Grand Christmas Cricket Quiz : Round 3

Welcome to the third and final round.  I wouldn’t expect anyone in their right mind to know the answers to these questions, but please do feel free to have a go, and I hope the quiz has provided some amusement along the way.

1.     At a match between the United South and an 18 of Northampton in 1873, W.G. Grace, urged on by his brother E.M. (“If you don’t go and give him a good hiding, I shall”) laid into a spectator “with sledgehammer blows” and blacked both his eyes.  What was the man’s offence?

a)    He’d accused him of cheating?

b)    He’d told him he needed a shave?

c)    He’d complained he was taking too too long to get back on the pitch after a rain break?

2.     The earliest, and perhaps most physically dangerous, of England’s fast bowling partnerships was between “Foghorn” Jackson and “Tear’em” Tarrant.  Tarrant’s nickname was self-explanatory, but what was the source of Jackson’s?







3.     What did George “Dickie” Wooster, for many years a stalwart of Kettering CC, have in common with Samuel Beckett?

4.     The autobiography of which late-20th century Australian Captain begins by saying “I should be bitter, but I am not” and contains chapters entitled “Sacked” – “Fleeced” – “Still kicking” – “Skinned alive” – “Slaughtered” and “A Nasty business”?

5.     Whose wife?  An Australian society beauty “artistic in nature and noted for her fine singing voice” she married her husband, a well-known English cricketer, while he was on tour in Australia.  Unfortunately, an “irreverent and indecent crowd” surged into the church before the service, occupied every possible vantage point “including the pulpit” and stole all the floral decorations as souvenirs.



6.     Which team is this a description of?

“…… were genuinely hated.  Apparently this stemmed from the time … when they beat everyone in sight and then went on to cause havoc off the ground.  Some of the things they were supposed to have done defy description, and I also heard about fantastic brawls in pubs and hotels.”

a)    The Yorkshire side of the 1920s and 30s?

b)    The Australian side of the early 1970s?

c)    The Surrey side of the 1950s?

7.     Fast bowler Cyril Eales was sacked as a professional by Northants after hitting “the fiery Irish baronet” Sir Timothy O’Brien several times in an over at Lord’s and responding in kind when Sir Timothy instructed him to “Pitch the buggers up, Man!”. But what happened next?

a)    He carried on playing for Northants as an amateur instead?

b)    Sir Timothy took pity on him and offered him a job as a chauffeur?

c)    He tried to burn Sir Timothy’s townhouse down in revenge?

8.     Which Northamptonshire amateur of the 1940s played 3 Test matches, was one of the last men in England to be sent to prison for performing abortions and was later awarded the OBE?

9.     The famously pugnacious A.N. “Monkey” Hornby (“of long ago”) once pursued a miscreant around Old Trafford until he eventually “cornered him in the Ladies’ Pavilion and gave him a good thrashing”.  But who was the man and what was his offence?

a)    A student who had released a monkey into the outfield as a prank?

b)    A thief who had broken into the dressing room and stolen his watch?

c)    A local newspaper journalist who had made some criticisms of his captaincy?

10.    The rightful owner of this Sind Cricket Association cap from 1973

Sind 1973

was an International Man of Mystery, who toured Australia with India in 1970*, but also popped up playing for another country in 1980.  Which was that country? [*Thanks to Jonathan for pointing out that not only was there no World Cup in 1980, there was no Indian tour of Australia in 1970 either.  I am reasonably confident, however, that this elusive character did, at some point, appear in an Indian squad of some description, without getting on to the pitch in a Test Match.  Well, I did say he was a Man of Mystery.]

11.     The minutes of which cricket club for a meeting of late August 1796 recorded the presence of “Mr. Thomas Paine, author of The Rights of Man”?




Grand Cricket Christmas Quiz : Round 2

1.    Of whom did Jonathan Agnew write the following (in 1988)?

“He had problems with his approach to the game last year, and failed to fulfil his enormous potential.  He became too involved with the off-the-field politics.”

2.     Which city did Dudley Carew (in a survey of county cricket between the wars) describe in the following terms? (He didn’t think much of their ground either.)

“Shoddiness and pretence, mental and moral, permeate the place.  All the faults of which foreigners … accuse us seem concentrated in the few square miles of England ….. pollutes.  Hypocrisy, joylessness, interference, lack of all response to any values not to be assessed in terms of money – the list of …..’s shortcomings is black indeed.”

