Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Bob Appleyard (1924-2015) - a unique cricketer

When I blogged a list of the 10 oldest surviving England test cricketers last month, I said that I must write more about the man in third place.

So I was sad to read today of the death of Bob Appleyard, but I will keep my word and pay tribute to him here,

Appleyard's story is simply extraordinary. His development was held up by the Second World War, with the result that he did not make his debut for Yorkshire until he was 26, playing a few games at the end of the 1950 season.

The following summer, in his first full season in county cricket, Appleyard took 200 wickets for Yorkshire at 14.14 apiece.

But his health was already failing. The next summer he played only one game before being diagnosed with tuberculosis. He had an operation was not expected to live.

By 1954 he was fit enough to play county cricket again, and he took 154 wickets at 14.42, He made his England debut against Pakistan that summer, taking 5-51 in the first innings he bowled in.

His form won him a place on Len Hutton's historic tour to Australia in 1954-5. The Ashes were regained largely because of Tyson and Statham's fast bowling, but it was Appleyard, the stock bowler at the other end, who topped the England bowling averages.

After that his career began to decline. He played his last test in 1956, as he was displaced by the rise of Jim Laker, and injury meant that he was released by Yorkshire after the 1958 season.

In 152 matches for Yorkshire he had taken 708 wickets at 15.44 apiece, and in his nine tests he had 31 victims at 17.87.

Beyond the figures, Appleyard was a remarkable bowler in that he was able to bowl fast medium and off spin off the same run and apparently with the same action.

Appleyard's Telegraph obituary, to which I am indebted for the statistics in this post describes him as "one of the greatest bowlers of the post-war period".

But it continues:
There were judges in Yorkshire who were inclined to go further. The former England fast bowler Bill Bowes, for example, held that Appleyard achieved a level of excellence matched by only two other bowlers – Sydney Barnes and Bill O’Reilly – in the history of the game.
Certainly, there is no one like him today. The only bowler I watched who might give you a clue to what Appleyard must have been like was the left-armer Derek Underwood, with his fast spinners. He too was deadly on a damp wicket,

As to how Appleyard managed to bowl as he did, this article on Planet NZ has some ideas.

Appleyard was remarkable outside cricket. As both a child and an adult he suffered a series of bereavements that would have felled a lesser man. Perhaps this had something to do with his late emergence as a Yorkshire bowler.

After retiring from cricket he enjoyed a successful business career. When his firm was bought out by Robert Maxwell, he fought the fraudster all the way and achieved a generous redundancy settlement.

Later, when pro- and anti-Boycott factions were tearing Yorkshire apart, he tried to act as a peacemaker.

In No Coward Soul, a book about Appleyard written by Stephen Clarke and Derek Hodgson, he is quoted as comparing the two sacred monsters. Remembering Maxwell,he says:
He used to come in a bit late, make an entrance - just as Geoffrey Boycott was wont to do on the Yorkshire committee.
And now Bob Appleyard is dead. He was a unique cricketer and I wish I had written this post last month when I discovered he was still alive.

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