson’s life story. Firstly, about the date and place of his birth; investigation into the former confirmed the date generally accepted, but enquiries into the latter threw up a number of problems. The author’s investigations suggest a place of birth not even mentioned before.

Secondly, there were certainly doubts about the legality of Watson’s bowling action: was he a ‘chucker’? The author considers the arguments and sources on this, and suggests what he hopes is a fair conclusion.

There were no doubts about Watson’s success; the facts and figures contained herein speak for themselves. Nor is there any doubt about his successful career on the fringes of cricket: as groundsman at Old Trafford; as a cricket coach to clubs and schools; and as a progressive sports outfitter with three shops in central Manchester, and a big house on its outskirts.

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Lionel Robinson: Cricket at Old Buckenham

Written by Stephen Musk

Lionel ‘Robby’ Robinson, Australian financier made good, settled at Old Buckenham Hall in the Norfolk countryside. There he hosted the 1912 South African tourists, the 1919 Australian Imperial Forces team, and most famously and intriguingly Warwick Armstrong’s 1921 Australians.

Former England captain Archie MacLaren ran Robinson’s cricket affairs. The ‘country house’ hospitality drew many of the notable players of the era, such as Michael Falcon, the subject of Lives in Cricket No.15. As in that book, Stephen Musk roots his story in Norfolk, and the wider world of cricket, and traces links to MacLaren’s famous win over the 1921 Australian tourists at Eastbourne.

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William Clarke: The Old General

Written by Peter Wynne-Thomas

Born in Nottingham in 1798, William Clarke was an effective slow bowler of his time, hanging onto his old under-arm ways well after round-arm styles had been developed. His skill was such – he took nearly 800 wickets in first-class matches – that pamphlets were published on how to counter his wiles.

In the spring of 1846 his second marriage broke down. He left Trent Bridge and set up the All-England Eleven as a commercial enterprise, hiring the best players of the day. For ten summers his team travelled around Britain like a circus, often on the newly built railways, to play fixtures (arranged through the new Penny Post) against eighteens and twenty-twos in industrial cities and old county towns. Crowds came, and moreover paid, to watch local players take on the big names of the game.

Of course there were disputes along the way – and there can be little doubt that Clarke liked a good argument. The established elites didn’t like it, and rival Elevens grew up. He may have failed to make the fortune often alleged, but by the time he died, aged 57, cricket had become the most popular ball-game in Britain to play, watch and read about.

Peter Wynne-Thomas tells the tale of a man who, like Kerry Packer, single-handedly changed the face of the known cricket world.

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W.E.Astill: All-rounder debonair

Written by Antony Littlewood

Ewart Astill was not only an outstanding all-rounder who amassed more than 2,000 wickets and very nearly 20,000 runs over 30 years with his native county, Leicestershire; he was also a person of thorough honesty, decency, kindness, cheerfulness, determination and loyalty.

Only four players have scored more runs for Leicestershire and none took more wickets. One of only two cricketers who appeared in every season between the Wars, Astill played a record 628 first-class matches for his county and achieved the double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in a season no fewer than nine times.

To the Leicestershire faithful, he was the youngster of enormous promise and then the evergreen post-war veteran, who even more than his colleague George Geary shouldered the burden of their county’s bowling, and often their batting too, with a smiling chivalry and unwearied dedication that embedded him deep in their affections.

Astill was one of nine first-class cricketers who achieved the 20,000 runs/2,000 wickets double, and his meagre total of nine caps for England – all abroad – probably reflected Leicestershire’s perceived status as an ‘unfashionable’ county, rather than his playing ability.

Off the field, Astill was a hugely popular figure, a champion billiards player, a fine musician and an accomplished vocalist. He was frequently invited by leading representative teams to tour overseas and was seemingly the life and soul of the party off the field.

Fred Root called him the most versatile cricketer he had ever known and David Frith’s opinion was that ‘Of the stalwarts who served their countries for almost a lifetime, Ewart Astill has an exalted place.’ But for Leicestershire supporters, he was simply the best-loved of all their heroes.

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Donald Carr: Derbyshire's Corinthian

Written by John Shawcroft

This is the story of a man who captained Repton, Oxford University, Derbyshire and England before becoming MCC Assistant Secretary, tour manager, TCCB Secretary and an international referee. Donald Carr spent his life involved in cricket at all levels as both player and administrator.

