Harold Rhodes: A Derbyshire great

Thursday 18th April 2019
& News
Written by Danny Painter

As one of Derbyshire’s premier fast bowlers steps up to the role of Club President, it’s interesting to look back at the 1954 Derbyshire Year Book which contains a short note welcoming Rhodes onto the Derbyshire staff which read; “It is not decided yet whether he will bowl off or leg spinners.”

Heritage Officer, David Griffin, takes a look at Rhodes’ Derbyshire career.

And, indeed, although he did begin his cricket career as a spin bowler, he subsequently became one of Derbyshire’s greatest fast bowlers.

Harold Rhodes had actually made his first-class debut for the county in June 1953 against Oxford University at The University Parks, Oxford, and made his County Championship debut at Chesterfield in 1955, against Northamptonshire.

He became a permanent member of the Derbyshire side in 1958, winning his County Cap, and taking 71 wickets at an average of 18.52. This was the season which saw the retirement of the great Cliff Gladwin, and Rhodes seemed to be a readymade replacement, such was his progress.

He began his career alongside Les Jackson, and subsequently partnered another Jackson, Brian, through much of the 1960s.

The bowling attack in which Harold Rhodes featured in that decade – Rhodes, AB Jackson, Morgan, Buxton and Smith – must rank, collectively, as possibly the best in Derbyshire’s history.

Rhodes played two Test Matches against India in 1959, when he took 80 domestic first-class wickets, and with 91 wickets in 1969 and 109 in 1961, he established himself as one of the finest fast bowlers in the country.

In 1965, he topped the national bowling averages with 119 wickets at an astonishing average of 11.04 – the lowest average in the 20th century for a bowler taking 100 wickets.

Overall, Rhodes took 100 wickets in a season on three occasions – and 99 in 1968 – and 993 first-class wickets for Derbyshire at an average of 18.91, claiming 1,073 first-class victims in all.

Only seven bowlers have taken more first-class wickets for the county, and only 23 have played more first-class games.

He took five wickets in an innings on 42 occasions – only nine Derbyshire bowlers have bettered that – with a career-best of 7-38 against Warwickshire at Edgbaston in 1961.

In that amazing summer of 1965, he took 6-9 against Leicestershire at Loughborough, and four times in his career he took ten wickets in a match.

Rhodes was a genuine fast bowler, capable of high pace, timed at 95mph at Chesterfield in the late 1960s and without the controversy over his bowling action – which, in the modern game, would have been resolved in weeks, not the eight years it actually took – he might well have played much more Test cricket.

He continued playing league cricket after leaving the first-class game and umpired in 31 first-class games between 1985 and 1991.

It is impossible to compare players of different eras, and Derbyshire has always been a county with a reputation for producing home-grown fast bowlers, with a legacy dating back to the 19th century titan, Mycroft, and through the 20th century with Bestwick, Warren, Copson, the Popes, the Jacksons, Gladwin, Ward, Hendrick, Cork and more. However, Rhodes’ record stands favourable comparison with all of them, although it’s unlikely that any of them bowled faster.

As Rhodes succeeds Edwin Smith as President, it now means that 4 members of the same side which took to the field throughout much of the 1960s – Morgan, Rhodes, Smith and Taylor – have all held the office of President.

Harold Rhodes is the 13th former Derbyshire cricketer to become Club President, following Walter Boden, John Eadie, Sydney Evershed, Charlie Elliott, Guy Willatt, Les Jackson, Bob Taylor, Derek Morgan, Geoff Miller, Kim Barnett, Michael Holding and Edwin Smith.

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