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Little Eddie

Eddie Paynter was born in 1901 in the wonderfully named town of Oswaldtwistle in Central Lancashire. His father worked at the brickworks in Enfield, five miles away, and to do so he had to walk to and from work every day. Unsurprisingly in those circumstances the family moved to Enfield soon after Eddie was born. At 13 he left school and followed his father into the brickworks where he soon had an accident which left him without the tips of the first and second fingers of his right hand. A left handed batsman and right arm bowler the accident spelt the end of any ambitions that Paynter had of becoming a spin bowler but, thankfully, it did not trouble him when he had a bat in his hand.

Paynter’s father was the captain of the second eleven at the Enfield Cricket Club who played in the prestigious Lancashire League. The family connection with the club was reinforced by his older brother, a promising left arm pace bowler who tragically lost his life in the Great War. Once peace returned in 1919 young Eddie was a member of the club’s first eleven and, one season at nearby Barrow apart, where he played in the Ribblesdale League, he stayed with Enfield until he accepted the offer of a professional contract at Lancashire for the 1926 season.

The Eddie Paynter who joined Lancashire was a diminutive left handed batsman, just 5′ 4” in height with a fighting weight of ten stones. He was far from orthodox in his approach and his future England teammate, Bob Wyatt, later described him as not a good model for youngsters to watch, before going on to say that he had bags of courage and determination …..and was extremely quick on his feet.

In a rather less prosaic style “Crusoe” Robertson-Glasgow described his batting thus; it was as if an eccentric Continental skater had whizzed into a school of English-style exponents and encircled their private orange with outlandish figures, before describing his signature shot, a sort of pull-drive between mid-wicket and mid-on executed with both feet off the ground, and generally worth four runs, much like a golfer losing his temper on the tee.

Perhaps it was because of his technical issues that Paynter started so slowly. Bearing in mind that he was already 24 when he signed for Lancashire he made an inauspicious debut in 1926. The following year he played just once for the first eleven and in 1928 not at all, although it should be borne in mind that the county were very strong then, and despite the weather won the Championship in each of those three seasons. He did have plenty of time with the first team however as he was, in the days when fielding was a much neglected skill, one of the very best. Fast, agile and with a safe pair of hands and an excellent throwing arm he was just the sort of man that any captain would be keen on being able to call on.

There might have been a breakthrough in 1929 as the aging Lancashire side started to creak, and Paynter got eight starts for the first team, but a tally of exactly 100 runs must have made even he wonder whether, at 28, he ought not to be looking elsewhere for employment. After losing out to Nottinghamshire in 1929 Lancashire won the title again in 1930 and there were 19 starts this time for Paynter, but just three fifties and an average of 22.79 did not suggest that the 29 year old had a big future in front of him.

The following year, on 9 July 1931, Paynter recorded his first century for Lancashire and, just to show it wasn’t a fluke, he got another in his very next match, significantly against the touring New Zealanders. Three weeks later it was his second ever “Roses” match, at Sheffield, and in the face of Yorkshire’s huge first innings score of 484-7 declared it was two unbeaten innings from Paynter, 45 and 87, that enabled Lancashire to come out of the game with a draw. Despite local man George Brooking writing in The Cricketer that Paynter was without doubt one of the finds of the season, and that he deserved a Test place for fielding alone it was still a surprise to most when he was selected to open England’s batting with Herbert Sutcliffe in the final Test, although sadly for Paynter he made only 3 in his only innings in a match that was ruined by rain.

Having got his 1,000 runs in 1931 Paynter broke 2,000 in 1932 and, to complete a remarkable transformation, ended the summer by being one of two names, that of Bill Bowes being the other, added to the touring party of 15 that had already been named for that winter’s Ashes. It is fair to assume that skipper Douglas Jardine had a big say in those two selections, and it is likely that he bore in mind in Paynter’s case the events of the Whitsun “Roses” battle at Bradford that May, as well as his observations from 22 yards away later in the summer.

The Bradford game began with the pitch damp and soft and the sky overcast. Frank Watson, one of the great stonewallers of the game opened the innings with Paynter as Lancashire, in traditional fashion, crawled to 11-0 at lunch after a delayed start had restricted play to 45 minutes. Then the sun came out, and as Neville Cardus wrote Some of us, who knew that the wicket with the warm sunshine on it would become treacherous, gave Lancashire 120 all out at most.

Paynter must have agreed, as almost immediately after the resumption he danced yards down the wicket and lofted a no doubt startled Hedley Verity over the rope for six. In Cardus’ words Paynter proceeded to play the most original, the most imaginative, the most courageous, and the most belligerent innings seen in a Roses match since the war.

