Overarm bowling

In cricket, overarm bowling refers to a delivery in which the bowler's hand is above shoulder height.

When cricket originated all bowlers delivered the ball underarm, where the bowler's hand is below waist height. However, so the story goes, John Willes became the first bowler to use a "round-arm" technique after practising with his sister Christine Willes, who had used the technique, as she was unable to bowl underarm due to her wide and huge skirt impeding her delivery of the ball.[1]

A roundarm delivery is where the hand is between shoulder height and waist height;

After roundarm was legalised in 1835 with the bowler allowed to deliver the ball at shoulder height, it was not long before some bowlers began to raise the hand above the shoulder. The Laws of Cricket at that time directed that such a delivery be called a no-ball. In 1845, the law was strengthened by removing the benefit of doubt from the bowler in height of hand questions, the umpire's view of the incident being final.

Even so, it was only a matter of time before confrontation occurred. The problem was that many umpires were themselves bowlers and believed that the bowler should be allowed to bowl with a fully raised hand. The watershed was reached on 26 August 1862 at The Oval when Surrey hosted All-England. The England bowler Edgar Willsher deliberately bowled overarm and was no-balled six times in succession by umpire John Lillywhite, ironically the son of William Lillywhite, the famous bowler who had done so much to have roundarm legalised in 1835.

In what was surely a pre-rehearsed demonstration, Willsher and the other eight professionals in the England team staged a walk-off, leaving their two amateur colleagues looking non-plussed in the middle. Play continued next day, but Lillywhite diplomatically withdrew and was replaced by another umpire.

MCC responded to this "crisis" with rather more haste than they had to roundarm and changed the Laws of Cricket in time for the 1864 season. Law 10 was rewritten to allow the bowler to bring his arm through at any height providing he kept it straight and did not throw the ball. This completed the evolution of bowling and the overarm style has remained predominant ever since, though some conservatives (including W G Grace, no less) did continue to bowl roundarm till the end of their careers; and even underarm itself was still seen occasionally.

An interesting historical development of the legalisation of overarm was that for many years, 1864 was deemed to mark the start of "first-class cricket" which suggested that earlier cricket was "second-class". The 1864 origin has been strongly challenged: see also First-class cricket.

Darren Gough bowling
English cricketer Darren Gough about to deliver the ball overarm-style.


  1. ^ http://www.cricketweb.net/resources/history/index.php John Willes and his sister invent overarm bowling

External sources

Further reading

  • Arthur Haygarth, Scores & Biographies, Volume 7 (1861-1862), Lillywhite, 1863
  • Arthur Haygarth, Scores & Biographies, Volume 8 (1863-1864), Lillywhite, 1865
  • H S Altham, A History of Cricket, Volume 1 (to 1914), George Allen & Unwin, 1962
  • Derek Birley, A Social History of English Cricket, Aurum, 1999
  • Rowland Bowen, Cricket: A History of its Growth and Development, Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1970
  • John Major, More Than A Game, HarperCollins, 2007
1862 English cricket season

1862 was the 76th season of cricket in England since the foundation of Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC). The overarm bowling issue came to a head in a controversial match at The Oval.

1864 English cricket season

1864 was the 78th season of cricket in England since the foundation of Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC). It was a significant year in cricket history, as it saw the legalisation of overarm bowling and the first edition of John Wisden’s Cricketers’ Almanac.

1864 in sports

1864 in sports describes the year's events in world sport.

1864 in the United Kingdom

Events from the year 1864 in the United Kingdom.

Bowling (cricket)

Bowling, in cricket, is the action of propelling the ball toward the wicket defended by a batsman. A player skilled at bowling is called a bowler; a bowler who is also a competent batsman is known as an all-rounder. Bowling the ball is distinguished from throwing the ball by a strictly specified biomechanical definition, which restricts the angle of extension of the elbow. A single act of bowling the ball towards the batsman is called a ball or a delivery. Bowlers bowl deliveries in sets of six, called an over. Once a bowler has bowled an over, a teammate will bowl an over from the other end of the pitch. The Laws of Cricket govern how a ball must be bowled. If a ball is bowled illegally, an umpire will rule it a no-ball. If a ball is bowled too wide of the striker for the batsman to be able to play at it with a proper cricket shot, the bowler's end umpire will rule it a wide.There are different types of bowlers, from fast bowlers, whose primary weapon is pace, through swing and seam bowlers who try to make the ball deviate in its course through the air or when it bounces, to slow bowlers, who will attempt to deceive the batsmen with a variety of flight and spin. A spin bowler usually delivers the ball quite slowly and puts spin on the ball, causing it to turn at an angle while bouncing off the pitch.

