Full name John Willes
Born 1778, Headcorn, Kent
Died August 5, 1852, Staunton, near Gloucester (aged 74 years)
Major teams Kent
Bowling style Right-arm bowler
|First-class debut||Gentlemen v Players at Lord's (Old), Jul 7-9, 1806 scorecard|
|Last First-class||Marylebone Cricket Club v Kent XI at Lord's, Jul 15-16, 1822 scorecard|
John Willes is credited with being the first man to bowl round-arm in a first-class match - it was referred to as "straight arm" in contemporary reports - and on July 15, 1822 he was no-balled playing for Kent against MCC at Lord's. he famously threw down the ball in disgust, mounted his horse, and rode out the game forever. But "Silver Billy" Beldham insisted that Willis had not invented the style, merely "revived what was forgotten or new to the young folk" and that "jerking" as it was previously known had plagued cricket in the 1780s until outlawed by the Hambledon club.
Legend has it that Willes was inspired to develop a round-arm style after his sister used it, being prevented from bowling underarm by the voluminous skirts of the time. That is probably myth, but what is certain is that Willes was a colourful character. He kept his own pack of dwarf hounds, and on one occasion barricaded himself in his house against creditors, surviving on food passed to him by friends by means of a basket lowered from a window each night.