Len Hutton : biography

23 June 1916 - 6 September 1990

Career before the Second World War

First years with Yorkshire

By 1933 Hutton was playing regularly for the Pudsey St Lawrence first team in the Bradford Cricket League, opening the batting with Edgar Oldroyd, a recently-retired Yorkshire county batsman. Through close observation of Oldroyd's batting style, Hutton further developed his technique, especially in defence. The local press quickly identified Hutton as a player of promise, particularly after he scored a match-winning 108 not out in the Priestley Cup.Howat, pp. 10–11. Senior figures within Yorkshire cricket identified him as a potential successor to Percy Holmes as an opening partner to Sutcliffe; at this stage in his career, Hutton was also considered a promising leg spin bowler.Howat, pp. 13–15. In the 1933 season Hutton was selected for the Yorkshire Second Eleven. Although he failed to score a run in either of his first two innings, over the season he scored 699 runs at an average of 69.90.Howat, pp. 12–13. Yorkshire appointed Cyril Turner as Hutton's mentor; Hedley Verity and Bowes also offered Hutton guidance in his early career.Howat, p. 17.Hodgson, p. 139.

Hutton made his first-class debut for Yorkshire in 1934, at the age of 17 the youngest Yorkshire player since Hirst, 45 years earlier. In his first match, against Cambridge University, he was run out for a duck but scored an unbeaten 50 runs in his second match, and followed this with another half-century against Warwickshire on his County Championship debut.Howat, pp. 15–16. In matches later that season, Hutton shared large first-wicket partnerships with Wilf BarberHowat, p. 16. and with Arthur Mitchell, before scoring his maiden first-class century in an innings of 196 against Worcestershire.Howat, p. 19. At the time, he was the youngest Yorkshire batsman to score a first-class century. He finished the season with a total of 863 runs at an average of 33.19; Yorkshire had limited his first team appearances, and returned him periodically to the second eleven, to prevent his overexposure to Championship cricket.Howat, pp. 19–20.

An operation on his nose before the 1935 season delayed Hutton's appearance on the cricket field that year. As a consequence of his attempting to return too quickly, poor health and poor form limited his subsequent appearances and effectiveness; by the middle of August he had scored a total of just 73 runs.Howat, pp. 21–22. A century against Middlesex led to run of bigger scores, and his contribution to Yorkshire's County Championship victory that season was 577 runs at an average in first-class matches of 28.85. In the winter of 1935–36 Hutton went on his first overseas tour, as Yorkshire visited Jamaica.Howat, p. 23. In the 1936 season he reached 1,000 runs in a season for the first time—1,282 runs at an average of 29.81—and was awarded his county cap in July.Howat, p. 25. He took part in several big partnerships through the season, including one of 230 with Sutcliffe, although he endured a run of low scores in May and June.Howat, pp. 24–25.

Throughout his first seasons, Hutton faced press criticism for his caution and his reluctance to play attacking shots. Although regarding him a certain England selection in the future, critics thought Hutton slightly dull and pedestrian. However, Yorkshire were unconcerned;Howat, p. 28. cricket writer Alan Hill believes Hutton's subsequent success was built on this initial establishment of a defensive technique.Hill, pp. 170–71. His achievements brought limited recognition, owing to the high level of expectation surrounding him. This sense of frustration was heightened by comments from Sutcliffe in 1935, when he wrote that Hutton was "a certainty for a place as England's opening batsman. He is a marvel – the discovery of a generation ... His technique is that of a maestro."Howat, p. 21. Such praise was rare from Sutcliffe, but Hutton found the comments a burden, while others found them embarrassing.Hill, p. 169.

Test match debut

Hutton began 1937 very well, with a series of high scores, including an innings of 271 against Derbyshire, the reigning County Champions, and a partnership of 315 with Sutcliffe against Leicestershire two days later.Howat, pp. 27–29. He was subsequently chosen for England in the first Test against the touring New Zealand team.Howat, pp. 28–29. On 26 June, he made his Test debut at Lord's Cricket Ground and he scored 0 and 1. However, centuries for Yorkshire in the following games meant he retained his place in the England side for the second Test at Old Trafford, Manchester. Here he scored his maiden Test hundred on 24 July, batting three-and-a-half hours to score exactly 100 runs and sharing a century opening partnership with Charlie Barnett. Hutton's remaining two innings in his first Test series yielded 14 and 12, giving him 127 runs at an average of 25.40. Also in 1937, Hutton made his first appearance for the Players against the Gentlemen at Lord's. In total that year he scored 2,888 runs, more than double his previous seasonal best, at an average of 56.62 and including ten centuries. He also recorded the best bowling performance of his career, six wickets for 76 against Leicestershire, altogether taking ten wickets in the match—the only time he achieved this. His performances that year earned him selection as one of Wisden's Cricketers of the Year. The citation praised his attitude, technique, fielding and bowling, noting however that some commentators continued to criticise his overcaution.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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