Cricket in Sussex

Cricket in Sussex refers to the sport of cricket in relation to its participation and history within Sussex, England. One of the most popular sports in Sussex, it is commonly believed that cricket was developed in Sussex and the neighbouring counties of Kent and Surrey. Records from 1611 indicate the first time that the sport was documented in Sussex; this is also the first reference to cricket being played by adults. The first reference to women's cricket is also from Sussex and dates from 1677; a match between two Sussex women's teams playing in London is documented from 1747. Formed in 1839, Sussex County Cricket Club is believed to be the oldest professional sports club in the world and is the oldest of the county cricket clubs. Sussex players, including Jem Broadbridge and William Lillywhite were instrumental in bringing about the change from underarm bowling to roundarm bowling, which later developed into overarm bowling. For some time roundarm bowling was referred to as 'Sussex bowling'.Sussex's 'golden era' was in the 2000s when the club won 8 competitions including the County Championship three times, winning the County Championship for the first time in 2003. Formed in 1971, the Sussex Cricket League is believed to be the largest adult cricket league in the world, with 335 teams in 2018.

Edgar Willsher

Edgar “Ned” Willsher (22 November 1828 – 7 October 1885) was an English cricketer known for being a catalyst in the shift from roundarm to overarm bowling. A left-handed bowler, and useful lower-order batsman, Willsher played first-class cricket for Kent County Cricket Club between 1850 and 1875. He took over 1,300 first-class wickets, despite only having one lung. He led a tour of Canada and the United States in 1868, and after retiring from his playing career became an umpire (cricket).

John Lillywhite

John Lillywhite (born 10 November 1826 at Hove, Sussex; died 27 October 1874 at St Pancras, London) was an English cricketer and umpire during the game's roundarm era.

John Lillywhite was part of a famous cricketing family, his father being William Lillywhite, a brother being Fred Lillywhite and his cousin being James Lillywhite. In 1863, members of the family established the sports outfitters Lillywhites.Lillywhite was an all-rounder who batted right-handed and bowled right-arm roundarm, both slow and fast.

His known first-class career spanned the 1848 to 1873 seasons. He took 223 wickets in 185 matches @ 11.56 with a best analysis of 8/54. He took five wickets in an innings 12 times and 10 wickets in a match twice. He scored 5127 runs @ 17.43 with a highest score of 138, making two centuries. He took 94 catches.

He served as cricket coach at Rugby School where he nurtured star all-rounder Tom Wills, one of the founders of Australian rules football.

At the end of the 1859 English cricket season, Lillywhite was one of the 12 players who took part in cricket's first-ever overseas tour when an English team led by George Parr visited North America.

From 1856 to 1873, Lillywhite umpired in 29 first-class matches. On 26 August 1862, during an All-England Eleven v. Surrey match at The Oval, Lillywhite no-balled Edgar Willsher six times in succession for what he deemed to be illegal "high" deliveries. Willsher and the majority of his All-England teammates protested and abandoned the match, and Lillywhite was replaced the following day. The incident provoked much discussion and resulted in the laws of cricket being change to allow overarm bowling from the beginning of the 1864 season.

List of Marylebone Cricket Club players (1827–1863)

This article is the second sub-division of Lists of Marylebone Cricket Club players. It presents an alphabetical listing of cricketers who debuted for Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) in first-class cricket from the beginning of the 1827 season until the end of the 1863 season. Many of the players continued to represent the club after 1863 but they are only listed here, as it was in this period that they made their MCC debuts. Players who debuted for MCC before 1827 can be found in List of Marylebone Cricket Club players (1787–1826).

The "roundarm era" began in 1827 with the roundarm trial matches being played that season; 1863 was the last season before overarm bowling was legalised.MCC played all its home matches through the roundarm era at its own Lord's venue in north London. Although many of the players who represented the club were members or ground staff, others were associated with county clubs or teams and appeared for MCC by invitation. MCC teams have always operated at all levels of the sport and players who represented the club in minor cricket only are out of scope here.

The details are the player's usual name followed by the span of years in which he was active as an MCC player in important matches (the span may include years in which he played in minor matches only for MCC and/or years in which he did not represent MCC in any matches) and then his name is given as it would appear on modern match scorecards (e.g., surname preceded by all initials). In cases where the player represented significant other teams besides MCC, these are given at the end of his entry.

