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County Points

George Hirst - was his 1906 double the best County Championship performance ever?

County Points

Some time ago I put together a series of articles entitled Series Points, in which I took the ICC Test team ratings points and divided the points used to calculate them between the individual players based on their performances with bat, ball and in the field. Wondering about applying a similar player ratings system domestically, I looked at a few seasons of the English County Championship using the same principles.

I looked at a sampling of seasons throughout the history of the championship, specifically 1891, 1906, 1928, 1947, 1970 and 1984. I picked these for several reasons – 1891 was the second season following the officially recognised start of the championship; 1906 was the year of Hirst’s great double; 1928 was Hammond’s best all-round year; 1947 was the year of COmpton and Edrich; 1970 was a couple of year’s after the introduction of overseas players; and 1984 was one of Hadlee’s greatest seasons in the county championship. The sample was limited as it takes a long time to analyse a full season. Actually, I originally started out with the intent of rating all championship seasons, so I’d done 1890, 1891 and 1892 before baulking at the level of work involved, so decided at that point to do a few seasons which particularly interested me.

The Method

How I calculated the individual county points was as follows. First, as teams in the earlier county championships tended to play varying numbers of games I standardised all teams performances to 24 games. The points allocated to each team is based on the championship points system in force before the split to two divisions after 1999, i.e. 12 points for a win and 4 for a draw; this enables a direct comparison across the years to be made. I then estimated the bonus points which would have been allocated to each team, to allow comparison to those years after bonus points were introduced; while this is not a trivial task, I felt it was necessary, rather than the other way around i.e. removing the bonus points from the later years, because the introduction of bonus points impacted the way teams played. Then the team’s points are divided between batting and “in-the-field”, followed by division of in-the-field points between bowling and fielding. Finally, these team discipline points are divided between the individual players to give a final county points value for each player, based on his complete all-round performance in the context of his team’s performance and in comparison to the championship averages for that season.

The point of all of this, as I mentioned earlier, is to be able to compare players directly irrespective of their main discipline, based on everything they do with bat, ball and in the field. A point to emphasise here is that the players are compared against their contemporaries, but the field levelling discussed above enables a comparison across the years.

Looking at the seasons

1891 was during the heyday of the great late-19th century Surrey team, and the highest points scorers in the championship that year were both Surrey players, George Lohmann and Bobby Abel. Lohmann, however, was miles ahead of the pack:-

100 GA Lohmann (Surrey)
62 R Abel (Surrey)
61 SMJ Woods (Somerset)
57 AW Mold (Lancs)
56 JT Hearne (Middlesex)

Most of Lohmann’s value was from his championship-leading 132 wickets at 10.65 but he was no slouch with the bat or in the field, scoring 579 runs at a shade over 26 and snagging 16 catches; his respective discipline points were 30 (batting), 5 (fielding) and 65 (bowling). Notably WG Grace was Gloucestershire’s highest rated player at the age of 43. Looking at individual points as a percentage of team points, the order is slightly different though Lohmann still leads:-

26.74% Lohmann
25.74% Woods
25.23% G Bean (Sussex)
21.63% R Peel (Yorks)
20.51% Hearne

Lohmann had also been well ahead of the pack in 1890, with 90 points against the next best of 66 by Bobby Peel.

In 1906 George Hirst achieved the double of 2,000 runs and 200 wickets in a championship season, never since matched or even approached. However, the title that year was won by Kent with Yorkshire second, based on a somewhat convoluted method of 1 point for a win, -1 for a loss, with the final positions determined by the total points as a percentage of the completed games (rather than simply total points as it had been in 1891). Final individual points were:-

90 GH Hirst (Yorks)
61 JR Gunn (Notts)
58 TW Hayward (Surrey)
57 GJ Thompson (Northants)
57 W Rhodes (Yorks)

Hirst’s points split is 30-4-56. So why is Hirst’s points total lower than Lohmann’s from 1891? Cricket was a different game in 1906 as compared to 1891, prior to the Golden Age – the average runs per team per game was around 250 in Lohmann’s time, around 400 in Hirst’s. The first thing to consider is that Hirst’s famous double was achieved in all of his First-Class matches; exclusively in the championship he scored 1771 runs, held 19 catches and took 182 wickets, still phenomenal totals admittedly. Secondly, more games were played in 1906 – Hirst played in all 28 of Yorkshire’s games that season, whereas Lohmann by comparison played in 16; if we extrapolate both performances to 24 games we have 869 runs (13% of team total), 24 catches (12%) and 198 wickets (47%) for Lohmann, while for Hirst we have 1518 runs (8% of team total), 16 catches (8%) and 156 wickets (37%). Finally, these totals are placed in a team and championship context and based on the total championship points allocated to the team; Surrey as a team had 372 total points, divided 203 for batting, 40 for fielding and 169 for bowling, whereas Yorkshire had 322 points, divided 123 for batting, 47 for fielding and 152 for bowling. As can be seen, Lohmann had a higher proportion of his team’s totals in all three disciplines than did Hirst; in summary, what I’m saying here is that Lohmann’s season, taken in the context of his team and the championship of the time, is by this measure seen to be superior to Hirst’s (though not in terms of percentage of team total).

In terms of percentage of total team points, the top five for 1906 looks like this:-

30.48% Thompson
27.95% Hirst
22.46% EG Arnold (Worcs)
22.34% Gunn
21.80% EG Dennett (Gloucs)

From this perspective, Thompson was more valuable to his team even than Hirst. Thompson’s performances as a percentage of his team’s totals were comparable to Lohmann’s in 1891, with 13% (runs), 9% (catches) and 46% (wickets), but Northants finished only eleventh and so had fewer team points to divide up. That is, Lohmann was as dominant but for a much more successful side.