Born into an army family stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany, he first sprang to prominence when selected for the third Victory Test in 1945. After Oxford, which he captained in 1950, he threw in his lot with Derbyshire, where he was a highly effective batsman, slow left-arm bowler and member of the renowned Derbyshire leg trap of the 1950s, as well as being captain from 1955 to 1962. He toured India in 1951/52, playing in two Tests and captaining his country when India gained their first Test victory. He was captain of the MCC A team which went to Pakistan in 1955/56, a tour which is mainly remembered for the soaking given to the Pakistani umpire, Idris Begh.

Carr was a soccer player, winning two Blues at Oxford, before becoming a member of the renowned Pegasus team which won the FA Amateur Cup in 1950/51 and 1952/53.

His career as an administrator with Derbyshire, MCC and the TCCB encompassed some of the game’s more controversial moments such as Basil D’Oliveira’s selection for England in 1968, Tony Greig’s run-out dismissal of Alvin Kallicharran, and the Packer Affair.

Using a variety of sources, John Shawcroft traces a first-class career which lasted from 1945 to 1968, during which Donald Carr scored 19,257 runs, captured 328 wickets and took 500 catches.

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Frank Mitchell: Imperial Cricketer

Written by Anthony Bradbury

Frank Mitchell in the late Victorian and Edwardian eras was a shining sporting
star who dazzled all too briefly. Whilst showing great potential at cricket as a
mature undergraduate, he reached the ultimate position in rugby when still at
Cambridge in becoming captain of the England XV.

Cricket, though, was a more abiding interest. Mitchell achieved some
notoriety through his actions as captain of Cambridge in the Varsity match
of 1896, when he sought to avoid the Oxford XI having to follow-on by
instructing his bowler to bowl no balls and wides. His earlier attacking style
had already brought him, as a Yorkshireman, to the attention of Lord Hawke,
with much of his limited first-class cricket then being played for Yorkshire.
Hawke gave him a place on his tour to South Africa in 1898/99, which made
Mitchell, retrospectively, an English Test cricketer. He served with the army
during part of the Boer War and, after a wonderful season back with Yorkshire
in 1901, he emigrated to South Africa.

Working for Abe Bailey, the South African entrepreneur, led Mitchell to captain
the South African team to England in 1904 which, though playing no official
Tests, had a successful tour. Thereafter he worked as a stockbroker, but a
surprise recall as captain of the South African team for the Triangular Tour of
1912 caused more controversy.

Without much personal income, Mitchell struggled with the requirements
of amateurism, but he again joined the army in 1914, rising to the rank of
Lieutenant-Colonel. Later he made a living from the precarious tin industry
in Nigeria and from writing frequent columns for The Cricketer. Some of the
aspirations expressed in his articles would remain welcome today. Frank
Mitchell was a man of many parts, whose contributions to English and South
African sport made him for short periods a notable hero.

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Jack Robertson and Syd Brown: More Than Just The Warm-Up Act

Written by Chris Overson

North London cricket followers turned to their morning newspapers for 11 summers, in 1939 and from 1946 to 1955, to see how Robertson (J.D.) and Brown (S.M.) had fared as the Middlesex opening batsmen. They were not often disappointed. The pair opened the batting 366 times and their partnerships put on 14,116 runs, reaching 100 runs or more on 35 occasions.

As more of their endeavours fade, cricket enthusiasts nowadays have perhaps typecast them as the warm-up act to the prodigious talents of Bill Edrich and Denis Compton. But they were more than that. Even that curmudgeonly old critic E.M.Wellings thought Jack ‘a beautifully fluent stroke-maker’ and Syd ‘a splendid county batsman’. He thought selectors looked too hard for flaws in Jack’s top-class batting technique, thus restricting him to 11 Test matches; and he reckoned Syd to be among the finest fielders in the deep.

Using material from a wide range of sources, Chris Overson here writes on their early influences, their almost simultaneous start at Lord’s in 1934, their inevitable cricketing ups and downs – often in those days before crowds of 10,000 or more – and their lives after they had left the field of play.

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Eric Rowan: The Toughest Springbok

Written by Rick Smith

One of South Africa’s finest batsmen in the first half of the 20th century, Eric Rowan will always be remembered for his cocky and fiercely combative approach to every match in which he played. A highly courageous player, he was prepared to take on Lindwall and Miller at their fastest without the benefit of either gloves or box. To him the very thought of a helmet and other modern protective gear would have been anathema.