3.     Whose wife?  She was known as one of first women in London to sport a monocle.  Her husband often played in thick glasses which he had no medical need for, gave his name to a best-selling brand of Scotch whiskey in Spain, and was the author of a lyric entitled “Reckless Reggie of the Regent Palace”. He was often described as “the best Captain England never had”.

Whose wife?


4.     Only one of the following nicknames was intended ironically.  But which one?

a)     G.A.T. “Tubby” Vials (Northamptonshire)

b)     C.E. “Noisy” de Trafford (Leicestershire)

c)     “Happy” Jack Ulyett (Yorkshire and England).



5.     W.G. Grace’s Mother, Martha, rather irresponsibly (considering the possible effect on the future of English cricket) took to the skies in the 1820s and, according to some accounts, tried to fly across the Cheddar Gorge. But how?

a)    A primitive rocket?

b)    A chair held aloft by giant kites?

c)     A catapult?

6.     Which cricketer has a memorial garden dedicated to him in the grounds of Canterbury Cathedral?

7.     This was how the Daily Telegraph reacted to the selection of a foreign-born player for a Test against Australia.

“When it was first announced that he was among the thirteen, there was considerable adverse comment, but it was generally expected that the selectors would become acquainted with public opinion, and decide to omit him.  The remarks when he was chosen in preference to the English-born … and … were very scathing.  It is a fact that if England wins with the aid of … a considerable amount of gilt will be off the gingerbread.” 

But who was he?

8.     According to Fred Trueman, why did Chairman of Selectors R.W.V. Robins instruct the Umpires not to no-ball Charlie Griffith for throwing in 1963?

a)     He thought his action was fair?

b)     He thought chucking made the game “more interesting”?

c)      He was worried about sparking off “a race riot”?

9.     What did Mordecai Sherwin of Nottinghamshire do in 1888 and Ewart Astill of Leicestershire in 1935 which no-one else had done in the intervening years?

10.    The usual explanation of Arthur “Ticker” Mitchell’s nickname is that he used to mutter to himself continuously on the field.  But in a late interview he offered another explanation. What was it?

a)     He had a big heart?

b)     He always seemed about to go off like a time bomb?

c)      He’d picked up a liking for chicken tikka on a tour of India?

11.    Rosa Cadiz (a Spanish lady) was the mother of which great Panjandrum of English cricket?

Grand Christmas Cricket Quiz : Round 1

Three Wise Men

It’s time to join the Three Wise Men above (Percy Chapman seated and Plum Warner on the far right), not to mention Freddie Brown (second left) for the first round of this year’s Grand Christmas Quiz.

The programme is subject to alteration and the rules to being made up at short notice, but at the moment we’re looking at three rounds of questions over the festive period with the answers to be announced in the New Year (though do feel free to answer at any time).  One point is awarded per question (unless otherwise indicated) and bonus points will be awarded for any particularly amusing or apt alternatives to the correct answer.

First Prize, as usual, will be a year’s free subscription to “The Crimson Rambler”.

So here we go:

Q1     What does Jack Hobbs have in common with internet sensation Zoella?

Q2     Which England batsman of recent vintage was named after a poet who died in the First World War?

Q3     Which current English cricketer described his interests in “The Cricketers’ Who’s Who” as “hunting, fishing and shooting“?

Q4     The father of which England Captain starred for Heckmondwike in the Heavy Woollen and Central Yorkshire Leagues in the 1930s? (His Christian name was Horace.)

Q5     Which future England Captain had previously turned out for Hickleton Main Colliery in the Yorkshire Council League?

Q6     Tom Graveney was once ordered by his Gloucestershire Captain to apologise to David Sheppard for having addressed him inappropriately.  What had he called him?

a)     Shep?

b)     David?

c)     Your Reverence?

Q7     Everyone (I hope) knows Fred Titmus lost four toes in a boating accident, but which other cricketer of the 1960s was missing his big toe?

Q8     The father of which Conservative cabinet minister opened the batting for Somerset with his identical twin brother (with hilarious results!) and once made 92 against Gloucestershire under an assumed name?

Q9     Which well-known cricket writer had this to say about Enoch Powell, in a letter to The Spectator following Powell’s inflamatory speech at Birmingham in 1968?

