‘Tyldesley v. The Australians’

Published: 2023
Pages: 24
Author: Tebay, Martin
Publisher: Red Rose Books
Rating: 4 stars

Published next Wednesday to coincide with the start of the Old Trafford Test the latest release from Red Rose Books sees Martin Tebay revisit one of his favourite subjects, JT Tyldesley, the great Lancashire professional batsman of the ‘Golden Age’.

For Tyldesley the measure of the man was the manner in which he scored his runs, rather than their quantity, at least at the highest level. He did record three Ashes centuries in 26 appearances against Australia, but an average of just over thirty, ten runs fewer than his overall First Class average, does not do his talent full  justice. But Tydesley was a stylist, and there was one other aspect of his batting that marked Tyldesley out, in the words of Neville Cardus; on a sticky wicket he was perhaps the very greatest batsman the world has ever known.

And in 1899 Tyldesley demonstrated his skill in adversity with absolute clarity. The Australians opened their tour match at Old Trafford with an innings of 267, thanks in large part to another great batsman on difficult wickets, Victor Trumper. It was more than enough to bring victory over the Red Rose, who subsided to all out totals of 102 and 81. Tyldesley played what was almost a lone hand, scoring 56 and 42. All-rounder Willis Cuttell, surely a man worthy of a Red Rose Books title in the future, crept into double figures in each innings, but extras apart no one else did.

The style of the monograph will be familiar to all who purchase regularly from Red Rose Books. An introduction to set the context of the match, followed by a detailed account of the play drawing heavily on contemporary reports, and finishing with an afterword on the subject of Tyldesley’s prowess on sticky wickets which, as it should, ends with the Cardus passage I have already quoted from.

The above said there are one or two things different this time. There are some helpful notes in the text from to time referencing interesting biographical snippets on some of the combatants, and the account of the match closes with a poem that originally appeared in Cricket: A Weekly Record of the Game, and a charming period piece it is too. Finally, and unusually for Red Rose in recent years, this one appears only in hardback form in an edition of just 25 copies. It is not cheap, £36 per copy including UK postage, but for those of us for whom John Tommy Tyldesley has always been a source of fascination, and who have given up all hope of a full biography ever appearing, it is an excellent purchase.

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