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1851: Notorious cricketer's skill

Updated: Dec 5, 2023

Brighton Gazette - Thursday 08 May 1851

LAMBERT THE CRICKETER.

Mr William Lambert, the most celebrated cricketer of his day, died at his residence at Redhill, on the 19th April, in the 73rd year of his age. When Lambert was in his prime, his skill as a cricketer obtained for him a greater notoriety than any cricketer received for years afterwards.


In those days the round hand bowling had not come into vogue; and Lambert was so complete a master of his bat that could do almost as he pleased with the balls. As an instance of this, an anecdote is told of his prowess in a match played many years ago at Hayward's Heath, when he was engaged as a ”given man” for Cuckfield, against the united strength of the parishes of Twineham and Cowfold, which boasted of having the finest country eleven in the south of England.


Lambert in older age c1845

It was a smoking hot day when the match was played; but, being a countryman, Lambert would invariably trudge on foot to country matches. The wickets were pitched; but no Lambert made his appearance.


One of the Cuckfield inhabitants made a bet that Lambert would get forty runs in the first innings and no more; what understanding there might have been between the party who made the bet and Lambert, of course, is mere conjecture. At all events, the fact of his getting just 40 runs in the first innings showed his master hand at the game.


But we are before our story. Cuckfield put in their men first, and some five or six wickets had fallen, when a person with a white round frock, nankeen small cloths, white stockings, and half-boots, was seen making his way across the heath. It was Lambert; he had walked from Outwood, near Horley, where he resided at the time.


He was welcomed to the field, and speedily sent to the wicket. His batting excited the admiration of everyone; but there was an elderly gentleman on horseback who was in the habit of attending country matches, and who thought that the Twineham party did not know how to place their men.


Lambert seldom struck his ball to a man; it always went between them, the old gentlemen remarked continually, ”Ned, now you see, there ought to have been a man there; they will never get him out.”


At length Lambert struck the ball clean out of the ground into a faggot stack, when a bystander remarked to the old gentleman on horseback, “There ought to have been man there.” This observation so chagrined the gentlemen that he rode away, and did not stop to witness the finish of the match.


Suffice it to say, Lambert obtained his 40 runs in the first innings, when quietly popped the ball into the hands of the “point.” Shortly after Lambert's first appearance at Lord's ground, the veteran, Osbaldeston, was bowling at him by way of practice at a single stump, Lambert stopped everything, rapid as was the bowling of Mr Osbaldeston.


The latter in consequence made a match for £100 for Lambert and himself to play any two members of the Marylebone Club. The challenge was accepted by Lord Beauclerk, who played himself with another efficient member of the club. Osbaldcston was taken ill, Lambert played the two himself, and beat them.


Of late years Lambert turned his attention to ringing; and we believe, composed some peals. Although his cricketing created so much astonishment forty years ago, we question whether it would have been much thought of in the present day.


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