Former Yorkshire and England bowler Bob Appleyard has died at the age of 90.
Appleyard played just nine Tests but took 31 wickets in them at a remarkable average of 17.87, and is regarded by many as one of the world’s all-time greatest medium-pace bowlers.
Yorkshire County Cricket Club announced on Tuesday that Appleyard, who had been ill for several months, had died.
He did not begin his first-class career until he was 27 and then played for just eight years, between 1950 to 1958.
In that time, though, he was prolific - taking 708 wickets at 15.48.
His Test career spanned just two years, in the mid-1950s, but included an Ashes series victory in Australia under fellow Yorkshireman Len Hutton in 1954-55.
Bradford-born Appleyard’s statistics are unmatched by his contemporaries, and stand comparison with the very best from any era.
His bowling style was difficult to define - fast off-breaks, and cutters - but uniquely effective, especially on rain-affected surfaces at a time when wickets were uncovered.
In his youth, Appleyard had spent months in hospital because of tuberculosis and his career was cut short by worsening health.
Yorkshire president Dickie Bird is in no doubt about Appleyard’s standing, and believes he would have gone on to even greater deeds had his health allowed.
“He didn’t play as long as he should, because of the illness. If he had, he would have broken all records - because he was a wonderful bowler,” Bird told Press Association Sport.
Bird began his own playing career at Yorkshire before joining Leicestershire and going on to find fame as an umpire.
He made a point of trying to test himself against Appleyard in the nets.
He added: “I always used to try to go into his net and face him - or Johnny Wardle or Fred Trueman - as much as I could, because they were all magnificent bowlers, three great bowlers.”
Appleyard, a predecessor of Bird’s as Yorkshire president during the past decade, made his initial mark on the record books by taking 200 first-class wickets in his first full season at the club.
That achievement alone, in 1951, still sets him apart from the rest.
Appleyard’s struggles with tuberculosis prevented him from playing in the following two seasons. But he was back to top the England tour averages in Australia two winters later, ahead of the pace pairing of Brian Statham and Frank Tyson - and he took four for seven against New Zealand when they were bowled out for a record-low 26 in Auckland.
Yorkshire chairman Colin Graves, about to take on the same role at the England and Wales Cricket Board, has paid his own tribute.
“It is desperately sad to have learnt the passing away of Bob Appleyard,” he said.
“Bob was tenaciously loyal to the club throughout his lifetime, and an excellent President.
“Without doubt, he’ll be remembered as one of Yorkshire cricket’s post-war greats. He played for Yorkshire and England with distinction and gave everything to the game.
“For many years, he has been a regular at Headingley, supporting the team. He will be missed at matches this summer.
“I would like to pass on my deepest sympathy to Bob’s family.”
Former Yorkshire and England off-spinner Geoff Cope added: “For him to take 642 wickets for Yorkshire in such a short career shows what a great bowler he was, and in the right conditions he was virtually unplayable.
“The hardest thing for a captain to do with Bob was to get the ball off him once he was into his spell. That was because he saw bowling as a great challenge, particularly against top-class batsmen.
“Bob was respected by first class bowlers around the world and his work for cricket charities connected with the Yorkshire club was outstanding. His love of Bradford Park Avenue was to the fore in all of his cricket conversations.”