List of Marylebone Cricket Club players (1864–1894)

This article is the third sub-division of Lists of Marylebone Cricket Club players. It presents an alphabetical listing of cricketers who debuted for Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) in first-class cricket from the legalisation of overarm bowling in 1864 until the end of the 1894 season. Many of the players represented MCC after 1894 but they are only listed here, as it was in this period that they made their MCC debuts. Players who debuted for MCC before 1864 can be found in List of Marylebone Cricket Club players (1827–1863). 1894 was the last full season before the official definition of first-class cricket was implemented in May 1895.MCC played all its home matches through the period at its own Lord's venue in north London. Although some players who represented the club were members or ground staff, most were associated with county clubs and appeared for MCC by invitation. MCC teams have always operated at all levels of the sport and players who represented the club in minor cricket only are out of scope here. At this time, MCC had not taken control of overseas tours by the England cricket team and had yet to play any matches outside Great Britain (the first was a visit to Ireland in 1895).

The details are the player's usual name followed by the span of years in which he was active as an MCC player in important matches (the span may include years in which he played in minor matches only for MCC and/or years in which he did not represent MCC in any matches) and then his name is given as it would appear on modern match scorecards (e.g., surname preceded by all initials), followed by the county club or other team with which he was mostly associated (this may be MCC itself). A handful of these players later travelled abroad on winter tours organised by MCC from 1903/04: dates and destinations are given at the end of each relevant entry. Players who took part in early Test cricket, which began in 1877, have their names highlighted in bold text.


Pads (also called leg guards) are protective equipment used by batters in the sport of cricket, catchers in the sports of baseball and fastpitch softball, and by goaltenders in ice hockey, bandy and box lacrosse. They serve to protect the legs from impact by a hard ball or puck at high speed which could otherwise cause injuries to the lower legs.

Roundarm bowling

In cricket, roundarm bowling is a bowling style that was introduced in the first quarter of the 19th century and largely superseded underarm bowling by the 1830s. Using a roundarm action, the bowler has their arm extended about 90 degrees from their body at the point where they release the ball. Roundarm fell into decline after 1864 when the current style of overarm bowling was legalised, although W. G. Grace continued to use it to the end of his career.

Ted Pooley

Edward William 'Ted' Pooley (13 February 1842 – 18 July 1907) was an English cricketer. Ted Pooley's greatest claim to fame is that he should have been England's first Test match wicket-keeper. The story is a good one, but it overshadows the fact that he played cricket for Surrey and Middlesex between 1861 and 1883, and was held in the highest regard for his cricketing ability if not for his personal behaviour.

Ted Sainsbury

Edward ("Ted") Sainsbury (5 July 1851 – 28 October 1930) was an English cricketer who represented, and captained, Somerset County Cricket Club in the late 19th century. During a 10-year first-class cricket career, he also represented Gloucestershire and the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC).

Most commonly employed as a right-handed opening batsman, Sainsbury was one of Somerset's most talented batsman during their formative years. His slow underarm bowling was effective in second-class cricket, but in an era when overarm bowling was becoming the standard, he was used sparingly in the first-class game. During his time at Somerset, the county gained first-class status. After being led for three seasons by Sainsbury's Lansdown team-mate Stephen Newton, Sainsbury was given the Somerset captaincy for the 1885 season. A combination of poor results and not being able to raise a full eleven during that season led to the county's removal from the first-class game, although Sainsbury remained as captain until 1888. By the time Somerset had improved sufficiently to return to first-class cricket in 1891, Sainsbury had moved to neighbouring county Gloucestershire, where he saw out his county cricket career.

Thomas Collins (cricketer, born 1841)

Thomas Collins (31 January 1841 – 16 March 1934) played first-class cricket for Cambridge University in three matches between 1861 and 1863 and in many other games that have not been designated first-class. He was born in Warwick, Warwickshire and died at Newport, Shropshire.

Collins was educated at King Edward VI School, Bury St Edmunds and at Christ's College, Cambridge University. He graduated as a Bachelor of Arts in 1863, becoming a Master of Arts in 1868. He became a schoolmaster at King Edward VI's School, Birmingham from 1863 to 1870, and was then headmaster of Newport Grammar School in Newport, Shropshire, from 1871 to his retirement in 1903.

Tom Walker (cricketer)

Thomas Walker (16 November 1762 – 1 March 1831) was an English cricketer who played for Hampshire in the days of the Hambledon Club and later for Surrey. He was famous for his brilliant defensive batting. He is also credited with introducing, roundarm bowling, the predecessor of modern overarm bowling.

Twopenny (cricketer)

Twopenny (also Jarrawuk or Murrumgunarrimin) (c. 1845 – 12 March 1883) is generally acknowledged as the first Aboriginal Australian to play first-class cricket.

