From 289 matches, Bill Storer   s tally read 232 wickets, 376 catches, and 55 stumpings. Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
From 289 matches, Bill Storer s tally read 232 wickets, 376 catches, and 55 stumpings. Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

It seems that there are some privileged people in this world who come armed with a Divine dispensation that they shall be linked with greatness, either by association or by deeds, and that they shall rise above the ordinary, and be the joy and envy of generations of the hoi-polloi.

A commonly asked trivia question links a giant of the cricket world with a giant of the literary world, as follows: Who is the only First-Class victim of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle? As all cricket enthusiasts know, it was a match between London County and the MCC, played at Crystal Palace Park in August 1900. WG Grace, playing for his pet London County, was dismissed by Conan Doyle in the 2nd innings for 110 (c wicketkeeper Bill Storer).

Another common trivia question relates to the first six hit in Test cricket. The popular belief (contested stoutly by several serious cricket statisticians who cite the instance of Jimmy Sinclair of South Africa against England at Cape Town in 1895-96, when his second-innings score of 28, had contained 2 hits over the boundary that had been awarded 6 runs each) is that this path-breaking event had occurred in the third Test between Australia and England at the Adelaide Oval in a timeless match in 1897-98. In the Australian first innings total of 573, Joe Darling had gone in at stumps on Day One batting on 178 in a day score of 309 for 2.

Darling had been dismissed first thing next morning on his overnight score, caught wicketkeeper Storer bowled Tom Richardson, a legend in his lifetime. It is reported that Darling had moved from 98 to 104 with a hit to square leg off Johnny Briggs that had sent the ball sailing out of the Oval. He had also hit Briggs twice over the ropes for 5. The scorecard attributes 26 fours and 3 sixes to Darling. Well, this same Storer had also bowled 3 overs for 16.

Earlier in 1898, Storer had been firmly in the news, this time wearing a different hat. It was a Championship game between Derbyshire and Yorkshire at Chesterfield in August, and Yorkshire openers John Brown and John Tunnicliffe had been running riot. Yorkshire had been 503 for no loss at stumps on Day One with Brown on 270 and Tunnicliffe on 214. The Derbyshire resources had been stretched very thin, and they had been forced to press 10 men into the attack.

Brown duly kept his appointment with a triple-century on the morrow, being dismissed hit wicket off the bowling of Storer (who had shed his pads to take up the bowling burden) for a round 300. It is confirmed from eminent cricket statistician Keith Walmsley that this 300 by John Brown is the highest individual score at which anyone has been dismissed hit wicket in the history of First-Class cricket. The name of Storer, therefore remains forever enshrined in a record 118 years old.

It may be mentioned here that Brown turned out to be one of 3 victims of Storer in this innings, from his 26 overs in which he had conceded 142. As it turned out, Storer had picked up the first three in the batting order. Lest anyone should think that he had neglected his wicketkeeping duties, it may be recorded that he had taken the catches that dismissed Stanley Jackson, Wilfred Rhodes and Ernest Smith later in the innings, this time in his usual wicketkeeping role; a versatile man, our Storer.

At this point of the narrative, let us pause to review some facts and figures that are associated with bowling wicketkeepers in relation to First-Class cricket. The archives of the Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians (ACS), a veritable Aladdin s magic cave for aficionados of cricket history and statistics, is full of the most amazing information on different aspects of cricket.

There is one page showing a list of designated wicketkeepers who have taken off their wicketkeeping gear during the course of a First-Class match to turn their arms over at the bowling crease. A close scrutiny of this page reveals a list of 32 different keepers who have, at one time or another, captured 4 or more wickets in an innings in First-Class cricket. Sorting the data a little, we arrive at the conclusion that there have been 9 such people with 100 or more wickets at this level, the list headed by two men with over 300 wickets.

There is, however, an interesting comment included in the biographical sketches of a few of the persons on the chart, namely, occasional wicketkeeper . Two of the top three wicket-taking wicketkeepers have this tag against their names: Philip Russell of Derbyshire is at the top of the table with 339 wickets, and Heathfield Stephenson of Surrey is second with 303. In parenthesis, it may be mentioned that it was this Stephenson who had once taken 3 three wickets off 3 consecutive deliveries at Hyde Park, Sheffield, in 1858, his feat inspiring the attending crowd to pass a cap round to take up a collection as a reward for the achievement, thus giving rise to the term hat-trick (although there is some ambiguity regarding the origin of the term hat-trick).

He had not captured 100 wickets, but one Herbert Jenner of Kent and MCC (with 75 career wickets), later to become the President of the MCC, and who, in 1864, had changed his name to Herbert Jenner-Fust, has one rather enigmatic entry in his bowling CV: he is shown to have bowled 0 deliveries conceding 0 runs for his 75 wickets, and to have captured 5 or more wickets in an innings on 5 occasions. In other words, the details of his bowling exploits are hazy and incomplete. The same can be said of Edward Wenman, also of Kent and MCC (45 career wickets), who is also shown to have bowled 0 balls for 0 runs, although he had 2 hauls of 5 or more wickets in an innings.

There is one name in this motley group that stands out as being somewhat out of the ordinary. Frederick Lowe played only 1 First-Class match in his career, for Victoria, against New South Wales (NSW) at Melbourne in 1855-56, appearing on the team sheet as the designated wicketkeeper. Lowe scored 2 and 1* and made a stumping in the NSW first innings. In the NSW second-innings total of 16 for 7 in a game NSW won by 3 wickets, the bowling was opened by Gideon Elliott (who, making his First-Class debut in this game, had taken the wicket of Richard Murray with his very first ball in First-Class cricket in the NSW first innings) and Lowe, while Philip Kington was prevailed upon to keep wickets. Lowe captured 4 of the 7 wickets to fall for 9 runs, all of his victims being bowled.

