The Patron Saint of Wicket Keepers or ‘Put out Behind the Yold’

If stumpers had a Patron Saint it would be William ‘the Yold’ Yalden and their Saints Day would be today, October 6th.

A Surrey v Hambledon fixture seems to have been a regular finale to the season with the two sides often meeting in late September or even in October.  It was during their match in 1778 that ‘the Yold’ became the first keeper to be credited with stumping a batsman. 

The scorecard for Hambledon’s second innings reads: Bonham stumped Yalden 9.

The match was played at Laleham Burway, a tract of meadowland besides the Thames at Chertsey, where in fact Yalden had been born in 1740.  It was also on this same ground, six years before, that Thomas White caused a furore when he brought to the wicket a huge bat, wider than the stumps.  The first stumping may have been equally controversial.

Yalden, was later described by Nyren as he “who would resort to trick”.  He was obviously an early example of those wicket keepers who specialize in getting under the skins of their opponents.

‘The Yold’ gave up cricket for a time because of failing eyesight but, after a season out of the game, the Earl of Tankerville persuaded him to give it another go.

“Try again, Yaldon.”   He did and astonished everyone by being even more successful than before.  He was a fair bat, too.

Yalden’s career spans the period in which ‘length’ bowling came into being.  Before this, ‘keepers (and long stops) would have had to field the ball hurtling towards them along uneven ground.   

The well known picture of a match at the Artillery Ground at around 1740 may give a fair idea of how wicket keepers went about their business, crouching close to the stumps with one leg forward.  A similar style is shown in a number of different illustrations around this time. 

As length bowling developed, the number of catches would have increased and, as batsmen began to play forward and to leave their crease to counter length bowling, the bowling side would have demanded opportunities for ‘keepers to ‘run out’ or ‘put out behind’.

For Nyren and the men of Hambledon the wicket keeper par excellence was, not unnaturally, their very own Tom Sueter who, of course, was scrupulous and gentlemanly in his appealing.

But surely you can be a Saint even when you are not a saint.

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