Altogether the innings contained 5 sixes (all from Verity’s bowling) and 17 fours. There were 152 runs all told, 30 of them coming in one three over spell and the last fifty in just half an hour. When Paynter was finally dismissed, stumped after taking one too many liberty with Verity, the score was 209-6, so he had scored all but 75% of the total.

Lancashire were all out in the last over of the first day for 263. The second day followed exactly the same pattern, with the Yorkshire batsmen being greeted by a sodden wicket, a late start and then sunshine. Their first five batsmen were all internationals, including great men like Sutcliffe and Maurice Leyland, but they had no Eddie Paynter, and were all out for 46, followed on, and next day lost by an innings.

As for the impact of the innings it is worth quoting Cardus at length, from which it is not difficult to see what appealed to Jardine; He did not hit blindly ……… for the most part his defensive play was as good as Sutcliffe’s; on Saturday between half past three and half past four, when the wicket really was bad, he defended with the utmost regard for first principles, his head down, his feet near the line of the ball, his bat positive not negative, and his eye watchful. And his explanation for the fury later unleashed, against an attack containing four Test bowlers including Verity and Bowes, was he merely punished the loose bowling – having made it loose by swift and resourceful footwork.

There was just one Test in 1932, India’s first ever, at Lord’s at the end of June. England’s captain was Jardine and Paynter was selected, this time to bat in his more usual place in the middle order. There was a sensational start as the unfancied Indians had Sutcliffe, Percy Holmes and Frank Woolley back in the pavilion with just 19 on the board. There was a period of rebuilding by Jardine and Walter Hammond before Paynter added 48 with his captain. He couldn’t time the ball and was clearly uncomfortable, and scored only 14, but Jardine would have been impressed by the manner in which he manfully stuck to his task.

In the end England took a first innings lead of 70, but were struggling again in their second dig at 67-4 when Paynter joined his captain again. They put on 89 this time. Paynter found the fluency so lacking in his first knock, comfortably outscoring his skipper with a fine 54, and helping to put the game beyond India. His was not a headline performance, the main plaudits going to Jardine for his 79 and 85*, and to Mohammad Nissar, Amar Singh and Jahangir Khan for their bowling, but the verdict of The Cricketer was Paynter showed good nerve and judgment at a critical moment and is deserving of all praise

Paynter began the famous “Bodyline” tour as England’s reserve batsman and, had it not been for the Nawab of Pataudi’s fall from grace in Jardine’s eyes he might well have spent the entire tour on the sidelines with Maurice Tate, Freddie Brown and fellow Lancastrian George Duckworth. As it was in the second Test, lost by England as for the only time Jardine tried a four-pronged pace attack, Pataudi refused to field in the leg trap, and after that he was out of the Test side. There was only one up-country game between the second and third Tests, and Paynter failed in that, but as the only specialist batsman in reserve he was in for what some later described as the “Battle of Adelaide”, the match where Woodfull and Oldfield were hurt after being hit by Larwood’s thunderbolts.

Before the crisis blows were struck by Larwood Jardine won the toss and chose to bat. England were quickly in trouble at 30-4 until first Leyland and Wyatt, and then after another collapse Paynter and Verity, repaired the damage. Paynter contributed 77 to England’s distinctly ordinary looking 341. The first innings did however prove to be more than sufficient as Australia twice batted poorly and in their second innings England amassed 412. Paynter contributed just an unbeaten single to that second innings total. He had collided with the perimeter whilst fielding and damaged his ankle, and came in at number ten.

For most with more than a passing interest in the history of the game it is the fourth Test of the 1932/33 series for which Paynter is best remembered. Late on the third day, having been hospitalised with tonsilitis, he appeared at the ground having been helped to leave his hospital bed by Bill Voce, who was out of the match due to illness. England were in trouble but Paynter somehow got through the last part of the day and then, despite still being sufficiently unwell to have spent another night in hospital, he went on next morning to complete a fine 83. Paynter’s efforts gained England a slender lead which, after an Australian second innings collapse, enabled England to win with something to spare, Paynter scoring the winning runs with a six off Tiger O’Reilly.

It was towards the end of the second day that Paynter first told Jardine he felt unwell. He said that Jardine immediately insisted on calling the doctor who sent him off to hospital. He then went on to say that it was only whilst listening to the commentary with Voce, and seeing England’s chances receding with every dismissal, that he decided to “break out” of the hospital. Wyatt tells a different story. According to him Jardine was livid, convinced that Paynter must have known he was unwell before the game started, and that he sent Voce to get him from the hospital to the ground so that he could bat come what may. The truth perhaps lays somewhere between the two, but given that Voce and Paynter were room-mates, it must be likely that Voce was the source of the infection, and the possibility of Paynter catching the chill Voce had must have been a concern that occurred to a man as thorough as Jardine. He didn’t however have a lot of choice, as he was hardly likely to want to play Pataudi, his only batting option.

