|Batting style||Right-handed batsman (RHB)|
|Bowling style||Off-break (OB); Right-arm fast-medium (RFM)|
He was one of the best English bowlers of the 1950s, a decade which saw England develop its strongest bowling attack of the twentieth century. Able to bowl fast-medium swingers or seamers and off-spinners with almost exactly the same action, Appleyard was a tragic figure whose career was almost destroyed by injury and illness after an amazing first full season in 1951. In his limited Test life, he took a wicket every fifty-one balls, and in first class cricket his 708 wickets cost only 15.48 runs each. Equally, when he was fit, Appleyard was one of the finest bowlers to represent county and country.
Life and career
He had a sad start in life, walking into the bathroom of his home in Bradford to find the bodies of his father John Appleyard, his stepmother, and his two little sisters Wendy and Brenda, in a room thick with gas. Bob, who had been sent to stay overnight at his grandmother's, ran for assistance and the police were called. At the inquest, it was stated simply that John Appleyard had been greatly disturbed following the recent outbreak of World War II.
In his own words, "It is difficult even now to recall the details. I think I'd been spending some nights at my grandma's. She was on her own, and I spent quite a bit of time with her". Bob's own mother had left home when he was aged just seven, while his sister Margaret died of diphtheria. Following the discovery at Bradford, he was taken in by his stepmother's parents. He never spoke about the tragedy to his team mates during his playing career, and only revealed the truth in his book, No Coward Soul, written with Stephen Chalke.
In adulthood, Appleyard lost his son, Ian, to leukaemia and later his grandson, John, to the same disease. As a young cricketer Appleyard spent eleven months in hospital after being diagnosed with advanced tuberculosis. Whilst in hospital, Appleyard kept his fingers strong by squeezing a cricket ball under the bed covers. He had to learn to walk again and had the upper half of his left lung removed
According to his biography on Cricinfo, "Appleyard became a successful business rep and he was working for the British Printing Corporation in 1981 when it was taken over by Robert Maxwell. Appleyard quickly saw Maxwell for the crook that he was and when Maxwell dismissed him on the strength of trumped up allegations, Appleyard battled for a fair settlement and won, shrewdly taking his money out of the BPC pension fund at the same time". Cricket commentator, Colin Bateman, also noted that Appleyard won an out-of-court settlement from Maxwell, whom Appleyard had threatened to sue.
In cricketing terms, perhaps his greatest achievement was to change from the swing and cut bowler of English conditions, to one who could control the ball in the air, and deceive batsmen on length, in Australia.
Appleyard said: "I never discussed what I was doing with Len Hutton, but I knew I had to change. You have to adapt to different conditions and try different things and those are the sort of things missing from the modern game. Today's bowlers are stereotyped and they really should experiment more with different types of delivery." .
After pronounced success in local cricket within Yorkshire, Appleyard was engaged by the county in 1950 at the age of 26 and played three games for the county, taking six wickets in two County Championship games against Surrey and Gloucestershire.
With Alec Coxon departing for league cricket and Brian Close on military service, it was thought that Yorkshire would have an ordinary season in 1951, yet Appleyard's bowling, which saw him take the first 200 wicket aggregate for four years, ensured they remained near the top of the table. His wickets that season cost an average of 14 a piece. A big man at about 188 centimetres (6 feet one and half inches) and 97 kilograms (over 15 stone), Appleyard was able to bowl both as a paceman and as a spinner with no apparent changes of action, so that he could go through an innings with little rest and possess sting under all conditions of weather and wicket. He was chosen as a Wisden Cricketer of the Year but did not gain representative honours.
However, after one match in 1952 a chronic illness kept Appleyard off the field for the rest of that year and all of 1953. Even at the beginning of 1954, Appleyard was not expected to play again, but a surprising recovery saw him second in the averages after Brian Statham and bowling with skill on a perfect pitch at Trent Bridge in his first Test. In the first innings, he took 5 wickets. In the words of Wisden: "His mixture of in-swingers, off-spinners and leg-cutters; his variations of flight and pace, bore the make of a highly-skilled craftsman". As a consequence, Appleyard was chosen for the Ashes tour ahead of Jim Laker, and under Hutton's captaincy. He again bowled with skill on unusually erratic Australian wickets, most notably in the extreme heat at Adelaide in the Fourth Test, which clinched the Ashes.
Appleyard enjoyed the more English conditions as the tour moved on to New Zealand, and played a leading role the dismissal of New Zealand at Wellington in March for the lowest score in the history of Test cricket. On a rain-affected pitch, he took 4 for 7, as New Zealand were rolled for 26.
In 1955, now almost exclusively bowling spinners, Appleyard was almost unplayable on the wet wickets early in the summer, but a knee injury wiped out almost all his cricket after the middle of June. However, he recovered his form well enough in 1956 to regain his Test place for the first match as Trent Bridge but did not bowl well enough to challenge Jim Laker for the rest of the summer. Indeed, in a summer when the vast majority of pitches favoured spin, Appleyard's average was not exceptional. Then, in 1957, Appleyard declined so badly that Yorkshire often left him out of their team: he seemed unable to show his old versatility when asked to open again with Trueman and was not gaining as much penetration on rain-affected surfaces. Appleyard's decline continued in 1958, and Yorkshire dropped him for good in early June, and he never did well enough for the second eleven for them to consider retaining him.
He became a successful businessman after retirement from the game and founded a cricket school in Bradford. He has raised over a million pounds for youth cricket, working with the Sir Leonard Hutton Foundation Scheme for young cricketers. His proceeds from his biography were donated to this fund. In 1997, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Bradford. He served as President of Yorkshire into his eighties, and remains as an Honorary Life Member of the club.
With the death of Alf Gover in 2001, Appleyard became the sole survivor amongst the twenty eight bowlers who have taken 200 wickets, or more, in an English cricket season (the last case of which was Tony Lock in 1957).
- Bateman, Colin (1993). If The Cap Fits. Tony Williams Publications. p. 14. ISBN 1-869833-21-X.
- Chalke, Stephen; and Derek Hodgson (2003). No Coward Soul. Fairfield Books. ISBN 0-9531196-9-6.
- "2nd Test: England v Pakistan at Nottingham, Jul 1-5, 1954". espncricinfo. Retrieved 2011-12-13.
- Lister, Derek A J (2004). Bradford's Own. Sutton. ISBN 0-7509-3826-9.