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Full name William Beldham
Born February 5, 1766, Wrecclesham, Farnham, Surrey
Died February 26, 1862, Tilford, Surrey (aged 96 years 21 days)
Major teams Hampshire, Kent, Surrey
Also known as Silver Billy
Batting style Right-hand bat
Bowling style Right-arm medium
|First-class debut||White Conduit Club v England at Lord's (Old), Jun 20-22, 1787 scorecard|
|Last First-class||Gentlemen v Players at Lord's, Jul 23-24, 1821 scorecard|
"Silver Billy" Beldham was for a long time the leading batsman in the country, although was in fact an allrounder, a change bowler of moderate pace. Spanning the era when underarm bowling gave way to lobs, he was one of the first players to use his feet to attack bowlers, and so effective was he that concerns grew that the batsmen were too dominant. He played primarily for the legendary Hambledon club, but that club's influence was on the wane and he also appeared for the fledgling MCC, as well as Surrey and Hampshire (qualification allowing anyone to play for the county of their birth and residence). In 1792 he scored 144 for MCC at the original Lord's, and 29 years later made his final appearance for Players against Gentlemen, a match commemorating the coronation of George IV. In 1852, when he was 86, Beldham walked seven miles from his home at Tilford in Surrey to watch Farncombe play an England XI, He was described as possessing "a perfectly upright bearing, looked to be about 70 years old, used a stick in walking, and had a profusion of white silvery hair of considerable length, dropping down to his shoulders. His complexion was remarkably fresh and ruddy and, notwithstanding his great age, he was even then a splendid specimen of a veteran athlete." He was clearly a splendid specimen - he is reputed to have fathered 39 children.
The classic photo of Beldham (see above) is one of the first important cricket images and the only photograph of any of the eighteenth century's major players. It was taken around 1857.
Shorter tours don't allow you time to get into form, and domestic cricket isn't demanding enough