“If Enoch knew what passions he was about to unleash, he was guilty of an act that was the complete negation of patriotism.  It is possibly more charitable to suppose that his frothy speech was a bid for future political power, which, pray God , he may never achieve.  If “Enochism” were ever to win through, there would surely be a migration from this once great land of white as well as black.”

Q10    Percy Chapman, a heavy drinker, used to keep a lemonade bottle filled with neat gin in the dressing room so that he could keep himself topped up between sessions.  What did the teeetotal Jack Hobbs do when he discovered this during a Test Match (with disastrous consequences!):

a)     Sell the story to the News of the World?

b)     Drink the contents himself?

c)     Empty the gin from the bottle and replace it with lemonade?

Q11    She designed the costumes for an experimental theatre company called The Unnamed Society, regarded her husband as “an attractive stray cat of which she could be very fond without depriving it of any natural independence” and once chose to join him in Australia uninvited, bringing with her a Molotov cocktail painted blue.  But whose wife was she?




And even if you don’t feel inclined to answer, a Merry and Peaceful Christmas to you all and thank you for your custom throughout the year.








Instead Of A Christmas Card

He knows if you are sleeping. He knows if you’re awake.  He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness’ sake!

Father Christmas



A Merry Christmas to all our readers.  And if you have been good, or, frankly, even if you haven’t, there’s a good chance of a Grand Christmas Quiz appearing on this blog at some point over the holiday period, so stay tuned for further announcements.  Exact format and timings to be decided, but it will be Grand and it will be a Quiz.

If you’d like to limber up for the Quiz, try to guess the identity of our Secret Santa (above). As a hint, it’s not W.G. Grace.


Small Griefs

Older readers (if any) may remember that Robert Herrick, the cavalier clergyman and poet, made almost as many appearances in the early days of this blog as overnight sensation James Taylor.  As he (Herrick not Taylor) was, to the best of my knowledge, “outside cricket” he has rather faded from the scene recently, but I was reminded of him again when I came across a 1961 edition of “Selected Poems”, edited by John Hayward and published in the Penguin Poets series.

In particular the cover is rather lovely:




I’d suggest it would serve well as wallpaper (literal or virtual) or – with the festive season approaching – as wrapping paper or a slightly oblique greetings card.  As for the verse inside the card, how about this (some lines from Herrick’s “To his Mistresse objecting to him neither Toying or Talking“)?

Small griefs find tongues: Full Casques are ever found
To give (if any, yet) but little sound.
Deep waters noyse-lesse are; And this we know,
That chiding streams betray small depth below.

Not festive, perhaps, but possibly timely.

A Child’s Christmas In Manchester : by Neville Cardus

Anyone who feels disappointed by their Christmas presents this year might want to spare a thought for the numerous cricket-loving Dads of 1950 who must have been presented with a copy of “Second Innings” by Neville Cardus (“That’ll do for Dad, he loves his cricket“).  Picture them settling down in their favourite armchairs after lunch, sticking their feet up on the pouffe, lighting their pipes and looking forward to seeing what old Cardus might have to say about Freddie Brown’s prospects in Australia, only to be confronted by something like this:

“For though Kant was unable to go beyond appearance to reality, and though his metaphysic ended in an attempt to show us how we might know rather than what we actually do know, he at least spared us from a sort of conception of mind as a passive uncreative blank tablet – a sort of blotting-paper of consciousness upon which the external universe doodles away endlessly and without meaning.”

Scratched heads all round.  By 1950 Cardus was tiring a little of cricket and more tired of being stereotyped as a cricket-writer (a thing he’d never set out to be).  His own choice of title for the book had been (with a nod to Proust) “Remembered Pleasures”: his publishers had cannily insisted on a title suggestive of cricket, though the book contained little about the game.  At least there’s no danger of such misunderstandings occurring if you’ve stuck to the later works of Beefy, Bumble or Boycs.

Rather like a later “Autobiography“, “Second Innings” opens with a bravura passage recalling a South Manchester childhood, although, in the case of Cardus, distance seems to have lent enchantment.  This passage is about Christmas, and I wish you all an equally merry and enchanted one.