1928 was a very successful year personally for Walter Hammond, possibly his best ever from an all-round perspective. Nonetheless, Gloucestershire were fifth as Lancashire went undefeated in 30 games. In the county championship, Hammond finished with 2474 runs at 82.46, took an astonishing 58 catches and threw in 63 wickets for good measure. The top five points-wise looked like this:-

70 WR Hammond (Gloucs)
52 VWC Jupp (Northants)
51 EH Hendren (Middlesex)
51 EA McDonald (Lancs)
49 CP Mead (Hants)

Note Hammond’s total compared to the top players of the previous years – I believe what we’re seeing here is the effect of the gradually improving standard of all players – despite Hammond’s heroics he is not so far ahead of the pack as his figures would suggest. Looking at Jupp for example, in two fewer games he was able to manage 1407 runs and 122 wickets.

Percentage-wise the top five were:-

27.67% Hammond
25.12% Jupp
25.00% CF Root (Worcs)
23.24% JC White (Somerset)
22.37% Mead

I’m sure 1947 needs no introduction to our more historically-minded CW readers; the summer of Dennis Compton’s record season is well documented, with 3816 runs and 18 centuries. Looking at performances exclusively in the championship however, Compton was actually outscored by his colleagues Bill Edrich and, perhaps less well-known, Jack Robertson, though Compton played in fewer games, but with those three individual performances it will come as no surprise that Middlesex won the championship handily. When we look at individual county points, however none of the victorious Middlesex players finished on top:-

69 TWJ Goddard (Gloucs)
57 DCS Compton (Middlesex)
57 WJ Edrich (Middlesex)
46 J Hardstaff (Notts)
46 GH Pope (Derbs)

So in fact off-spinner Tom Goddard, with 206 championship wickets, takes top spot – Gloucestershire had far more points for bowling than any other team, i.e. the success of the second-placed Gloucestershire team was more due to their bowling than batting. Goddard’s 206 wickets represents 45% of Gloucestershire’s total wickets.

In terms of percentage of team totals, the top five were:-

20.67% R Howorth (Worcs)
20.35% Goddard
20.35% Hardstaff
18.37% VE Jackson (Leics)
17.35% JE Walsh (Leics)

So in fact Worcestershire’s Dick Howorth proved to be most valuable to his team in that golden summer, doing the double of 1000 runs and 100 wickets; Compton by comparison accounted for 16.33% of Middlesex’s points total.

1970 was chosen because this was a couple of years after the first introduction of overseas players and I wanted to assess the impact they were having on the County Championship. The top overseas players gracing the championship that year included Glenn Turner, Asif Iqbal, Mushtaq Mohammad, Rohan Kanhai, Barry Richards, Cive Lloyd and Garry Sobers. Asif Iqbal was representing Kent, the champions that year and his performances certainly had a great deal to do with their success:-

51 GM Turner (Worcs)
42 MA Buss (Sussex)
42 MH Denness (Kent)
39 Asif Iqbal (Kent)
39 B Wood (Lancs)

New Zealand’s Glenn Turner was the year’s outstanding player, while Mike Buss and Mike Denness shared the accolade as the best home-grown players. On a per-game basis, however, the best player that year was Warwickshire’s Rohan Kanhai with 1500 runs, scoring more points than any other Warwickshire player while appearing in only 14 of the 24 scheduled games. Again, we can see the further levelling of the quality of players such that only Turner managed more than 50 county points.

In terms of percentage of team points, the top five were:-

18.35% Turner
17.27% TW Cartwright (Somerset)
16.36% RT Virgin (Somerset)
16.34% Buss
15.83% MJ Harris (Notts)

Turner, with 2346 championship runs was clearly the top player overall, both from a championship and team perspective.

Finally, 1984 was considered – covered wickets, decades of one day competitions gradually modifying playing techniques and all but Yorkshire now strengthened by overseas players. Essex were champions for the second year in succession and third time in six years, with Hadlee’s Nottinghamshire second. As mentioned earlier this was one of Hadlee’s greatest years in the county championship:-

67 GA Gooch (Essex)
64 RJ Hadlee (Notts)
45 MW Gatting (Middlesex)
43 MD Crowe (Somerset)
42 VJ Marks (Somerset)

While Hadlee was miles ahead of the pack as a result of more than 1100 runs and 117 wickets, Gooch scored even higher, with almost 2200 runs and even chipping in with 36 wickets. Gooch was also ahead from a percentage viewpoint, as the same five players were featured:-

20.06% Gooch
19.57% Hadlee
17.32% Crowe
16.61% Gatting
16.54% Marks

We can see that by now that the top players do not dominate to nearly the same degree as in earlier years – post-war the top players are barely accounting for 20% of their team’s overall total, whereas in earlier times the top players were approaching 30%.

With time, all seasons of all domestic seasons all over the world could be analysed in this way. For example for the season 1984, I also looked at the JPS league. There are fewer points to divide amongst the players but the results are similar to the county championship:-

11 Gooch
10 Hadlee
9 DA Reeve (Sussex)
9 DN Patel (Worcs)
8 Gatting
8 KS McEwan (Essex)

Combining the points, the top players for 1984 were as follows:-

78 Gooch
74 Hadlee
54 Gatting
49 Crowe
47 P Willey (Leics)

There are also the knockout competitions to think about, but that’s it for now – I’m off to get a life. Maybe.

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