Evelyn Rockley Wilson
March 25, 1879, Bolsterstone, Yorkshire
July 21, 1957, Winchester, Hampshire, (aged 78y 118d)
Right hand bat
Right arm slow
Evelyn Rockley Wilson, who died at Winchester on July 21, aged 78, was one of the best amateur slow right-arm bowlers of his time. Educated at Rugby, he was in the XI for three years from 1895, heading both batting and bowling figures when captain in 1897. With a highest innings of 206 not out, he averaged 51.11 in batting and he took 31 wickets for 14.93 runs each. Before he gained his Blue at Cambridge, whom he represented against Oxford in four matches from 1899 to 1902, he scored a century against his University for A. J. Webbe's XI. In the University match of 1901 he hit 118 and 27 and took five wickets for 71 runs and two for 38, and in that of 1902, when captain, he played a noteworthy part in victory by five wickets for the Light Blues by taking five wickets for 23 and three for 66.
He made a brief appearance for Yorkshire in 1899, but when, on going down from Cambridge, he became a master at Winchester, a position he held for forty years, he preferred to engage in club cricket during the school holidays, his stated reason being that he preferred to play in three matches a week rather than two. He did, however, go to America with B. J. T. Bosanquet's side in 1901; with the team of English amateurs who visited the West Indies in 1902, when he stood first in the bowling averages with 78 wickets for less than 11 runs each, and with the M.C.C. to Argentina in 1912.
A suggestion that Wilson might use his residential qualification for Hampshire led to him being pressed into service once again by Yorkshire when over forty years of age, but, whatever the reason, there could be no doubt as to his immense value to the county during the closing weeks of each season. In 1913 he made his only century for Yorkshire, 104 not out against Essex at Bradford, in the course of which he claimed to have hit the only six obtained by skying a ball directly over the wicket-keeper's head, but it was as a bowler that he achieved his best work. He met with such success in 1920 that he took 64 wickets for 13.84 runs apiece, being fourth in the English averages. This brought him a place in J. W. H. T. Douglas's M.C.C. team who, the following winter, toured Australia. Wilson played in his only Test match during that tour, of which Wisden of the time reported: A good deal of friction was caused by cable messages sent home to the Daily Express by Mr. E. R. Wilson. This led to a resolution passed at the annual meeting of the Marylebone Club in May deprecating the reporting of matches by players concerned in them.
Among Wilson's best performances was that in the match with Middlesex at Bradford in 1922 when, in the second innings, he sent down 44 overs, 22 of them maidens, for 62 runs and six wickets. He and A. Waddington shared in a last wicket stand of 53 for Yorkshire, but all the same Middlesex won an exciting struggle by four runs. Wilson was the first bowler to perform the hat-trick for Gentlemen against Players, which he did at Scarborough in 1919. Altogether in first-class cricket he took 385 wickets, average 21.66, and scored 3,033 runs, average 18.94.
Immaculate length and cleverly-disguised variation of pace made Wilson difficult to punish. His own explanation of his success was typically whimsical. "I have always been a lucky bowler," he said, "as my best ball has been the ball which broke from the off when I meant to break from leg. I bowled far more of these as a man of forty than as a young man." Another example of this slightly-built, diffident cricketer's sense of humour was provided at the nets at Winchester when to a somewhat inept boy batsman he said: "My dear boy, you must hit one ball in the middle of your bat before you meet your Maker." He will always be remembered by the vast number of Wykehamists who enjoyed the benefit of his advice and of whom several gained cricket fame. His elder brother, C. E. M. Wilson, also captained Cambridge.
Wisden Cricketers' Almanack
One of Wilson's pupils at Winchester was Douglas Jardine. On the eve of the 1932-33 Bodyline series, Wilson was asked by a journalist about England's chances under Jardine. "He might well win us the Ashes," Wilson said, "but he might lose us a Dominion."
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