William Richard Hillyer (born 5 March 1813, Leybourne, Kent, England; died 8 January 1861 Maidstone, Kent, England), was a prominent cricketer for Kent County Cricket Club, MCC and many other sides in the days before county and international cricket was organised into regular competitions.
Hillyer first played for Kent in 1834, at a time when scores were exceedingly low due to the roughness of pitches, which were kept short by sheep and rolled if at all only with a light roller. Playing in an era when round-arm bowling had taken over from underarm but before overarm bowling was legalised, Hillyer bowled a little above medium pace from a shuffling run with a beautifully simple delivery, and was tremendously difficult due to his gain of pace off the pitch, ability to make the ball come with his arm (from leg to off) and constant shooters which bowled many batsmen.
Although few bowling data were kept in Hillyer's early career, by the tail end of the 1830s he was already established as one of the leading bowlers. During the 1840s he was statistically without peer - indeed until the days of James Southerton no bowler ever took so many wickets in a season as Hillyer's 174 from as few as twenty-one first-class matches in 1845; his nearest rival, Jemmy Dean took just 100. He took the most first-class wickets in English cricket in each of eight consecutive first-class seasons from 1842 to 1849, spanning the era from the decline of Alfred Mynn and William Lillywhite up to the emergence of John Wisden in 1850. As a batsman Hillyer was of modest account: although the exceedingly low scores of the period (a mere twelve centuries and not one score of 150 were hit in over four hundred and fifty first-class matches spanning Hillyer's career) must be taken into account, Hillyer reached forty only three times. Nonetheless, in by far his highest innings, Hillyer became the first player to accomplish the still-treasured feat of a "match double", scoring 26 and 83 and taking thirteen wickets for MCC against Oxford University in 1847.
From 1850 onwards, Hillyer began to decline badly, although he was never easy to handle, and beginning in 1852, he took to umpiring as was normal practice with professional players of the day. He died in 1861 – the same year as his more famous contemporary Mynn.
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