After a minor role in the fifth Test victory Paynter failed in the two Tests in New Zealand that followed and a disppointing start to the 1933 season meant that he lost his England place. In fact he seldom showed his true form that summer, and a big hundred against a weak Cambridge University side was the only time he reached three figures. The following season was a little better, and was boosted by another title for Lancashire, their last until the 77 years of hurt ended in 2011, but 1935 saw him marking time, his England place long gone.

The 1936 season dawned with Paynter rising 35 but rather than being in decline he showed that in fact he was entering his prime. There were, for only the second time in his career, more than 2,000 runs and with a team to be picked for Australia at the end of the season he had much to look forward to. It is ironic that not having expected the call in 1932/33 he got it, whereas in 1936/37 he thought he would and didn’t. The Lancashire Chairman Tommy Higson was one of the selectors and as good as tipped Paynter the wink before he left for the meeting that would decide the last place (Surrey’s Erroll Holmes had dropped out leaving a vacancy) that he would be travelling down under again. Paynter was bitterly disappointed that Wyatt got the nod, and understandably so as Wyatt’s season had involved 800 fewer runs and an average 13 points inferior, but perhaps it was always going to happen. Holmes was the only amateur batsman in the original selection, and Wyatt was an amateur.

Had Paynter gone to Australia with Gubby Allen’s side then it may have been that the Ashes would, the way the series turned out, have been regained. Paynter reacted to his personal disappointment in the best possible way by scoring 2,904 runs at over 53 per innings in 1937. Had injury not closed his season a game early he might well have broken the 3,000 barrier. Weight of runs got his Test place back too, although after a disappointing match in the second Test against New Zealand he was dropped again for the third.

Next summer the 36 year old showed that he was better than ever as he carried on where he had left off. There were not quite so many runs, but his average was up to 58.50 and there were 8 centuries. Two of them were doubles, and an unbeaten 216 came in the first Test as England piled up a huge score. A big win appeared on the cards at one stage, although Australia comfortably saved the game in the end, thanks mainly to Stan McCabe playing one of the greatest of all Test innings.

In the second Test of 1938 Paynter scored 99 and 43. In the first innings he entered the fray at a time of crisis, Charles Barnett, Len Hutton and Bill Edrich back in the dressing room with just 31 on the board. Paynter and skipper Hammond then added 222 to haul England back into the game. The runs had come in good time and, for once, Paynter was acutely conscious of his score as he moved through the 90s in singles. When he got to 99 he went to turn O’Reilly to fine leg, missed the ball and was given out lbw. It sounds from that like there must have been a question, given the shot Paynter was attempting, as to whether the ball was on its way down the leg side, but he never questioned the decision, so perhaps for once he had failed to pick the Tiger’s googly. In Australia’s second innings in the match Les Ames was injured and unable to take his place behind the stumps. Paynter, whose quality as a fieldsman meant that he had seldom previously had the chance to keep wicket, was first to volunteer for the job. Hammond let him have it, and in an innings of 204-6 he conceded just five byes, and held a catch.

The third Test was washed out without a ball bowled, and after a couple of modest contributions in the fourth the timeless fifth Test arrived. Hammond made it clear to his side on winning the toss that they were going to bat for as long as they could, and Paynter sat with Denis Compton for many hours watching Hutton bat remorselessly on. Eventually he warned the young Compo that the time they had both spent sat in the shade of the pavilion would mean that, once they walked out into the glare of the middle, batting would be so problematic that they would not score more than ten runs between them. Paynter went in at 546-3, and Compton came back at 555-5 – they had scored just a single between them.

Paynter’s 37th birthday was spent en route to South Africa for what was to prove the last England tour before the war, and which culminated in the now notorious timeless Test at Durban that was abandoned as a draw after ten days play. It was a series of almost constant success for Paynter whose scores were 117, 100, 1, 243, 40, 15, 62 and 75 for an average of 81.62.

West Indies were England’s visitors for the last summer of cricket of the inter-war period, and although Paynter would very likely have got to 2,000 runs again if the season had not been slightly curtailed his performances in the first two Tests did not catch the eye and his Test career ended as it had begun, tamely at Old Trafford, this time with scores of 9 and 0. That disappointment was however more than made up for when he received the ultimate accolade that was available to a professional cricketer in that era, the captaincy of the Players at Lord’s for the annual fixture against the Gentlemen.

Although First Class cricket in England was mothballed for the duration of the Second World War the club game continued and, buoyed by the availability of many County and Test players, the Northern Leagues thrived. Paynter’s work during the war was back at the brickworks in Enfield, utilising his old skills for the production of tank linings, but he also secured an appointment as Keighley’s professional in the Bradford League. With the League’s rules being changed to allow clubs to play up to four professionals the standard was higher than it had ever been but in 1940 Paynter broke the League’s record aggregate, and two years later, with a mark of 138.55, its record average too.