“Did it always snow at Christmas when we were young?  I cannot – or at least I will not – remember a “green” Christmas, a Christmas of rain and fog.  The covers of the illustrated papers and “double numbers” turned the nurseries into a glory of holly and robin redbreast and stage-coaches and rosy inns and coachmen with pleated capes.  Snow at Christmas makes the clock go back; it touches everything with a medieval spirit, mingling jollity and the grotesque; “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen,” and “The Mistletoe Bough”; brandy flames round the pudding and ghost stories.  If Christmas Eve should be white and moonlit, the star of mysticism may be seen to shine over even an English Christmas; for the English Christmas is one less of poetry than of hospitable prose.

When the meadows froze, people would hunt out skates, wooden and steel.  The rivers and ponds were a mass of moving figures.  At any moment the weight of them threatened a crash and splintering a crash and splintering of ice.  Elderly men with mufflers over their shoulders puffing out their breath on their cold air.  Boys and girls, young men escorting young ladies, their skates rhythmically keeping time.  Then there were “slides,” on which a perpetual queue proceeded in various attitudes of arrested animation; some dashing along legs wide asunder, others as though human volition were gone – once landed on a slide there was little freedom of the will and much stiffness at the knee-joints; and as you glided forward, or rather were subtly propelled, there was always the feeling that the person behind you was inimical, at least not friendly.

Then there was the Christmas pantomime.  I once stole out of my home and without a word to anybody went to an afternoon performance of Aladdin. I climbed to the high gallery of the Prince’s Theatre in Manchester, admission sixpence.  While I sat aloft, and looked down on all the kingdoms of the world, time came to a standstill, and outside the afternoon turned to night.  When the spell was broken I found myself in the Oxford Road; snow was falling.  There had been no warning of it when I entered the theatre.  I had sat in the gallery trembling with excitement as one scene was conjured from another.  All the time, behind my back, the snow had come to a great city on the eve of Christmas.

Under a clear moon and a sky pulsing with stars as through frosted, I was allowed to go out with the Christmas “Waits” singing carols.  I carried a lantern which was like a little castle; through a skin of parchment it was possible to see the wick inside burning steadily.  The glow thrown upward by the lamps set into relief the faces of the singers; and I remember an old man with a beard like Christ;  the shadows on his cheeks and under his eyes made me think of a picture I loved – Holman Hunt’s “the Light of the World.”

The snow was hard under our feet.  When we walked up the drives of houses in Victoria Park we made crunching noises, and we spoke in whispers as we prepared to sing outside the wide porches.  There was a desire amongst us that the carols should he heard inside the houses without warning: it was a seasonal ritual and greeting.

Christians awake!

Salute the happy morn!

After a while, long enough to suggest that our music had been listened to for its own sake, the door would open and we would be asked to come inside.  It was this way, I think, that I first saw a large gleaming dining-room and old furniture, a chandelier, a crackling log-fire and silver rimmed biscuit boxes.  Our host might easily have been little Max himself, not old yet, with many Christmases still before him.

I was not allowed to stay out all through the night and go with the “Waits” from house to house until Christmas morning dawned; but in my little bedroom at home I would wake very early and grope for my stocking and try to guess without lighting a candle what was in it.  And I would hear, from the distance, now near on the wind and now far, the cheerful greeting:

Hail smiling morn,

That tips the hills with gold!

Snow on the roofs, in the streets and in the fields beyond, a mantle of peacefulness.  Snow falling, and snow dissolving, as imperceptibly as all these happy hours were vanishing and passing on their way.  At no point could we detect a transition, increase or decrease; nobody ever saw the first or the last flake of a snowstorm.  So, like to the falling snow, in which no flake is different from another, or more laden with fate or change – so with our myriad lives and the whole of the world of those days.  Peace on earth, goodwill towards all men.  Where was the mortal heart that didn’t believe it?  No man envies another and would take his place; yet the years bow us here and there, and we are sent drifting on winds as wayward as those that swing the weather-vane on the snowy roof.”

“Leicestershire For The Championship?” : One From The Archives (Alas)

I’m afraid that – once again –  coverage of Leicestershire’s latest defeat, this time to Worcestershire by nine wickets, has had to be held over, due to lack of time and, frankly, inclination.  Predictions are always tricky things, but, although my horse Yorkshire have stumbled alarmingly in the closing straight of the Championship race, I’d say the figurative money I have on Leicestershire for the wooden spoon is already earning interest in the bank.

