Born 11 February 1895 at Noel Street, Kimberley, Ben Lilley played his early cricket for Kimberley Institute and, prior to joining Nottinghamshire Groundstaff in 1921, had professional engagements in Kirkcaldy in Scotland and Mourne Grange in Ireland.

He was principally a wicket-keeper, but also a steady and reliable right hand batsman. His First-Class debut was for Nottinghamshire v Essex at Leyton on 8 June 1921; he was not, though, seen at all for the county XI 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. Another injury prevented Oates from playing for most of July and Lilley again deputised.  Such was his form with the bat, particularly when  in the Second Eleven, that when Whysall was indisposed he came in as the opening bat.

In May 1925 he hit 200no for Notts Seconds against a  Staffordshire XI that included the great S F Barnes and from then on he was preferred to Oates in the First XI. Lilley had great success in his first proper season in First-Class cricket and, despite missing several early games, completed 1,000 runs for Nottinghamshire, a feat he repeated in 1928. In 1925 he also exceeded 60 victims behind the stumps, a feat he was to claim 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 wicket-keeper 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. 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 to open the Nottinghamshire innings instead of going in about number 6 or 7, but the experiment did not last long and within the year Keeton and Harris had established themselves as a reliable opening pair.

With Arthur Carr attending the Trent Bridge Test and both Sam Staples and Willis Walker absent ill, 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. Lilley did not captain the team after 1934 since Heane and Rhodes took over and from 1936 and 1939 Heane did not miss a match.

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.

He played in 373 First-Class matches, scoring 10,496 runs with a highest score of 124, one of seven First-Class centuries; and as wicketkeeper, holding 657 catches and completing 133 stumpings.

After his retirement he became the landlord of the Forest Tavern, Mansfield Road, Nottingham. He died on 4 August 1950 in Nottingham after a long illness.

July 2020

Nottinghamshire First-Class Number: 324

See Ben Lilley's career stats here