19 Top cricketer

19 – John Appleyard

THE son of a former Essex county cricketer, John Appleyard (born 20 July 1938 in Hitchin) arrived on the island in the late 1970s and in a very short time became a highly-influential presence, on and off the pitch. The old Guernsey Island Cricket Club had seen much better days but with John Burley as its new president and Appleyard as the new secretary, the club had new life breathed into it.

But he was more than a very able administrator and captain in what was a lively midweek and weekend fixture calendar. ‘Apples’ was an able lower-order batsman and a very accurate, wily left-arm spinner who, unlike Ralph Anthony, who had no hesitation in giving the ball air, pushed the ball through.

In two Inter-Insulars – 1979 and 1980 – he took eight wickets for a combined total of 47 runs. His 5 for 15 in 1979 was in a wasted cause as the Sarnian batsmen crumbled in a low- scoring affair at the College Field, but a year on his 3 for 32 helped Guernsey to a 40-run win as Jersey failed to make three figures. As a fine captain he was not afraid to make brave decisions and Guernsey Press sports editor John Le Poidevin was so impressed by the way he handled the side that year, he named him man of the match. His decision to open with slow medium left-armer Ricky Mills rather than paceman Miles Dobson surprised most but it proved to be a wise decision, for Mills bowled both openers. Appleyard then came on for Mills and he, too, soon gained success with his left-arm spinners. By the time Dobson was brought back into the attack Guernsey were well on top and the Optimists’ paceman made sure his team stayed that way with an analysis of 11 overs, four maidens, 13 runs, two wickets. That was it in terms of representative cricket for a man now 42 but he kept playing for GlCC and Optimists, where he was best suited to the longer game and not evening league. Many years before, he had learned his cricket at the famous Sussex public school Arundel. He was in the School XI for three seasons from 1954 and having won a spot in the Hertfordshire side in 1957, at the age of 19, he was also playing for Essex’s Second XI, taking two wickets in the first innings in which he bowled.

Appleyard appeared occasionally in the Minor Counties Championship between 1960 and 1965 for Buckinghamshire. He made his List A debut in the Gillette Cup competition of 1966, and also appeared in the 1969, 1971 and 1974 competitions.

Five years later, aged 41, he was in the full Guernsey team, returning that ‘five-for’ as well as demonstrating his batting skills briefly in the most productive partnership of the Guernsey innings. Batting with Optimists colleague lan Damarell they added a quick 18 runs before the veteran was run out for seven going for a fourth run which was never on. Before leaving the island for a life in Malta, he enjoyed many happy days with his two clubs and the island side.

But one afternoon it did not go well at all. Fielding gully in a midweek GlCC game, a visiting player cut the ball so hard that the ball flashed through his hands before he could get them in place and struck him smack between the eyes. The injury required hospital treatment, but no lasting damage was done.