Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The A-Z of Derbyshire Cricket - E is for Elliott: Harry Elliott

After the decisions that went in to choosing letters A to D, even ET could choose the winner of letter E. Whatever way you look at it, the answer is going to be Elliott...

John Eggar was an attractive stroke player when available from teaching commitments in the late 1940s and early 1950's, while Peter Eyre contributed with bat and ball in the 1960's. Eyre's great moment, of course, came in the Gillette Cup semi-final at Chesterfield in 1969, when he took six Sussex wickets and was close to being unplayable.

However, the choice really comes down to two men, both named Elliott.

My second choice would be Charlie Elliott. An opening batsman of great determination, he scored over 11,000 runs for the county. His peak came after the Second World War, when he scored a thousand runs in six successive seasons. A career average of only 27 per innings was not spectacular, but in the context of the county game at that time he was a solid professional.

He later became a first-class umpire and was highly respected, standing in 42 Test matches. Latterly he served on the club committee for ten years, giving great service alongside his former captain and colleague Guy Willatt. He was the last of Derbyshire's pre-war cricketers to die, at the age of 91 in 2004.

Yet for me it was his uncle, Harry, who is number one. Born in 1891, he joined the county staff in 1920 after the First World War at the age of 29. There was no 'discrepancy', as the club site puts it, over his age. He simply lied about it and took four years off, as he would never have got a county contract at his real age of 29. He only revealed this fact at a players reunion in 1967, which meant his last appearance came at the age of 55!

He was a sticker as a batsman. always at his best when staving off a defeat. A first class record of only 14 per innings tells that he never fulfilled early promise, but he sold his wicket dearly and when runs were needed he had a distinctive 'mow' through mid wicket from one knee that brought him many runs.

While Bob Taylor later passed his aggregate of victims, Elliott still holds the club record dismissals in an innings, a match and a season. He also took more stumpings in a season than anyone else (30)and was a very good wicket-keeper over a career that spanned 25 years.

Most astonishingly, in 1935 he didn't allow a bye in 25 completed innings. This speaks volumes for the accuracy of the attack, but with two spinners in Townsend and Mitchell it says much more for Harry Elliott. After his career ended he became a successful first class umpire and county coach, while for years he ran a sports shop in Derby with Derby County footballer Sammy Crooks.

Derbyshire have been well served over the years by their glovemen. While Bob Taylor is still the benchmark, there have been few better than Harry Elliott, a deserved winner of the E award.

As for the Fs, there's not too many candidates, I'll warn you now...

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