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No Coward Soul: The remarkable story of Bob Appleyard

Release date: 16th December, 2003
Publisher: Fairfield Books

List Price: £16.00
Our Price: £14.40
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'No Coward Soul'
The remarkable story of Bob Appleyard
By Stephen Chalke and Derek Hodgson

Fairfield Books price: £14.40 (rrp £16.00)

While many of us looked on in amazement as England took the West Indies apart, at least in the first three games of the Test series, the domestic cricket season opened with little fanfare last week, resplendent in its usual array of spring knitwear - two sweaters were compulsory at most grounds.

Steve Harmison has come of age in the Caribbean, but could we now expect him, or any other bowler, to take 200 wickets at 14.14 this season? It's an unlikely scenario and even more far fetched if we pondered over the possibility of a complete newcomer bursting onto the scene and achieving a double century of cheap wickets in his first full season.

This amazing feat has only been done once before - by Bob Appleyard of Yorkshire in 1951, the season he topped the national bowling averages. It was the summer he took 7-84 in the first innings against Gloucestershire at Bradford, bettering these figure with 7-57 against Leicestershire later in the season.

That we may not have heard as much of Appleyard as some of the more illustrious names he headed in the 1951 national averages, including Statham, Trueman and Bedster, is due not to him being a one-season wonder, but to what happened prior to the start of the 1952 season.

Ordinarily, capped county players reported back for Yorkshire's pre-season training at the beginning of February, but so keen was Appleyard to build upon his phenomenal success that he arrived back for bowling duty with the Colts in early January.

With his wife, Connie, eight months pregnant, Appleyard was saved for Yorkshire's first county game of the season, against Somerset at Taunton. He managed to bowl 16 overs, taking one wicket. That night, his room-mate Frank Lowson, insisted on calling a doctor as Appleyard had a particularly high temperature and a very bad cough. It was only following the doctor's examination that Appleyard discovered he had tuberculosis. His short-lived but spectacular cricket career had come to a grinding halt.

The illness was prevalent in post-war Britain: 50,000 new cases were reported each year. Tuberculosis was a killer, a disease associated with poverty and overcrowding. Those who contracted it, even if they survived, knew they would be a shadow of their former selves.

Bob Appleyard, the new-found scourge of first class batsmen throughout the land, was to lose part of his lung and had to teach himself how to walk again; his is an inspirational story which has waited half a century to be told in great detail by Stephen Chalke and Derek Hodgson. This athletic man who had arrived on the county scene late, making his Yorkshire debut at the age of 26, was to lose two complete summers as a result of his illness, but he was not to be denied.

Having re-taught himself how to bowl, Appleyard returned with a vengeance, taking 7-16 in 9.3 overs against Somerset in the summer of 1954. So successful was he that season, taking 154 wickets at 14.42, that he was selected to play for England against Australia. Tuberculosis had shortened his Test career, but in nine matches, he managed to take 31 wickets at 17.87.

Bob Appleyard's story is a truly remarkable one, given even greater resonance by the willing involvement in the book by the man himself, a former cricketer, now in his 80th year, who continues to personify the power of positive thinking.

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