No stranger to conflict, he sat down on the pitch when a Lancashire crowd barracked him for slow scoring, was controversially omitted from South Africa’s 1947 tour of England and had his Test career ended by the South African Cricket Association for non-cricketing reasons.

Using a variety of sources and photographs from the Brian Bassano Collection, Rick Smith describes the career of this South African whose approach to cricket would have been very much at home in the modern era.

In a Test career lasting from 1935 to 1951, Eric Rowan scored 1,965 runs at an average of 43.66. In 1951, aged 42, he made 236 against England at Leeds, which was then South Africa’s highest individual score in a Test match. He is still the oldest cricketer to score a Test double-century. Durable to the end, Eric’s career ended in the 1953/54 season when he was not far short of his 45th birthday.

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A.N.Hornby: The Boss

Written by Stuart Brodkin

Albert Neilson Hornby was a sporting legend, captaining England and Lancashire at cricket and England at Rugby Union. He was also a useful footballer, appearing for Blackburn Rovers, and a keen boxer and hurdler. He regularly rode to hounds and was a decent shot.

The man known as ‘Monkey’ for his diminutive size as a youngster and his hyper-active demeanour carved out one of the most durable careers in the game. For five decades he ruled the roost at Lancashire as player, captain, chairman and president. In his heyday it was said that only W.G.Grace was his superior as a batsman, and his captaincy was admired even by the Australians! He was also a brilliant fielder.

Hornby will be remembered as the captain who lost the famous Oval Test of 1882 to the Australians, a defeat which gave birth to the Ashes, and also went down in cricketing folklore as one of the central figures in Francis Thompson’s poem ‘At Lord’s’.

As a captain, he demanded the utmost loyalty from those who played under him and, in return, defended his players to the hilt, most notably when a number of Lancashire bowlers were accused of throwing. He was one of the central figures when a disputed umpiring decision led to the Sydney riot of 1879, and there were other occasions when he was not afraid to wade into a crowd of unruly spectators.

Had he been alive today, Hornby would have been the darling of the tabloids. In his lifetime, during the Golden Age of cricket, he was never far away from controversy and confrontation.

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Keith Carmody: Keith Miller's Favourite Captain

Written by Tony Barker

Keith Carmody deserves to be rememberedas more than the inventor of the ‘umbrella field’. Escaping from difficult family circumstances, he was the most successful junior batsman in 1930s Sydney, breaking into first-class ranks late in the decade. A wartime pilot more worthy of acclaim than Keith Miller, he captained the popular RAAF team at Lord’s and elsewhere in 1943 and 1944 before being shot down over the North Sea. After months as a prisoner of war in Stalag Luft III, long detention in perilous conditions by the Soviet army ended in time for him to play in the second ‘Victory Test’ in 1945. His best batting feats followed in India later that year.

The peak of his career came when he led Western Australia to win the Sheffield Shield in their first season, 1947/48. Declining form and alienation from cricket authorities have obscured the importance of foundations he laid for the state’s success through coaching programmes for very young cricketers. Neither the sadness of a broken marriage nor death from cancer at the age of 58 should detract from the significance of a man who never played for Australia but was nominated by Miller to captain his ‘dream team’ of Australian, English, South African and West Indian Test players.

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C.B.Llewellyn: A Study in Equivocation

Written by Neil Jenkinson

As a cricketer Charles Llewellyn, often known as Buck, had two lives.

Born at Pietermaritzburg, then in the British-run Cape Colony, in 1876, he played in 15 Test matches for South Africa, some retrospectively designated. He moved to England in 1899 and was an allround regular for ten seasons at Hampshire, where his left-handed skills brought him nearly 9,000 first-class runs and over 700 wickets. His intermittent use of wrist-spin – learned from R.O.Schwarz – points to him as a pioneer of methods which have surfaced only occasionally in top-class cricket.

Careful with money, he had a difference of opinion over pay which led to him leaving Hampshire after the 1910 season. He then followed a secondary career as a well-liked professional for Accrington and in leagues in Bradford and Bolton until his early sixties.

He died at Egham in Surrey in 1964, following a gas explosion at his home, just when Basil D’Oliveira’s talents were becoming more widely known to the British public. Buck’s ’second life’ began when various historians realised that he, too, came from a mixed-race family, his mother having been born on the remote volcanic island of St Helena in the South Atlantic, where many occupants had been or were descended from African slaves. During his lifetime, most of his fellow players had simply thought of him as well-tanned and his children were sure he was of ‘white stock’.

