KEN Taylor was one of a rare breed who played football for Huddersfield Town in the winter and cricket for Yorkshire in the summer. At the same time, he was also a talented artist. Memories of Yorkshire's 1959 cricket season are recalled in this third and final extract from a book about his life, with Ken Taylor's own illustrations.
IT WAS a glorious summer, with day after day of warm sunshine, the best summer for many years and Britain, finally emerging from the years of austerity, was in the mood to enjoy it.
Three-quarters of homes now had television sets, there was a Mini car on sale for only £500, and new inventions - from the transistor radio to the hovercraft - were filling the country with a sense of hope and progress.
The young Queen was expecting her third child, and the Prime Minister Harold Macmillan was happy to be associated with the catch-phrase of `You've never had it so good'.
After a gloomy and wet decade, cricket basked in the sunshine, with crowds everywhere flocking back to the grounds.
Gate receipts for Yorkshire's home matches were up by more than 50%, and - with the Test series against India disappointingly one-sided - the county championship took centre stage with as thrilling a contest as there had ever been.
Never had so many of the countries stayed in contention for so long.
Yorkshire were turning to a new generation of cricketers.
The previous year it had appointed the 40-year-old Ronnie Burnet, a chemical engineer with no experience of first-class cricket, to take over the captaincy, and in a spectacular showdown at the end of July he had brought about the sacking of his great slow left-arm bowler Johnny Wardle.
With Willie Watson already gone to Leicester and Bob Appleyard and Frank Lowson forced out by poor health, he started the summer of 1959 with the most inexperienced team Yorkshire had ever fielded in the modern era.
His senior professional Vic Wilson was 38; the others ranged from 28 to 18.
All through the 1950s, when Surrey had dominated year after year, Yorkshire supporters had grown ever more frustrated at the county's failure to win the title.
But in 1959 summer began with a greater acceptance that there would be no immediate glory. "We are in the process of rebuilding," chairman Brian Sellers said at the pre-season lunch.
"We cannot expect to win the championship in the next three or four years."
Or, as Jim Kilburn put it, looking back to the dissent that characterised the years of Billy Sutcliffe's captaincy: "An inadequate team trying hard all the time is more acceptable than a team of better technicians showing indifference."
The instructions were out from Lord's to provide hard, true surfaces and, with so much sunshine and with some covering of the pitch now allowed after the hours of play, the runs flowed.
More than twice as many centuries were hit as in the previous year, and a record 23 batsmen completed 2,000 runs.
It was certainly not a year to be a bowler, and Fred Trueman - whose 1,072 overs came on the back of a hard winter in Australia - took his wickets at 19.50 each where in 1958 he had averaged 13.33.
For Ken it was a summer that promised so much.
He hit a century in the first championship match at Middlesbrough, and he impressed when summoned to Lord's to play for the MCC against the Indian tourists.
But his two Test appearances were not a success, and by late June he was on the reject pile, and went back to play for a Yorkshire side that was mixing good days with bad in a way that did not suggest any rapid change to the county's recent fortunes.
On 20 June, with more than a third of the programme completed, they lay in eighth place in a table headed by Essex, Glamorgan and Derbyshire.
But something was starting to click.
Vic Wilson had lost his place, leaving the team even younger and less experienced, and Ronnie Burnet contributed very few runs, averaging barely ten - but, in Ken's view: "He created such a great atmosphere in the team. He didn't bowl, he hardly scored any runs and he only caught the ball when it came straight to him at mid-off, but he got an extra 10% out of everybody else. So it was worth having him in the side."
The sacking of Johnny Wardle the previous summer had sent shock waves through the side, and now the message was clear to anybody else with an awkward streak.
There was no alternative but to step into line and accept the charismatic mix of discipline, encouragement and sheer fun that their amateur captain brought with him.
"A journey in his Jaguar from one game to the next was a nerve-jangling experience," Bryan Stott recalls.
"We'd be in the back with all the cricket bags, and in the passenger seat would be our scorer Herbert Walker.
"There were no motorways in those days and, when Ronnie got up to 100 miles an hour, Herbert used to pull his hat down over his eyes and pretend to be asleep."
Ken reckons: "Sometimes he'd be driving at nearly 140.
"It had two petrol tanks so he wouldn't have to stop.
"We used to have a steak meal at this hotel in St Neots [Cambridgeshire], the owner always made us very welcome, and sometimes it would be after twelve when we set off again.
"He was a great character. As long as you tried your best, he was happy.
"You always had to keep an eye on him in the field for instructions," Bryan said. "But you kept your other eye on Closey. That was the unwritten rule.
"He'd be the one who would be moving people about. Ronnie didn't read the game like Closey, but he was the one who changed the focus back from the individuals to the team itself.
"It was a very happy team that summer."
Then on the afternoon of Tuesday, July 7, surrounded by the limes and horse chestnuts of the attractive Queen's Park ground at Chesterfield, they produced a performance that leap-frogged them over Warwickshire to the top of the championship table.
It had been a game with plenty of runs, and Donald Carr, the Derbyshire captain, was reluctant to set too easy a target.
So, to the annoyance of his Yorkshire visitors, he batted on for one ball after lunch so that the final target of 301 would have to be made in only three hours nine minutes.
A victory for Derbyshire would have put them - not Yorkshire - top of the table, but Ken rose to the challenge with as important an innings as he played in his career. For Derek Hodgson it was `an innings that would not have disgraced Len Hutton' as he raced to 144 and, with lively support from Sharpe, Padgett and Illingworth, the target was reduced to just 28 in 35 minutes.
His dismissal was the cue for a pantomime in which Ronnie Burnet - breaking an accepted convention in county cricket - sent out Bryan Stott to bat ahead of the last recognised batsman.
Bryan had not fielded since Saturday, and the normally mild-mannered Donald Carr waved him back into the pavilion.
"Every time I've seen him since," Bryan says, "he's apologised to me."
For both sides it was a vital match, and - thanks to Ken's spectacular innings - Yorkshire won it with time to spare.
* Ken Taylor - Drawn to Sport, by Stephen Chalke, is published by Fairfield Books, £20.