But my time at Grace Road on Saturday was not entirely wasted (it never is).  I satisfied most of my Christmas card needs with this year’s offering from the Friends of Grace Road shop (a charming snow scene of Grace Road, as always) and whiled away the time as Worcestershire crept largely unimpeded to the 187 they needed to win the match by flicking through some back copies of The Cricketer I’d picked up from the same source.

The Spring Annual of April 1983 particularly held my attention.  It was something of a shock to be reminded of quite how conservative the magazine was under the editorship of Christopher Martin-Jenkins.  The whole thing is such an instructive time capsule of the period that I intend to save it for some Wintry day to write about in full, but – as a taster – it contains an article entitled “A body blow to Apartheid : Michael Owen-Smith reviews the extraordinary success of the [rebel] West Indian tour“, a full page of poetry submitted by readers, “Geoffrey Beck: an unsung cricketing cleric” by Alan Gibson, a history of Rutland County Cricket Club and a piece by Guy Williatt (“former Captain of Derbyshire and Headmaster of Pocklington School”) arguing for the continuing relevance of independent schools to the health of English cricket.

Different times, but the biggest jolt – given the context in which I saw it – was delivered by coming across this (at the head of a piece in which “John Thicknesse of the New Standard previews the Schweppes County Championship”).

Leicestershire for the Championship

Predictions, as I say, are usually odorous (Leicestershire finished fourth that year) but I have to admire the self-confidence displayed here.  Perhaps for next year’s Christmas card Josh Cobb (our current Captain and the son of Russell, the man in the natty sheepskin and cloth cap combo to the right of the picture) could be persuaded to re-enact this scene, substituting “promotion” for “Champions”?

Close Of Play In The Close Season

I very rarely re-post anything I’ve written (in fact I rarely reread anything I’ve written).  I see the last time I did it was also at the time of Epiphany, so in a way it’s reassuring that I can put my current low-spiritedness and lack of inspiration down to seasonal fluctuation.

This piece originally appeared in the first week of January 2011, which appears to confirm my theory.  Unfortunately, it has a certain gloomy topicality.

Apart from poor CMJ, a few more to add to add to the list would be Alan Ross (died 14th February), Ian Peebles (28th February) and Tony Pawson (12th October last year).

Some of the morbidity of the piece was probably due to the bottle of whiskey that makes an appearance late on.  I never normally touch the stuff and this one was a Christmas present.  I’ve taken my own advice and steered clear of it ever since.


The first faint intimations of this year’s cricket season have started to appear.  The Wisden Cricketer have sent me a calendar, featuring “some of the U.K.’s loveliest cricket grounds” (including a couple – Sidmouth and Bourneville – I’ve visited).

Leicestershire have sent me last year’s annual report and financial statements – “The club has had what can only be described as a disastrous financial year …” – and the agenda for the A.G.M..  The main item is to “increase the age limit of a director from 70 to 80”.

But it is these little signs of life that keep us trudging on hopefully through the winter gloom.

E.V. Lucas put it nicely in his 1909 essay “Winter Solace”:

“During the snowstorm in which I write these lines the unlikelihood of the sun ever shining again on my flannelled limbs is peculiarly emphatic.  It is a nightmare that pursues me through every autumn, winter, and early spring.  How can there be another season?  one asks one’s self; just as years ago, a fortnight before the holidays, one was convinced that the end of the world must intervene.  The difference between the child and the middle-aged man merely is that the child expects the end of the world – the man the end of himself.”

This is no exaggeration – the fear of dying in the close season is a well founded one.  At the beginning of every season at the county ground there is usually at least one familiar face missing, and, at the end, some of those who wish each other “winter well”  know that they will not live to see the Spring.

The same appears to be true of more celebrated lovers of the game.  The following all handed in their dinner pails in the dead of winter:

John Arlott – 4th December

Brian Johnston – 5th January

E.W. Swanton – 22nd January

Neville Cardus – 28th February

On a brighter note, E.H.D. Sewell dedicated his last book “Well hit! Sir”  (1946) to “Professor de Wesselow and all the doctors and … Sisters and Nursing Staff of St Thomas’ Hospital who had charge of my case, without whom …” and, in it, said “if I am destined to see Donnelly scoring almost at will for Middlesex in 1947 I shall drink in the savour with as keen a relish as anybody”.  He was not destined to see Donnelly, who did not play for Middlesex in 1947, but he did live to see the classic and glorious season of Compton and Edrich.  He expired – presumably a happy man – on the 20th of September, three days after seeing Middlesex, as Champion County, defeat a Rest XI by an innings, with a century from Edrich and a double from Compton.