Neil Jenkinson relates the complex story of a man now widely recognised as the first non-white player to represent South Africa in Test cricket.

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H.V.Hesketh-Prichard: Amazing Stories

Written by Simon Sweetman

Hesketh Vernon Hesketh-Prichard. It turns out that this curious combination of names is a contrivance and so it attracts twenty-first century doubt. His Edwardian friends shortened it to Hex.

But there is little to doubt about his achievements. While still at school he was asked to play cricket for Scotland. Appearing in 86 first-class matches as a pastime, mostly for Hampshire, he secured 339 wickets at 22 with his fast bowling, though his batting drew comparisons with shovelling. He played country-house and weekend cricket with artistic and authorial cronies as well as some of the best amateur cricketers of the day.

Around his cricket he fitted in a remarkably diverse range of activities. Giving up life in a solicitor’s office, he had a ‘gap year’ in Spain and Portugal when these were distant countries, and went on to Morocco where he tried the local narcotic. His experiences set him on a lifetime of travelling. In Argentina he sought a giant sloth; in Haiti he discovered voodoo and found that ‘black ruled white’; in eastern Canada he visited the tundra and its migrating caribou.

He wrote up his travels for newspapers, magazines and academic journals and drew on his findings to write, with his mother, pulp fiction – serialised in the days before broadcast media – whose popularity rivalled the mighty Conan Doyle. His concerns triggered early conservation legislation. Twice decorated in the Great War, he did much to raise the effectiveness of Allied sniping to German standards.

Simon Sweetman traces a life from near penury in infancy, via the Channel Islands, the pre-independence Dublin social season and an unlikely marriage into the aristocracy, to its tragic end at 45.

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Tom Richardson: A Bowler Pure and Simple

Written by Keith Booth

Tom Richardson’s life began in a gypsy caravan and was ended by his own hand. So runs the popular mythology on the man who was probably the greatest fast bowler of his own generation and possibly of any. The research of Keith and Jennifer Booth has demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that neither myth is true and casts new light on the circumstances of his death.

Although there have been a number of profiles and copious mentions of Richardson in cricket literature and his statistical achievements have been well documented, there has not until now been a full-scale biography.

Most sources mention his early – and indeed life-long – association with Mitcham Cricket Club. None refers to his significant involvement, after his marriage, with Surrey’s other main ‘feeder’ club, Thames Ditton.

Additionally, not so well known is the number of Richardson’s – albeit indirect – descendants who have played first-class cricket and distinguished themselves in other sporting areas.

His diary of the 1897-98 tour of Australia records a number of otherwise unreported opinions and his will provides some insight into the ‘domestic trouble’ hinted at by the press at the end of his life.

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Brief Candles: McMaster, Hyland and Other One-Match Wonders

Written by Keith Walmsley

Nine thousand cricketers have played in just one first-class match, but for some their one appearance was more memorable than for others, for good reasons or otherwise.  In 1924, Fred Hyland spent less than ten minutes on the field of play before rain washed out the game. Poor Josiah Coulthurst didn’t even step on to the playing area in a damp Lancashire contest in 1919. Emile McMaster’s only match, in South Africa in 1889, was later awarded Test status. Bob Richards, playing for Essex at Leyton in 1970, didn’t learn till afterwards that his solitary appearance was a first-class game. Nobody can now be sure who was the Wilkinson who played a match at Oxford in 1939.

Some one-match wonders have achieved much in their brief days in front of the cricket-watching public, centuries even and ‘eight-fors’; others have gone on to exceptional achievements in fields sporting, political and military. Keith Walmsley reports on the ’struts’ and ‘frets’ of some players who appeared just once on the first-class stage and then were ‘heard no more’.

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Frank Sugg: A Man For All Seasons

Written by Martin Howe
Older readers may remember scoring runs with a Frank Sugg cricket bat or kicking a Frank Sugg football. Younger readers may find such implements, or even a model boat bearing his name ‘in the attic’. His cricket and football annuals are collectors’ items.

Sugg was born in Ilkeston, Derbyshire, but spent his formative years in Sheffield. A grammar school boy, he decided to forego a legal career to become a professional cricketer, in breach of Victorian convention. After an unsuccessful start in first-class cricket with Yorkshire, he joined Derbyshire but later moved across the Pennines, where he played as a hard-hitting batsman, a ‘smiter’, for Lancashire, and in 1888 twice for England.

