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— 14 January 2021

Paul Dyson looks at the four cricketers who played either their first or last games for Yorkshire in 1871.

Lord’s is a very special place at which to make a first-class debut but that is what Allen Hill found himself doing, at the mature age of 27, in Yorkshire’s opening match of the 1871 season against MCC. Although he took only two wickets it would not be long before he would make his mark because in his first county match, against Surrey at The Oval, he had outstanding match-figures of 12 for 54 (all bowled) and ended the campaign as the county’s top bowler in the averages with 19 wickets at an average of 10.57.

Born in 1843, Hill was one of several Yorkshire cricketers of his era who originated in the Huddersfield area, in his case Kirkheaton to be precise. He played for Lascelles Hall, Dewsbury and Savile, Mirfield and Burnley as well as the village of his birth before making his county debut. By 187 he was established as one of the best pace bowlers in England; although he had a short run-up, he was able to bowl at a fast-medium pace and was very accurate. From that season he took at least 100 wickets in each of three successive years and was rewarded with a place on the tour to Australia in the winter of 1876/77. Towards the end of that trip he was chosen to play in what became known as the firt two Test matches and had the honour of taking the first wicket as well as the first catch.

Hill had a 12-year career with Yorkshire during which time he played in several representative matches, these including 11 for the Players and 16 for the North. It was for the latter team that he took his career best of eight for 48 at Prince’s in 1874. He was the first bowler to take 500 wickets for Yorkshire, ending his career with 542 wickets at 12.91 in 140 matches and a total of 749 in all first-class cricket.

  • Although Hill’s final game for the county did not come until 1882 he began umpiring regularly from 1879 and continued in this task until 1891, including in one Test against Australia. He combined this role with coaching at Stoneyhurst College as well as in Lancashire where he settled, dying in Leyland in 1910 at the age of 66. His place in the history of both Yorkshire and England is assured; his ‘firsts’ can never be taken away from him.

    Yorkshire’s first county match of 1871 was against Surrey at Bramall Lane, Sheffield and marked the final appearance of Tom Brownhill who had not only represented Yorkshire CCC from its first season of 1863 but had also played for the unofficial ‘Yorkshire’ team in the previous year. Born in Ecclesfield, Sheffield in 1838 he played for several clubs in the area as well as Ossett and Holbeck.

    Unfortunately, Brownhill did not have a very prolific time in first-class cricket, his performance in his first match consisting of a king pair; despite the length of his career he played in only 11 games for Yorkshire and his top score was a mere 25. However, he was a brilliant cover-point fielder and this probably swayed his selection on certain occasions. From 1881 he had four seasons as a first-class umpire but never strayed far from his roots and died in Wortley, also in the Sheffield area, in 1915 aged 76.

    Another Yorkshire cricketer to make his final appearance for the county in 1871 was William Cuttell whose last game was in the Roses match at Old Trafford. As with Brownhill, his career also began in 1862, he also came from the Sheffield area, being born in the city in 1835, and he also played in a small number of matches but did have a little more success.

    The 1865 season was Cuttell’s best; he scored a half-century – the only one of his career – against Kent at Cranbrook but also took six for 48 against Surrey at The Oval, this being one of his two five-fors. Surprisingly, it is not known in which style he bowled so how he took his wickets remains a mystery. In his 14 matches for Yorkshire he scored 271 runs and took 36 wickets. The clubs for whom he played were spread far and wide through four counties and included Accrington, Scarborough, Darlington and Buxton. Also like Brownhill, the Sheffield area remained his home and he died in the city in 1896 at the age of 61.

    Finally comes the second and only other debutant of the 1871 season in the shape of a certain William Law. In that he was born in Rochdale, Lancashire, he was one of a number of ‘foreigners’ who played for Yorkshire during these early years. At the age of only 20 he made his debut in the final game of the campaign – against Nottinghamshire at Sheffield. This was not his first-class debut, however, as he had already played for Oxford University, as a freshman, earlier in the season. He continued to represent the institution for a further three years and was its captain in 1874.

    Law’s first significant cricket was for Harrow School, where he spent four years in the 1st XI. Upon graduating he entered the church and his first posting was in Beverley; most of his ecclesiastical career, though, was back in Harrow and such an impact did he make that he later had a pavilion there erected in his honour. His final posting was in Rotherham where he captained Rotherham CC. Although he was a successful medium-fast bowler in club cricket, this aspect of his play was not used so much in the first-class game.

    Law played in only four matches for Yorkshire, spread over three seasons, mainly through this period coinciding with his time at Oxford. He did not bowl and scored only 51 runs but, like Brownhill, was a brilliant fielder. For Oxford, however, he scored 331 runs and took 14 wickets in 17 matches. As an amateur he also played for the Gentlemen and I Zingari but in a total of 28 first-class matches never made a half-century. He died in Rotherham in 1892 but was aged only 41. An interesting person about more should be known.