Bill Bestwick: Rough Diamond


by Mick Pope

Heanor-born coal miner and right-arm fast-medium bowler William Bestwick must rank as one of Derbyshire’s most colourful and controversial characters. In a first-class career that stretched from 1898 to 1925 he took 1,457 wickets at 21.28 apiece. At Cardiff in June 1921 he became the first Derbyshire bowler to take all ten wickets in an innings, and at the age of 46 he remains the oldest bowler to achieve the feat.

His intemperance was as prolific as his wicket-taking and his almost insatiable thirst brought him trouble and conflict both on and off the field of play. He was acquitted of a manslaughter charge in early 1907 following a late-night fight with a fellow collier.

Derbyshire sacked him after the 1909 season, weary of his heavy drinking and unruly behaviour. He migrated to South Wales where he played club cricket and a few games for Glamorgan prior to the First World War, before a return to the Derbyshire ranks in the 1920s and retirement at fifty.

Thereafter he turned to umpiring and, from 1927 until his death in 1938, he stood in over 200 first-class fixtures and in three Test matches – also not without incident.

Bill Bestwick is rightly remembered as a rough diamond of county and league cricket, and despite his many foibles and failings, he holds a unique place in the folklore of Derbyshire cricket.

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