Ben Lilley, whose First-Class debut came on 8 June 1921, retains his place as one of Nottinghamshire's greatest-ever wicketkeepers to this day.
But a career which saw him claim 780 victims behind the stumps began just a few weeks after joining the groundstaff at Trent Bridge.
Lilley, born 11 February 1895 in Kimberley, played his early cricket for Kimberley Institute and had professional engagements in Kirkcaldy in Scotland and Mourne Grange in Ireland.
He took a few seasons to settle into the First XI; he was not seen at all during 1922 and on only three occasions in 1923.
In 1924, Tom Oates was injured in the match at Leicester in May and Lilley came in for the home game versus Glamorgan. Lilley’s form with the bat, particularly when in the Second Eleven, was such that when Whysall was indisposed he came in as the first team opening bat, with Oates behind the stumps.
In May 1925 he hit 200* for Notts Seconds – out of an innings of just 292 – against a Staffordshire XI that included the great S F Barnes; from then on, he was preferred to Oates in the First Eleven.
Lilley had great success in his first proper season in First-Class cricket and, despite missing several early games, amassed 1,000 runs for Nottinghamshire; a feat he repeated in 1928.
In 1925, the season he gained his county cap, Lilley also exceeded 60 victims behind the stumps, which he achieved in nine seasons in all.
His total of 81 victims in 1926 created a new Nottinghamshire record; two years later he hit his first First-Class century for Nottinghamshire when he scored 110no against Glamorgan at Cardiff.
He was Nottinghamshire's regular wicketkeeper from 1925 to 1936 and missed very few matches, though in 1927 he was troubled by a finger injury which necessitated an operation for the removal of a bone splinter. Meanwhile, in 1931 he missed five matches after badly bruising a finger versus Middlesex at Lord's.
With the death of Whysall in 1930 and the retirement of George Gunn at the end of the same season, Lilley was promoted from his lower middle-order berth to open the Nottinghamshire innings. However, the experiment did not last long and within the year Keeton and Harris had established themselves as a reliable opening pair.
Lilley captained Nottinghamshire for the first time on 6 June 1934 v Leicestershire at Leicester.
Within a few weeks he was appointed captain for the rest of the season, when Carr was unable to play due to illness. Lilley was therefore captain during the Nottinghamshire v Australians match in August when Voce caused controversy by not playing on the third day of the game.
During 1936, Lilley lost his place in the First XI, and his last First-Class match for the county was against Worcestershire at Trent Bridge in May 1937.
Ben Lilley returned to Trent Bridge for three war time matches in 1941 – two against a Royal Air Force XI and one v Leicestershire – adding a further two stumpings to his career stats.
He played in 373 First-Class matches, scoring 10,496 runs with a highest score of 124, one of seven First-Class centuries. As wicketkeeper he held holding 657 catches and completed 133 stumpings, with him currently sitting fourth on the list of Nottinghamshire's leading all-time glovemen.
He twice played in what was, at that time, the closing match of the domestic season, between the champion county and ‘The Rest’.
In September 1925, Lilley joined such luminaries as Jack Hobbs, Frank Woolley and Wally Hammond against Yorkshire at The Oval.
Four years later he was keeping for the champions, Nottinghamshire, against The Rest, also at The Oval. His victims included Walter Robins, later to be a long-serving – and occasionally controversial – selector and tour manager of the England squad.
After his retirement he became the landlord of the Forest Tavern on Mansfield Road. Ben Lilley died on 4 August 1950 in Nottingham after a long illness.
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