A fine all-round cricketer whose career was cut short by a tragic injury, "Billy" Bates was one of the more popular and respected cricketers of his generation. He was only 32 when, during practice at Melbourne, he was struck in the eye by a ball hit by one of his team-mates. His eye-sight was permanently impaired and he was unable to play further first-class cricket. He was much depressed at his enforced retirement, attempting suicide at one point, but recovered to play club cricket, and coach.
A Yorkshireman, he was a fine attacking batsman, brilliant at times, with ten first-class hundreds, and an excellent slow round-arm spinner. He turned the ball a long way, and on wet wickets was most effective. His one weakness was fielding, where, despite his best efforts, he was prone to drop rather easy catches. It was this weakness perhaps that restricted his Test appearances to overseas tours. He toured Australia five times, and America once. In the Melbourne Test of 1883 he became the first England player to peform the hat-trick, the victims being the illustrious trio of McDonnell, Giffen and Bonnor. His son played for Yorkshire and Glamorgan.
(Article: Copyright © 2003 Dave Liverman)