Visionary – Cricket Stuff Hall of Fame #5: Bev Lyon

Bev Lyon

A quick look at the career figures of Beverley Hamilton Lyon suggests a respectable rather than remarkable batsman: 267 first-class matches bringing just over 10,000 runs at an average of a shade under 25 and an occasional bowler who took 52 wickets at 45. A strong driver of the ball, Bev Lyon passed one thousand runs in a season four times between 1929 and 1934. The last of those years was the most special: reaching the four figures mark in only 14 matches, finishing with an average of 49.5 and a high score of 189 achieved against Surrey at Cheltenham.

The honour of being named one of Wisden’s cricketers of the year in 1931 was as much a recognition of his prowess in captaincy as it was of his batting feats. Bev had led Gloucestershire occasionally since 1926 but was formally appointed as their captain in 1929 and led with panache for six seasons, helping the side to fourth place in the championship in his first season in charge and second place finishes in the next two years. His final three years as skipper were to be less successful but he was never anything other than an adventurous leader, capable of looking at a match situation in new ways to find a route to victory. In 1931 when Gloucestershire’s match against Yorkshire at Sheffield had the first two days washed out, Lyon persuaded the Yorkshire captain, Frank Greenwood, to agree to both teams declaring their first innings on 4 for no loss (the runs gifted through byes) and begin what was effectively a one-innings game. Today, such an arrangement would be of note, but little more; in 1931 it was outrageous. Gloucestershire won the match by 47 runs, Bev Lyon their top scorer.

It was this ability to see further than others, to think thoughts before their time is why we salute him here. Always looking for ways in which to make cricket attractive to the people, Bev Lyon, as far back as 1930, was calling for the introduction of Sunday cricket. That he did so in front of an audience containing several clerics was testament to Bev’s streak of showmanship. Two years later he was at it again, this time at his County’s annual dinner,

“You’ve got to attract present-day crowds of young men and women who spend their shillings watching dirt-track riders risking their lives, or greyhounds hurting round bends, or gangster films by the hundred.

“Lord Hawke can afford to be haughty – cricket can’t. Lord Hawke fiddles while Rome burns. I’m not content to stand by while the game I love dies an unnatural death from lack of support. There is clearly one thing to do – the clock must come into the game more often. Allow batting sides only three hours in which to get their runs, and I challenge anyone to tell me how first-class cricket has been spoilt.

“Why can’t we have knock-out cricket, the final to be played at Lord’s or the Oval? And I should like to see the profits divided equally among the counties who take part.”

It would be thirty years before English cricket adopted a knock-out competition. Sunday cricket would follow. The clock did not come about but how different is that to the current T20 craze? Bev Lyon was ahead of the game in cricket as in business – he co-founded the radio and television broadcast company Rediffusion – and for that, he takes his place in our Hall of Fame. Beverley Hamilton Lyon, visionary.

[Much of the information here was gleaned from David Foot’s Cricket’s Unholy Trinity (Stanley Paul: 1985)]

 

 

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