A Cricket Calypso

Cyril Washbrook and the West Indies cricket tour of 1950

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Cyril Washbrook and the Cricket Calypso

picThe following is a brief biopic of a childhood cricketing hero and some highlights of his career including his involvement in the historic test series with the West Indies in 1950. The second match at Lords being later immortalised in the celebratory Cricket Calypso, a song which became a firm favourite, filling the airwaves for the rest of the decade, even though it did recall bad memories for England fans. I saw Cyril Washbrook play for Lancashire in Southport, against who I can’t remember, but I was excited and enthralled by his skill with the bat and his swashbuckling, aggressive but stylish technique as he dealt with deliveries from even the fastest bowlers. Following his exploits on the radio and later on TV, listening to pearls of wisdom from E.W. Swanton, John Arlott, Brian Johnston, Dennis Compton and Peter West, I became his biggest fan and Washbrook remained one of England’s finest cricketers throughout the fifties, with his own peculiar exciting and most entertaining style.

The West Indies cricket team toured England in the 1950 season to play a series of four Test Matches, a series which, to almost every commentator’s surprise they were to win in the most emphatic fashion. Although coming out on top in the first test at Old Trafford, with the exception of a couple of individual players England were looking rather lacklustre and mediocre, the visitors much more creative with strength in depth in all three disciplines. Prospects for England were not looking good. Indeed, the second test at Lord’s saw the West Indies team, now acclimatised and showing their full potential going on to achieve a magnificent win. A victory made all the more memorable in that it was the first time a West Indies team had won a Test match in England. With a mighty batting line up and two seemingly unplayable bowlers in Sonny Ramadhin (5 wickets for 66 runs and 6 for 86) and Alf Valentine (4 for 48 and 3 for 79), this West Indian team gave the nation back home much to celebrate, and the match was later commemorated and immortalised in the form of the “Cricket Calypso”. From this break through West Indies dominated the whole series achieving three victories in total back to back. As a result of this remarkable series of tests and West Indies achievement Ramadhin, Valentine, Worrell and Weekes were named Cricketer of the Year along with Godfrey Evans the England wicket keeper.

West Indies
John Goddard (C) (Barbados)
Robert Christiani (Guyana)
Gerry Gomez (Trinidad & Tobago)
Hines Johnson (Jamaica)
Prior Jones (Trinidad & Tobago)
Roy Marshall (Barbados)
Lance Pierre (Trinidad & Tobago)
Allan Rae (Jamaica)
Sonny Ramadhin (Trinidad & Tobago)
Jeff Stollmeyer (Trinidad & Tobago)
Kenneth Trestrail (Trinidad & Tobago)
Alf Valentine (Jamaica)
Clyde Walcott (W) (Barbados)
Everton Weekes (Barbados)
Cecil Williams (Barbados)
Frank Worrell (Barbados)

England
Len Hutton (Yorkshire)
Cyril Washbrook (Lancashire)
Bill Edrich (Middlesex)
Hubert Doggart (Sussex)
Gilbert Parkhouse (Glamorgan)
Norman Yardley (C) (Yorkshire)
Godfrey Evans (W) (Kent)
Roly Jenkins (Worcestershire)
Johnny Wardle (Yorkshire)
Alec Bedser (Surrey)
Bob Berry (Lancs, Worcs, Derbys)
Reg Simpson (Nottingham)
Tom Dollery (Warwickshire)
Trevor Bailey (Essex)
Jim Laker (Surrey)
Eric Hollies (Warwickshire)
John Dewes (Middlesex)
Doug Insole (Essex)
Derek Shackleton (Hampshire)
David Shepherd (Sussex)
Denis Compton (Middlesex)
Freddie Brown (Northamptonshire)
Arthur McIntyre (Surrey)
Malcolm Hilton (Lancashire)
Doug Wright (Kent)

First Test - Old Trafford (England win by 202 runs)
8–12 June 1950
England 1st: 312 - Godfrey Evans 104 - Alf Valentine 8/104
W/Indies 1st: 215 - Everton Weekes 52 - Bob Berry 5/63
England 2nd: 288 - Bill Edrich 71 - Alf Valentine 3/100
W/Indies 2nd: 183 - Jeff Stollmeyer 78 - Eric Hollies 5/63

Second Test - Lords (West Indies win by 326 runs)
24–29 June 1950
W/Indies 1st: 326 - Allan Rae 106 - Roly Jenkins 5/116
England 1st: 151 - Cyril Washbrook 36 - Sonny Ramadhin 5/66
W/Indies 2nd: 425/6d - Clyde Walcott 168 (n/o) - Roly Jenkins 4/174
England 2nd: 274 - Cyril Washbrook 114 - Sonny Ramadhin 6/86