On a much darker one, R.C. Robertson-Glasgow cut his throat in a snowstorm on the 4th of March (if only he could have held out for another month …).

And then there’s Alan Gibson.  Gibson died on the 10th of April 1997, the first day of that season (if you count University matches).  But it’s doubtful how much interest he was taking by that stage.

But he too had once found the thought of a new season an incentive to pull himself out of a deep Slough of Despond.  In 1985 he had, according his son Anthony* drunk himself into the Bristol Royal Infirmary (at the rate of at least a  bottle of whiskey a day) and from there to “a hospital at Ham Green, which specialised in treating alcoholics on their last legs, as Alan was presumed to be.”  He perked up enough to write a piece, unpublished at the time, which begins –

“Christmas in hospital (this was my fourth) is always a bit of a struggle … The most relaxed of my four Christmases was in a mental home: a case, I suppose, of sancta simplicitas.”  

but moves on to regret that he had not received a game of OWZTHAT in his Christmas stocking and ends –

“For I am confident of being at the Bristol ground next summer and probably even more at Taunton and an assortment of other places as well.  When I came into hospital, I was quite unable to walk, even to rise from a chair.  But you should have seen me, after a week or two, dashing down the ward on my trusty zimmer.  On Christmas Eve I graduated to a stick; muttering proudly to myself, OWZTHAT?”

The moral being, I suppose, don’t lose interest in cricket and go easy on the whiskey.

A bottle of Whiskey, this afternoon

* Quotations from “Of Didcot and the Demon”, a collection of Gibson’s writings with reminiscences from Anthony Gibson, published last year by Fairfield Books (available here).

A Merry Christmas With Arthur ‘Ticker’ Mitchell : Cricket’s Hardest Man

(A tribute to Arthur ‘Ticker’ Mitchell, who died on Christmas Day in 1976.)

In the last edition of The Cricketer Ray Illingworth made some unsympathetic remarks about Graham Hick, suggesting the reason he was not a success in Test Cricket was

“A bit of a soft centre?  We dropped Hick after one game and he left the ground crying.  If anyone had done that in my time he’d have never been picked again.

But then Illingworth grew up in a hard school, too hard even for his tastes – the Yorkshire side of the early 1950s – as he described in his autobiography:

“Such was the hard, vicious school in which the young players of the fifties had to make their way … There was no mitigation, no excuse accepted, no allowances made.  You either swallowed the insults and gritted your teeth or you went to pieces … That [Fred Trueman’s ‘belief in his own invincibility‘] was what enabled him to hold his own amongst the ‘hard men’ in the side – Hutton, Appleyard, Wardle.  They got both barrels straight between the eyes in any dust-up with Fred and they were very hard men.”

But then, going back a little further, there was one man who even Hutton considered “A very hard man.  Too hard for me really” – Arthur ‘Ticker’ Mitchell.

Mitchell (invariably described as a dour, austere, ultra-defensive batsman) played for Yorkshire between 1922 and 1946, forming an opening partnership with Herbert Sutcliffe after the retirement of Percy Holmes, at which point the iron seems to have seriously entered his soul.

Sutcliffe (who admired him) described Mitchell as “”As grim and steadfast as a piece of stone from the Baildon Moors that are so near his home.”

Baildon Stone

Baildon Stone

Arthur Mitchell

Arthur Mitchell

Another contemporary, Bill Bowes remembered him as “Arthur ‘Ticker’ Mitchell who never gave a word of praise (and who once growled under his breath after Ellis Robinson had made a spectacular dive and caught the ball with his finger-tips, ‘Gerrup, th’art makin’ an exhibition o’ thiself.’)”

When Sutcliffe retired, he became a supportive senior partner to the young Hutton, as described by Wisden:

“Young Hutton was feeling in form, so after he had played himself in he decided to cut a rising ball outside the off-stump. He actually lay back and cut hard and swiftly, with cavalier flourish. He cut under the ball by an inch, and it sped bang into the wicket-keeper’s gloves. And Mitchell, from the other end of the pitch, looked hard at Hutton and said, “That’s no *******use!


“The young Len Hutton, early in his career found himself sent to field beside Mitchell in the slips. Normally the slips were reserved for elder statesmen, while the young did the running about. Mitchell eyed the future knight and master batsman critically. “What the **** are you doing here?” he asked.”

