Cricketers of the year

Dick Lilley

ARTHUR AUGUSTUS LILLEY -- far and away the greatest cricketer Warwickshire has yet produced--was born in Birmingham on the 18th of November, 1867

ARTHUR AUGUSTUS LILLEY -- far and away the greatest cricketer Warwickshire has yet produced--was born in Birmingham on the 18th of November, 1867. He first came before the public in the season of 1888, when he was promoted from club cricket of quite a modest kind to a place in the Warwickshire eleven. Warwickshire was then struggling to gain a footing in the cricket world, and the fixtures engaged in by the team did not attract any large amount of attention. Lilley played in nine matches during the season, and to the best of our belief was quickly recognised as a wicket keeper of more than ordinary promise. In the following year Warwickshire came out first among the counties then treated as second class, and Lilley began to be more talked about, though his recognition as one of the first-rate wicket-keepers of his day had still to come. He had not so far shown any of his present ability as a batsman, and even so late as the season of 1891 he could do little in good company, only scoring 126 runs that year in seventeen matches for Warwickshire, with án average of nine. All this time, however, his reputation as a wicket keeper was growing, and he was gradually acquiring something more than a local fame. In 1892 he made a very marked advance as a batsman, and with a score of 133 far surpassed anything he had ever done before. It is understood that his improvement in batting has been due in large measure to the advice and tuition of Arthur Shrewsbury, who was at one time engaged for a few weeks to coach the Warwickshire players. Lilley's great chance came in 1894, when Warwickshire's matches were, for the first time, officially recognised as first-class. The team, it may be remembered, started the season in remarkable style by beating Notts, Surrey,and Kent, proving at once that promotion had in their case been thoroughly deserved. In all matches for the county that year Lilley caught thirty-four batsmen, and stumped fifteen, and in batting he came out with a fairly good record, averaging 19, with an aggregate of 451 runs. In 1895 Lilley put all his previous performances into the shade. Warwickshire tied with Middlesex for sixth place among the fourteen counties, and in securing this very honourable position, Lilley had a notable share. In county championship matches alone, he scored over a thousand runs--a distinction shared by Walter Quaife and Mr. Bainbridge--with the splendid average of 36, and behind the wicket he got rid of forty-four batsmen, catching thirty-four and stumping ten. He was chosen as wicket-keeper for the Players against the Gentlemen at the Oval, scoring in the match 74 and 20, and in the first-class batting averages of the year, he came out with an aggregate of 1399 runs, and an average of nearly 35. The season of 1895 has so far marked Lilley's highest point as a cricketer, for though last summer he scored nearly a thousand runs in first-class matches, with an average of 24, it cannot be said that he batted so well as in the previous year. Still he added materially to his reputation as a wicket-keeper, and had the great distinction of being chosen for England in the three test matches against the Australians. As a wicket-keeper Lilley has no superior at the present day against slow and medium pace bowling, but as it is his invariable custom to stand back to all bowling of great speed, he cannot be placed on quite the same level as Blackham, Mr. McGregor, or the late Richard Pilling. However, that in his own way he is great, will be admitted by every competent judge. Personally we have never seen him to better advantage than in the England match at the Oval in August. He did not on that occasion have the satisfaction of seeing his name on the score-sheet, but nothing could have been more perfect than his work, the way in which he ran out Clement Hill in the Australians' first innings approaching the miraculous.