Third Test - Trent Bridge (West Indies win by 10 wickets)
20–25 July 1950
England 1st: 223 - Derek Shackleton 42 - Frank Worrell 3/40
W/Indies 1st: 558 - Frank Worrell 261 - Alec Bedser 5/127
England 2nd: 436 - C Washbrook 102 - S Ramadhin 5/135
W/Indies 2nd: 103/0 - JB Stollmeyer 52(n/o)

Fourth Test - The Oval (West Indies win by an innings and 56 runs)
12–16 August 1950
W/Indies 1st: 503 - Frank Worrell 138 - Doug Wright 5/141
England 1st: 344 - Len Hutton 202 (n/o) - John Goddard 4/25
England 2nd: 103 (f/on ) - David Sheppard 29 - Alf Valentine 6/39

In the famous second test match England were bowled out for 151 in their first innings and found themselves having to make six hundred runs in the second at the start of day four, when West Indies declared on 425. Despite a determined, patient and plucky five hour session at the crease Washbrook’s valiant efforts were not sufficient to save the match and England from total humiliation. After scoring 114 runs, he was dismissed with the score standing at 228, England finally all out for 274. Perhaps the home team, not in the best of form didn’t cover themselves in glory, but this shouldn’t take anything away from what was arguably one of the best West Indian touring sides to come to our shores. I am happy to say, alongside his own team’s brilliant performance, Washbrook’s second innings century stand against all the odds was recognised by the composer of the Cricket Calypso immortalising his name with many others in the lyrics. A remarkable tribute to a remarkable West Indian team and to an outstandingly talented and entertaining English cricketer.

picCyril Washbrook was an outstanding opening batsman for Lancashire and England. His playing career spanning twenty six years between 1933 and 1959. During this time forming formidable opening partnerships with Winston Place for Lancashire and with Len Hutton in international test matches. He and Hutton opened the batting for England in thirty one test matches, and put on a score of 359 together in Johannesburg in the 1948-49 series, an England test record. Washbrook was born in Clitheroe, Lancashire but moved to Shropshire at the age of twelve where he attended Bridgnorth Grammar School. A good all round sportsman, at eighteen he was already playing for Warwickshire as an amateur and planning to go to Birmingham University, however when his application failed, Washbrook took up a professional contract with Lancashire at Old Trafford and never looked back. Playing his first match in the second team, he was an instant success, scoring 202 not out and made his debut for the first team shortly after. Both home and away, in successive matches the young Washbrook continued to excite the crowds and was hailed as a remarkable new talent by the top commentators of the day. He soon became an established member of the first team and played his first international in 1937. After spending the war years as a physical training instructor in the Royal Air Force, he returned to first class cricket, going on to become Lancashire's finest post-war batsman and first choice innings opener. Over his long career his batting average in first class cricket exceeded forty two runs per innings including seventy six centuries. A rather shy man but with a good sense of duty and purpose, he was made team captain in the early fifties, a position he was proud to accept but, like many others before and since, he was sure it had a negative effect on his performance with the bat. You can’t help feeling he would have preferred to continue as opening bat. By the time Washbrook finished playing in 1959, he had taken part in 500 Lancashire county games making more than 34000 runs. An illustrious career, which included 37 test matches with six centuries and 2,569 runs for an average of 42.81. He toured Australia twice, but one of his proudest moments was an innings of 98 runs against Australia at Headingley after being recalled to the England side at the age of forty one after a gap of six years. By this time he was already a test selector and continued to captain Lancashire until his retirement from cricket in 1959. He subsequently went into business and served on the county committee from 1961 until 1988, after which he was president for two years. He died in Sale, Cheshire April 1999 aged 84.

Footnote: In writing this tribute to Cyril Washbrook I discovered a connection between this story and the Thicknesse family of Beech Hill Hall, Wigan, referenced (via the link) in the history of “Wigan Old Bank”. Both Washbrook and the Thicknesses have connections with Clitheroe in Lancashire and Bridgnorth Grammar School in Shropshire. Ralph Anthony Thicknesse was MP for Wigan (1847 - 1854) when his son and heir, also Ralph Anthony was tragically drowned along with his cousin Thomas Woodcock in Lake Windermere whilst on holiday in 1853. When Ralph Anthony Thicknesse senior died in 1854, his estate passed to his only remaining daughter Ann. When Ann married Francis Henry Coldwell (1829 - 1921 educated at Bridgnorth Grammar School and Brasenose College, Oxford), a clergyman in Clitheroe in 1855, her husband took the family crest and the name Thicknesse to ensure it continued after Ralph died. In later life Francis Henry Thicknesse became bishop of Leicester, he and Washbrook are listed as old boys of Bridgnorth Grammar School.

Palfreyman, June 6 2020

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