He was born in Bathurst, New South Wales. He joined the Australian Aboriginal cricket team on its tour to England in 1868. He was primarily a fast bowler, and a hard-hitting lower order batsman. His bowling was limited initially over concerns that his bowling action might be illegal, but taking advantage of the recent change in the Laws of Cricket to allow overarm bowling, he took 9/9 and 6/7 against an East Hampshire side at Southsea, and then 9/17 and 3/39 against a Hampshire team at Southampton. He played in 46 of the 47 matches on the tour, scoring 589 runs at an average of 8.29, and taking 35 wickets at an average of 6.9 from 704 balls bowled. Playing against a Sheffield team at Bramall Lane in August 1868, he hit the ball so far and high that the batsmen were able to run nine runs (with no overthrows).

He played in a single first-class match for New South Wales against Victoria in February 1870, scoring 8 and 0, and taking 0/41 and 0/15. In a timeless match, scores were similar after the first innings, but Victoria scored 337 in their second innings, and won by 265 runs.

He died in West Maitland, New South Wales, from dropsy.

Van Diemen's Land v Port Phillip, 1851

On 11 and 12 February 1851, teams from Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania) and Port Phillip District (now Victoria) played the first cricket match between two Australian colonies, recognised in later years as the initial first-class cricket match in Australia. It took place at the Launceston Racecourse, known now as the NTCA Ground, in Tasmania. The match was incorporated into celebrations marking the separation of the Port Phillip District from New South Wales in 1851 as the colony of Victoria.

The team representing Port Phillip, generally named "Victoria" in the press, was drawn from the Melbourne Cricket Club. The Van Diemen's Land team, designated "Tasmania" in newspapers, consisted of players from both Launceston and Hobart. The visiting team was expected to have an advantage through the use of fast overarm bowling. Cricket in Victoria was also considerably more advanced than in Tasmania, whose bowlers operated underarm. The match, intended to be played to a finish with no limits on time, took place on a pitch that made batting difficult. As was usual practice at the time, overs comprised four deliveries and there was no set boundary.

John Marshall was the captain of the Van Diemen's Land team and William Philpott led the Port Phillip team, which batted first. The Victorian team found the home bowling difficult to face, on account of its unusually slow pace; in their first innings, they scored 82. Van Diemen's Land replied with 104, assisted by a large number of extras. The batsmen coped better than expected with the overarm bowling, although Thomas Antill took three wickets in four balls in returning figures of seven wickets for 33 runs. Batting again, the Victorian team scored 57, leaving the Tasmanian team needing 36 to win. When the first day's play ended due to bad light, Van Diemen's Land had scored 15 runs and lost six wickets. The next morning, the home team scored the required runs for the loss of one more wicket, recording a three-wicket victory. The match, which had been keenly anticipated, was a great attraction and was followed closely in the press in Melbourne. Additionally, there were many social events for the visiting team.

Following this match, intercolonial cricket became increasingly widespread; cricket in Australia became more popular and was given a boost when teams of English cricketers began to tour the country, leading to a rapid increase in the playing skill of Australian cricketers.

William Hillyer

William Richard Hillyer (5 March 1813 – 8 January 1861), was a prominent 19th century English professional cricketer for Kent County Cricket Club, Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) and many other sides in the days before county and international cricket was organised into regular competitions. He was born at Leybourne in Kent in 1913, the son of an innkeeper.Hillyer first played for Kent in 1834 and was the "principal bowler" for the county teams until 1853. He took at least 514 wickets for Kent teams in 89 matches - a figure which is not precise as bowling figures were frequently not recorded accurately. At the time, scores were generally 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 to score off of 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. He recorded at least 149 five-wicket hauls and took 10 wickets in a match at least 54 times, and 13 in at least 14 matches.By the tail end of the 1830s he was already established as one of the leading bowlers in English cricket. During the 1840s he was statistically unmatched. Until the days of James Southerton no bowler ever took so many wickets in a season as Hillyer's 174 in 1845 - his nearest rival, Jemmy Dean, had taken 100. He took most first-class wickets in English cricket in each season from 1842 to 1849. As a batsman Hillyer was more modest and he only reached 40 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 13 wickets for Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) against Oxford University in 1847.He had first played for the Town Malling club and was employed as a professional by Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) at Lord's between 1838 and 1851, playing regularly in Gentlemen v Players matches during the period.From 1850 onwards, Hillyer began to decline badly, suffering from rheumatism and, beginning in 1852, he began to umpire as was normal practice with professional players of the day. He fell and broke his thumb in 1855 which forced his retirement as a cricketer. He died at Maidstone in Kent in 1861, aged 47.

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