Cyril Washbrook Biography
With time Cyril Washbrook flourished as an opening batsman for Lancashire and England. His best years, as with so many others of his generation, were scooped away by the War, but whatever remained lent considerable structure in the landscape of English cricket.
He partnered the great Len Hutton, and did so with enough distinction to be paired eternally in cricketing history with the legendary Yorkshireman. Post-War England saw two supreme pairings of the Roses-rivals — and Hutton-Washbrook were the celebrated batting openers, while, a few years later, Freddie Trueman and Brian Statham formed the great pair sharing the new ball.
Hutton and Washbrook batted together 53 times, scored 2,900 runs together at 58. On 51 of these occasions, they opened the innings, and combined to score 2,880 in the partnerships at 60. Among opening duos who have batted more than 30 times, their record stands fourth after associations Jack Hobbs had with Herbert Sutcliffe and Wilfred Rhodes and the celebrated combination between Bill Lawry and Bobby Simpson.
What makes it even more remarkable is that Hutton and Washbrook opened during a phase when England went through one of their all-time lows after the War, often terrorised by the hostile pace bowling of Ray Lindwall and Keith Miller. Hutton and Washbrook withstood the shelling, standing tall, adding 138 in the second innings at MCG and following it up with courageous stands of 137 and 100 in the two innings at Adelaide Oval.
Down the years he played magnificently against South Africa and West Indies.
Through all the grit and determination of his knocks, Washbrook’s cap stayed perched at his head at a jaunty angle, and his stroke-play always remained a thing of joy.
He was a fighter to the core, hooking and pulling with contempt and control, and unleashing a fierce square cut if offered width and length on the off-side. Always aggressive, he was resolute as ‘concrete’ against pace, and heroic to the core. In the covers he was a superb fielder of quick feet, eagle like pick-ups and fast returns.
He lost his place in the side after a disastrous tour of Australia in 1950-51, but his career aptly ended in a tale of romantic valour that has gone down as folklore in the annals of English cricket.
Washbrook was over 41 and a selector when the wise men of England met to pick the team for the Headingley Test of 1956 against Australia. Gubby Allen, Chairman of Selectors, asked Washbrook to go and order the beer. When the Lancashire pro returned to the meeting, he was told that he had been chosen to play. “Surely the situation isn’t as desperate as all that,” was his bemused reaction.
He walked in after England had lost Peter Richardson, Colin Cowdrey and Alan Oakman with 17 on the board. Peter May, the batsman at the other end, later recalled his reaction at the sight of Washbrook: “I’ve never felt so glad in life as when I saw who was coming in.” Washbrook made 98 in five-an-half hours. With May he added 187. Jim Laker and Tony Lock spun the Australians out, and England won the game by an innings.
His numbers in Test matches did suffer due to the poor series in Australia in 1950-51, but 2,569 runs at 42.81 in 37 Tests with six hundreds are quite impressive returns.
When cricket-loving John Major became the Prime Minister of England in 1991, Washbrook was belatedly awarded a CBE.