Greenock's comfortable win at West en route to 1952 title

When cricket resumed after the Second World War, Greenock took some time to find their feet in the Western Union. They did finish third in 1946 with a side that contained some of those who had played in the title-winning sides of 1938 and 1939 but after that they struggled as the older players gradually stopped playing and the younger ones who took their place found it difficult to show consistent form. In 1949, the team finished bottom of the table for only the third time since the league was formed.

But from that low point performances improved and in 1951 they again finished third, under the captaincy of Duncan Drummond for the first time, albeit they were a long way behind the top two, Kelburne and Kilmarnock. The decision was taken by the Club's Committee that for the first time since the war ended a professional would be engaged to help the young team to fulfill its potential and at the end of the 1951 season it was announced that Ted Whitfield had been appointed to that position for the following season.

Ted Whitfield - consummate county professional

Whitfield was a seasoned county player, having played for Surrey from 1930 to 1939 and then one year in 1946 with Northants, having served with the RAF throughout the War. In that time, he scored 3995 runs with a highest score of 198 and took 35 wickets and although he was almost 41 years of age when he joined Greenock, he was clearly a very competent player who brought a wealth of experience with him. After finishing his first-class cricket, he played as a professional in the Lancashire and the South Wales leagues. For many years, he had been a coach at the renowned Sandham-Gover coaching school in London.

His captain, Duncan Drummond, in the Club's centenary booklet described him thus. He was a fluent stroke player, a joy to watch when in full swing. His bowling (slow leg breaks and top spinners) was deceptively innocuous as most of our opponents soon realised when stepping out to treat it with the disdain that they felt it merited. He was keen on attack as the best method of defence and frequently placed 2 silly mid-offs, 2 silly mid-ons and 2 short legs, all of whom avoided the captain's eye when Ted came on to bowl. His ability as a coach is unquestioned. He was a fully qualified MCC Coach and many of the younger players and even some of the older players of today owe much to his sound knowledge and easy way of putting it across.

The season started well and Whitfield immediately made his mark, taking six wickets and scoring an unbeaten 50 against Drumpellier and a further five wickets in the win over Ferguslie. The first four league matches were all won, including a tense one wicket victory over Clydesdale at Titwood. Confidence was high therefore when they made the trip up to Hamilton Crescent on 31st May to take on West of Scotland.

Galbreath's catch ignites Greenock

The home team won the toss and elected to bat first but found it difficult to make much headway against tight bowling and keen fielding. Ernie Armstrong took the first two wickets, having the West professional, Harris, caught behind by Charles De Boinville and Whitelaw caught by Robin Gill, an Oxford blue who had recently moved into the area. Armstrong was a fine strike bowler and would be picked to earn his first cap for Scotland, against Yorkshire at the end of June. Unfortunately a hand injury forced him to withdraw from the team and he never again gained selection for his country.

Skipper Drummond now introduced his slow bowlers into the attack and they made consistent inroads into the West batting. Their skipper, Jack Harris, was next to fall, brilliantly caught by Mac Galbreath who sprinted some 25 yards to take the catch in both hands in front of the pavilion steps. The Greenock Telegraph reported that "the crowd applauded loudly. Even one of the umpires clapped his hands".

That wicket fell at 69 and thereafter wickets fell regularly with the West batsmen unable to break the grip applied by the bowlers and fielders. It took them over 52 overs to make just 129 before being bowled out, Armstrong, Whitfield and slow left-armer Johnnie Simpson each taking three wickets.

Proverbs dominates the West attack

Greenock quickly lost Mac Galbreath when they began their chase and Whitfield was forced to retire after facing just four balls from West's quick bowler, Ron Johnson, when he was struck just above the left eye. Skipper Drummond hit a brisk 16 but was caught when the score was just 26 and Greenock were in a bit of disarray. But the veteran Jim Agnew stuck around while Lawrence Proverbs quickly got his eye in and took on the West attack.

Proverbs, a dentist from Barbados, was the most delightful batsman to watch when on form. Quick on his feet, and with an array of strokes, he was determined to never let a bowler dictate to him. This desire to attack did not always come off but on this day it most certainly did. When Agnew finally fell with the score was 66, an innings which helped to take the shine off the ball and saw his team through a sticky period, Whitfield returned to the crease and together with Proverbs the two of them snuffed out any possibility of a West victory.

No further wickets fell and Greenock coasted to a seven wicket victory with Proverbs unbeaten on 65, which included nine boundaries, to follow up his 52 the previous week at Titwood, and Whitfield not out on 30 and none the worse for his injury.

Greenock romp to the Union title

The Greenock Telegraph with remarkable prescience headlined their report "This form will win title for Greenock" and they were absolutely right. The first eight games were all won and although at the end of July Clydesdale became the first team to inflict a defeat on them, the four games after that defeat were all won and their only other defeat was to Uddingston in the last game of the season, with the title won and on a ground (Bothwell Policies) which had been something of a bogey to them for a long time. The title was won with a percentage of 85.71, more than twenty-four percentage points ahead of Drumpellier in second place, for one of the most comprehensive victories in the Union's history. This was a win to be savoured as it would be another 24 years before the title was captured again.

The West League Cup was also won, after a long campaign of 11 matches, when West were defeated in the final by 3 wickets, Whitfield hitting an unbeaten 57 to see the team to victory.

Whitfield key to title and cup successes

There is little doubt that Ted Whitfield had been the catalyst for the Championship win. He was given great support by the all-round performances of the skipper, Duncan Drummond, while the batting of Proverbs and the bowling of Armstrong and Simpson were also key to the success but the professional's 462 runs at 57.75 and 50 wickets at the splendid average of 10.04 underlined his importance to the team. In all games he scored 751 runs and took 85 wickets at less than 10 runs per wicket.

Over the four years that Whitfield was employed by Greenock, he scored 2821 runs at 32.80 and took 301 wickets at 11.55. These are figures that are a testament to the impact that a very fine professional had on the club.



West of Scotland
Harris c De Boinville b Armstrong 14
AC MacDonald c DW Drummond b Simpson 31
CB Whitelaw + c Gill b Armstrong 5
JLF Harris * c Galbreath b Simpson 19
HM Stuart lbw b Whitfield 9
R Carrie st De Boinville b Whitfield 16
H Wilcock   b Simpson 0
DJ Godfrey run out 13
RE Johnson   b Armstrong 1
JW Bolton c Duthie b Whitfield 11
CE Horseman not out 0
Extras 4b 4lb 1w 1nb   10
TOTAL     52.1 overs 129 all out
Bowler O M R W   Fall of Wickets
ED Armstrong 17.1 4 44 2   1-19
DW Drummond 11 1 20 0   2-35
Whitfield 15 3 35 3   3-69
JA Simpson 9 1 20 3   4-81
DM Galbreath c Harris b Johnson 2
JM Agnew c and b Stuart 16
Whitfield not out 30
DW Drummond * c Whitelaw b Horseman 16
CL Proverbs not out 65
JS Drummond      
RD Gill      
RG Duthie      
ED Armstrong      
CAC De Boinville +      
JA Simpson      
Extras 1b 1lb 2nb   4
TOTAL     38 overs   133 for 3
Bowler O M R W   Fall of Wickets
GE Horseman 9 3 25 1   1-3
RE Johnson 11 1 47 1   2-26
HM Stuart 6 2 15 1   3-66
CB Harris 8 1 24 0    
R Carrie 4 0 18 0