With his brother Walter, Frank Sugg opened a sports shop business in Liverpool in 1888 and by 1914 it had grown into one of the leading businesses of its kind. The firm failed in the 1920s although an offshoot, based in Sheffield, continued to trade until 2001.

A Christian Scientist by faith, Frank Sugg was a fitness enthusiast and involved himself in various sports. He played, briefly, for several leading football clubs, took up long-distance swimming, and was a local champion at athletics, billiards, bowls, and golf. With his brother Walter, he bought racehorses. An appetite for gambling on horses apparently cost him a lot of money. Perhaps as an act of charity, he was given a county umpire’s .job at the age of 64. Frank died suddenly, aged 71 years, soon after the death of his brother and is buried in an unmarked public grave, for reasons which remain unclear.

He certainly knew hard times at the close of his life, but Martin Howe reports on Frank Sugg as more of an entertainer and a ‘laddish’ character.

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Jack Bond: Lancashire Lad, Lancashire Leader

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Written by Douglas Miller

Jack Bond ensured his place in cricket history with a spectacular matchwinning catch at Lord’s. It brought Lancashire the second of three consecutive Gillette Cups, and with two John Player titles, his team were the one-day masters of their day.

Yet Jack Bond’s story is one in which triumphs have been interlaced with struggles, misfortune and tragedy.

On the verge of being released, he was first offered the captaincy ‘while we look for someone else’. His tenure as Lancashire captain, in his own ‘first among equals’ style, ran from 1968 to 1972, before a less successful time with Nottinghamshire. This was followed by five blissful years as a school coach in the Isle of Man, a less happy return to Lancashire as manager in the 1980s, before ten years as a first-class umpire.

His winters are now spent accompanying tour parties overseas, with summers preparing practice pitches at Old Trafford. Jack Bond has therefore enjoyed a long and varied ‘life in cricket’ which the author records with the warmth and humour that have always characterised this true Lancashire lad.

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J.H.King: Leicestershire's Longaevous Left-Hander

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Written by A.R.Littlewood

‘Longaevous’, dictionaries say, adjective, now rare, meaning ‘long-lived’ or ‘living or having lived to a great age. John Herbert King achieved, as a cricketer, both longevity and rarity. As a first-class cricketer, his career spanned thirty years from June 1895 to August 1925. In the latter year, he played nineteen games at the age of 54: only one other player has played regularly in the Championship at a greater age. He went on to umpire in first-class matches until 1936 and stood in wartime county games as late as 1945.

Cricket professionals of his time were typically from working-class homes. King’s background was comfortably middle class: his father was a successful builder who sent his sons to boarding school. King dealt with the powerful men of the Leicesteshire hierarchy without deference as Antony Littlewood’s story shows. An all-rounder, King batted and bowled left-handed and famously scored a century on each innings for the Players at Lord’s, but was called up for only one Test Match. Only three other left-handers have scored ten thousand runs and taken a thousand wickets in Championship cricket. Like many others, he was a county ‘workhorse’. This is a tale where rarity and commonplace mix.

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Ernest Hayes: Brass in a Golden Age

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Written by Keith Booth

When Ernest Hayes died in 1953 local papers cheerfully announced ‘HAYES OF HOBBS, ‘AYWARD AND ‘AYES’ IS DEAD’. Historians have been kinder to his famous contemporaries, Jack Hobbs and Tom Hayward, but Hayes was one of many intelligent, down-to-earth professionals who underpinned the carefree amateurism of cricket’s ‘Golden Age’.

He played first-class matches in four decades, taking part in well over 500 matches, scored a thousand runs in sixteen seasons and secured over 500 wickets. He was an outstanding slip fielder, many of his 607 catches coming off the speed merchants of his day. He won five Test caps and toured South Africa, Australia and the West Indies.

Hayes kept scrapbooks of his achievements. Using this remarkable material, award-winning author Keith Booth tells a tale which starts in the Old Kent Road and follows a man who became a commissioned officer in the Great War, who was wounded in action and was awarded an MBE. When his playing days were over, he became a respected coach at Leicester and played first-class cricket there when 49, before returning to coach at The Oval. A man of great energy, he was still ‘in harness’ at his South London pub when he was 77.

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