Ted Lester was one of cricket's influential insiders. Most followers will remember him as a free-scoring Yorkshire middle-order batsman under Norman Yardley, unorthodox but audacious, a cricketer with a hawk-eye. Many may remember his unique feat of scoring two centuries in the same Roses match.
Less obvious was his 21 years as the county scorer during which time he did much to raise the status of his colleagues, invented a scoring system that became standard throughout county cricket and culminated in his election as their first president when scorers became a recognised body.
Scarborough-born, Lester first appeared on the pre-war pristine batting surfaces of North Marine Road. He worked for the Borough Treasurer – who was sympathetic to cricketing calls – and might have been described as an accountant without formal qualifications.
His scoring feats attracted Yorkshire's attentions – he held the Scarborough club's aggregate record until overtaken by David Byas in 1984 – and made his debut for the county against the Royal Air Force in 1945, being unable to serve in the Forces because of his flat feet. He was unable to keep a place in the team in damp 1946 but when the sun shone the following year he, like Bill Edrich and Denis Compton, blossomed, averaging 73 and displacing Len Hutton at the top of the county averages.
In 1948 he became a regular in what was possibly Yorkshire's most powerful batting order: Hutton, Lowson, Wilson, Lester, Watson, Yardley. Lester hit 25 centuries in his 228 first-class matches, averaging 34.20. He was a formidable player on hard, fast pitches, a quick hitter, powerful on the leg-side with a cultured late cut. Had he emerged in Kent or Sussex he might have broken records.
A fine deep fielder, he was an automatic selection until, with his feet troubling him again, he lost form in 1954 and by 1958 had become the second team captain until, in 1962, he re-emerged as the county scorer, a title that poorly described his services to the Club.
Lester's great knowledge of the game, of pitches and opponents, and his perception, observation and memory, made him an invaluable adviser to a string of Yorkshire captains; he was also a great asset to the Club in the field of public relations, never a Yorkshire strength, and an amenable and willing provider of information to the hundreds of cricket reporters who passed through Yorkshire's press boxes.
In 1979 he became the first county scorer to pass the Association of Cricket Umpires test, achieving 97 per cent, dropping marks over an esoteric argument as to how a no-ball that is despatched to the boundary should be entered in the book. He was also a qualified MCC coach for more than 30 years.
Like his famous predecessor, Lord Hawke's wicketkeeper David Hunter, Lester loved Scarborough and would never move away, preferring to drive long distances every day rather than leave his beloved seaside. He kept goal for Scarborough FC (The Seadogs) and had trials in that position with Bradford City and Bradford Park Avenue when the latter club was a member of the Football League. He was always an engaging companion in the evening if a little disconcerting in his dislike of eating before he had ascertained which hostelry served the best beer. He would have been as much at home in Hawkes' team as he was in Yardley's, and during the Great Schism of the 1970s and '80s he was one of the few senior figures in the club who was respected, admired and consulted by all factions.
Like most professionals of his era he was often at odds with the amateur ethos that ruled cricket – he was a close friend of Johnny Wardle, sacked by the county after writing a critical article – and believed Hutton would have played on for a few more seasons had Yorkshire made England's captain the county captain.
He would tell, wryly, of his first clash with the last of the warlords, Brian Sellers. After hitting three centuries in succession in 1947 he was late in boarding the coach at Northampton. In his hurry to leave the dressing room he forgot his tie. Sellers spotted him and forbade the driver to start. The party was held up while Ted found and opened his suitcase and put on a tie.
"Yes, it was way over the top," he would recall. "But I'm not sure that the game wouldn't benefit today with a little of that kind of discipline."
Edward Ibson Lester, cricketer and scorer: born Scarborough 18 February 1923; married Mary (one daughter, one son); died 23 March 2015.Reuse content