One of the best documented instances of a wicketkeeper taking off his pads to bowl is from Test cricket, the incident going back to the third Test between England and Australia at The Oval in 1884. In the face of a brutal attack on the English bowling by Australia in the first innings, particularly from the blades of Percy McDonnell (103), skipper Billy Murdoch (211), and Henry Scott (102), blue-blooded English captain Lord Harris had to turn tohis entire team to man the bowling stations. For the first time in Test history all 11 men of a team bowled in an innings. Designated wicketkeeper Alfred Lyttelton was the tenth man in the bowling sequence and bowled in two separate spells. In his first spell of only 1 over, it was Walter Read behind the stumps.

It was in Lyttelton s second spell that things began to happen. WG took over behind the stumps and had immediate success when he took a catch to dismiss Bill Midwinter; it was the first time that Grace had touched the ball with the wicketkeeping gloves on, and it had produced a wicket for England. This remained a quirky cricket statistic for a long time as a unique event until it was equalled 131 years later by debutant Peter Nevill of Australia, who took a catch to dismiss Adam Lyth of England Lord s in 2015 with his very first touch of the ball in Test cricket. Lyttelton turned out to be the most successful bowler for England in that Test from the distant past, with figures of 4 for 19.

Another man in the list has a record that will be difficult to equal, let alone better. It was a Championship match in 1965 and Warwickshire were playing Essex at Clacton-on-Sea. Leading the visiting team, wicketkeeper Alan Smith scored 8 and 11 in the match and held 2 catches in the first innings. In the second innings Smith brought himself on to bowl and met with great success, capturing 4 for 36. What made his bowling effort quite unique was the fact that these figures included a hat-trick, and he captured the first 3 wickets to fall. Till date, this is the only instance of a designated wicketkeeper taking a hat-trick in a First-Class game.

Let us now return to our examination of the life and times of the Derbyshire wicketkeeper William Bill Storer, who, as we have had occasion to mention earlier, was a very versatile man.

Bill Storer was born January 25, 1867 at Ripley, Derbyshire. He was a right-hand batsman and wicketkeeper, and bowled occasional leg-breaks as an ancillary skill. Along with brother Harry, Bill played cricket for Derbyshire and football for Derbyshire County.

In a First-Class career spanning 1887 to 1905, he played 289 matches, scoring 12,996 runs at 28.87. His highest was 216 not out, and he had 17 centuries, 63 fifties, 377 catches, and 54 stumpings. His bowling figures were no less interesting: 232 wickets at 33.89 with best innings figures of 5 for 20. His overall economy rate was 4.12.

Storer played 6 Tests for England, scoring 215 runs with a highest of 51. He averaged 19.54 and held 11 catches. He also had 2 Test wickets.

Storer s career was marred by his running out of Charlie McLeod in the 1897-98 Ashes Test at Sydney. McLeod missed a full-toss from Richardson and was bowled but umpire Charles Bannerman had already called a no-ball. Unfortunately, McLeod was born deaf, and could not hear the call. Taking advantage, Storer ran him out, though he later admitted doing it under orders .

Bill Storer played as a professional for Derbyshire from 1887 to 1905, playing 209 matches for his county in all. His First-Class career began with the match against Lancashire at Old Trafford in 1887 with 0 and 5*. He was not keeping wickets on his debut. We find him behind the stumps for the first time while playing for an MCC team against Nottinghamshire at Lord s in 1893, in his third First-Class game. Storer made his first significant contribution for MCC against Sussex, also at Lord s, in 1895, scoring 82 and 65, and holding a catch and making a stumping.

Storer scored his first century came against Lancashire at Derby in 1895: he got 40 and 108, and held 4 catches in the second innings. With this century he passed the milestones of 1,000 runs for the season and 1,500 overall.

In a crunch game against Yorkshire at Derby in 1896, Bill Storer became the first professional player to score a hundred in each innings of a First-Class game, with scores of 100 and 100 not out. He made it 3 centuries in a row by scoring an unbeaten 142 in the only innings he batted in the very next game, versus Leicestershire at Leicester.

Storer s first 5-wicket haul came against Surrey at The Oval in 1897, when he took 5 for 40 in the Surrey first innings. He had earlier taken 2 catches behind the stumps in the innings. Storer s best bowling effort of 5 for 20 was for Derbyshire against London County, captained by WG, at Chesterfield in 1901.

Storer s only double-century came for Derbyshire against Leicestershire at Chesterfield in 1899, when he scored 216 not out first-innings total of 388. The next-highest score was 58 from William Ellis.

Storer scored in excess of 1,000 runs in 7 of his 15 season, his best being 1,548 in 1898. He captured 30 or more wickets in 3 seasons, with a best of 36 wickets in 1901. Here is a break-up of the dismissals for his 232 wickets:

Dismissals Number
Bowled 83
Caught 105
Hit Wicket 3
LBW 21
Stumped 20
Total 232

Chosen as Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1899, Storer was the first wicketkeeper to stand up to the fastest bowling on a regular basis, the feat being all the more remarkable as he had occasion to keep to the bowling of such fast bowlers as Charles Kortright, generally considered to be one of the quickest in history.

The reader may well wonder why this particular wicketkeeper, out of the 32 on the ACS list, has been chosen for special attention. Well, the two above him as far as the number of wickets goes, Russell and Stephenson, have both been tagged as being only occasional wicketkeepers. The next man on the all-time list of the highest wicket takers in First-Class cricket from the wicket-keeping fraternity happens to be William Bill Storer, whose primary fielding skills related to wicketkeeping.

Bill Storer passed away in 1912 at Derby aged about 45 years.

(Pradip Dhole is a retired medical practitioner with a life-long interest in cricket history and statistics)