During the winter of 1945 the First Class Counties started to prepare for the resumption of the County Championship and set about the tricky task of reassembling their squads and assessing their playing strength. There had been a hurriedly arranged First Class friendly between the old Roses rivals in August 1945. The game was drawn, but Paynter scored 10 and 47* to show that he still had the technique, fitness and appetite for the county game. During the winter Lancashire then summoned him for a meeting with the committee. Despite his 44 years Paynter’s prodigious success for Keighley and in the recent friendly meant that he was expecting a call to return to the colours of the Red Rose for 1946. In fact all the committee wanted to discuss was the fact that Paynter had missed out on his benefit during the war, and they invited him to suggest a figure that should be made available to him as a result by way of a testimonial payment.

In his ghosted 1962 autobiography Paynter clearly still felt irked about this. He considered the most he could realistically suggest was GBP1,000, a sum that the committee seem to have readily agreed to. Paynter appears to have felt that he should not have been asked to suggest a figure, or that having done so a larger figure should have been offered. It was however just after the war. The club had to all intents and purposes not been functioning for more than five years, and would have been entirely within their rights to have made no offer at all. The real cause of Paynter’s dissatisfaction was the bumper benefit enjoyed just two years later by his former junior partner, Cyril Washbrook, who netted a then (and for many years thereafter) record sum of GBP14,000.

So instead of playing for Lancashire Paynter signed a five year contract with Keighley, and also became a publican, making a success of both positions. He also underlined the fact that he could still have done a job in the county game when he stepped onto the field at the Harrogate festival in 1947 and in three innings scored 154, 73 and 127. Some might say that Festival cricket was not the same as the hard school of the County Championship, and there is an element of truth in that, but a professional bowler doesn’t take kindly to being knocked around by a man old enough to be his father and while he might give the old boy one off the mark, that will be all.

And even that wasn’t quite the end as in 1950 Paynter accepted an offer to be the Assistant Manager of a strong Commonwealth XI, consisting in the main of Lancashire League professionals, which was led by Les Ames and Frank Worrell. As the tour was managed by George Duckworth the only member of the party who was not a Test cricketer was Lancashire wicketkeeper Alf Barlow.

With a long tour and a number of illnesses afflicting the players at times there were two emergencies when Paynter was called upon to don his flannels and in the first he scored the 11 runs he needed to boost his career aggregate to exactly 20,000. That would have been a good point at which to finally stop, but not so good as scoring a century in his final innings. There was another game on the tour for Paynter, and on another day he might have achieved that romantic century, but sadly the pragmatic Ames declared when he was on 75, so he had to make do with a half century on his last appearance in a First Class fixture.

Perhaps tiring of the long hours Paynter had given up the licenced trade in order to travel with the Commonwealth XI, and in 1951 he joined the First Class Umpires list. He was only there though for that one summer, an inability to find winter employment leading to his taking over the stewardship of another Public House. He continued to combine this with professional cricket, his last paid position being in the West Bradford League. The club he joined for 1959, Ingrow, won the League and Cup double and their 57 years old professional batsman, who spent half the season keeping wicket, came within touching distance of the League’s record aggregate.

So the 1960s dawned without, for the first time in five decades, Eddie Paynter playing in competitive cricket. That is not to say that he did not continue to play the game for a few years as he did, for Yorkshire Corinthians, a traditional wandering club with a programme of fixtures throughout Northern England. He also continued to watch First Class cricket whenever he could get a lift to Old Trafford. He didn’t drive, and while Headingley would have been easier to get to for a man living in Yorkshire, as he said in 1976 Old Trafford is home for me.

A few months after those words were spoken Eddie Paynter, together with a number of his old teammates, was happy to accept the offer of an all expenses paid trip to Melbourne for the Centenary Test, the first time that he had ever flown anywhere. He was then in excellent health and his death just two years later, at 77 brought sadness to both sides of the Pennines. The measure of Paynter’s quality as a cricketer is that no English batsman averages more against Australia than his 84.42 nor, save two men who played in Victorian times when South Africa were barely of First Class standard, has anyone bettered his 81.62 against England’s second oldest opponent. Even taking into account his comparatively poor performance against the weaker opposition of New Zealand, India and West Indies Eddie Paynter’s overall average of 59.23 is still second only to Herbert Sutcliffe amongst those who have scored in excess of 1,500 Test runs for England.


Really enjoyed that. Great work mate.

Comment by Burgey | 12:00am GMT 14 November 2013

Nice article on one of Lancashire’s finest … shame WWII meant that he missed out on what would have been a well-deserved benefit

Comment by boy_briggs | 12:00am GMT 3 December 2013

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