Mitchell played six Test Matches in all, though rather reluctantly …

“When Maurice Leyland withdrew through illness [lumbago] on the morning of the match, Brian Sellers drove the ten miles from Leeds to Baildon to fetch Mitchell, who was busy in his rose garden.  Mitchell relented only after much protest. ‘Oh all right then.  Just let me tidy mesen up a bit.'”

Nor was he any easier to please as a literary critic, as R.C. Robertson-Glasgow relates:

“In a north country tavern a few years ago Maurice Leyland was discussing cricket and cricket reporting with an eminent writer, famous for style and fancy, [Cardus] when Mitchell (A.) joined himself to the party and, after listening gravely for a few minutes, abruptly remarked: ‘Mr. ——, I don’t like tha writing; it’s too flowery.’  Whereat Leyland, displeased with this captious and personal turn in the conversation, retorted: ‘And that’s more than anyone would say of tha batting, Arthur.”

But it was as a coach that Mitchell left his lasting legacy, forming, on retirement,  good cop/bad cop partnerships with the genial Maurice Leyland and the avuncular Bill Bowes.  As Geoffrey Boycott describes it:

“Literally hundreds of Yorkshire boys feared Arthur Mitchell.  Many a lad went home on a dark winter’s night with tears in his eyes after a roasting. I can never remember Mitchell uttering one word of praise . . .You were really lucky if he restricted himself to: ‘Not too bad, but keep that left elbow up’.  Brian Close was so annoyed by his sharp-tongued criticism that he used to drive the ball as hard as he could straight back down the wicket in the hope, I am sure, of hitting Mitchell or at least making him jump out of the way. Mitchell never budged and never softened. Not even the best really satisfied him.

Another of his pupils, Fred Trueman, remembered him fondly as

“A man of dark intensity who seemed to growl rather than speak.  If the occasion arose when praise was called for, the words had to be forced from a sparse vocabulary.  The type of man who, if he went riding with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, would not noticeably enliven the party.”

Some hopefuls got even shorter shrift, such as spinner Don Wilson at his first net at Headingley:

“His first session with the bat, facing the full pace of Fred Trueman, did not impress the coach Arthur Mitchell: “What do you do for a living, lad? [He was a joiner] Well, forget the cricket. Fetch some bloody timber and board that end up.

and journalist Michael Parkinson, as a youth, received the same treatment

“‘Ticker’ Mitchell, the coach, watched me for five minutes and then said to Dickie Bird:  “Does this man have a job?” Dickie said: “Aye he’s a journalist.” To which Mitchell replied: “Tell him not to give it up.”

But surely ‘Ticker’ must have had a softer side, revealed, perhaps, when in the bosom of his family?  Not according to his son Alf, when asked what his father would have made of modern players kissing and hugging each other at the fall of a wicket:

“”Put it this way, I can’t even remember him kissing and hugging my mother.

The best I can do is that he was not entirely impervious to physical discomfort (J.M. Kilburn remembers him taking to the field at Fenners in April with his pyjamas on under two pairs of flannels) and this rather endearing description of him in an unaccustomed role from R.C. Robertson-Glasgow:

“I have seen him bowl a few overs very steadily, like a dutiful horse.  He is fond of imparting to common truths the air of mystery and novelty, and he once said to me: ‘To write on cricket tha wants to watch it..’ A curious reflection.”

Crusoe does, too, mention that

“In 1928 he topped the 1,000 and began further to assert himself by wearing his cap at an angle which could not have been wholly approved of by Wilfred Rhodes.”

But that’s about it.

But, in a way, I think Mitchell has had the last – well not laugh exactly – I don’t think he would have wanted that – but perhaps been vindicated.  After all, it was on his retirement as coach in 1970 that Yorkshire cricket started to go seriously down the drain, and I think if you listen to TMS for any length of time you can still hear a distinctive voice being channeled from beyond the grave …

“What kind of shot was that?  … I’m sorry, I’m just being honest …  That were roobish … My Granny could have played that wi’ a stick of rhoobarb …”

[Apart from the writers I have mentioned, some quotations taken from Chris Waters’s authorised biography of Fred Trueman, which I’d recommend to you if you’ve been given a Book Token for Christmas – Aurum Books, £8.99]