We’ve all had bad days at work when nothing has gone right. Cricketers are no different – just think how many times you’ve seen a batsman get out to a bad shot or a bowler delivering a full toss and being effortlessly struck for six. But as one county wicketkeeper once said to me: “Spare a thought for us behind the stumps. If a batsman makes a mistake and gets out, he leaves the field while a bowler having a poor spell can be taken off. But if we keepers have a bad day, we remain there with the gloves on!”
On December 21, Peter Nevill, the 25-year-old New South Wales wicketkeeper, had a day behind the stumps that he probably would rather forget as he conceded no less than 43 byes in the Sheffield Shield match against Queensland at the Olympic Park Oval in Sydney. This was a new record for the Australian domestic competition, with New South Wales conceding 48 extras in Queensland’s second innings total of 280. Nevill – who was playing in his eighth first-class match – did at least end up on the winning side as New South Wales won by 133 runs.
As far as Test cricket is concerned, the record for most byes is held by Les Ames, the Kent wicketkeeper, who in the second innings of the Test against Australia at The Oval in 1934 conceded 37 byes as the visitor’s scored 327. Another Kent wicketkeeper, Tony Catt, was involved in the county record of 48 byes during the County Championship match at Northampton in 1955. It happened during Northamptonshire`s first innings total of 374 as 73 extras were conceded, comprising 48 byes, 23 leg byes and 2 wides. Catt, who made 138 appearances for Kent between 1954 and 1964, did have an excuse as he was suffering from sunburn, and as Wisden’s correspondent noted, it “seriously impeded Catt’s movement”, with the keeper finding it especially difficult to take sharply turning balls from leg-spinner Doug Wright.
There was another Championship match involving Kent when a wicketkeeper had a very bad day behind the stumps, but in this case – the game with Glamorgan at Cardiff in May 1934 – the home team’s gloveman tragically started to lose his sight during the game. The player in question was Trevor Every, the Llanelli-born cricketer who had been an outstanding wicketkeeper for the Welsh county since making his debut in 1929 and was being tipped as a prospective England player. But Every started to experience problems with his eyesight during pre-season practices in 1934. At first, he bravely shrugged off these difficulties and was chosen for the opening game of the season against Kent at the Arms Park. However, soon after the start of the Kent innings, he was finding it difficult to pick up the flight of the ball and uncharacteristically he missed or fumbled a number of deliveries, besides conceding 18 byes.
He was also clean bowled first ball in Glamorgan’s first innings, and after discussing the problem with club captain Maurice Turnbull, he visited an eye specialist who told him that he had permanent deterioration to his retina and that he would soon go blind. Every never took to the field again, and the scorebook for Glamorgan’s second innings of the match with Kent simply records him as being ‘absent ill’. Within a month or so, poor Every had gone completely blind and a fund-raising campaign began on his behalf as his former colleagues played a series of cricket and football matches to help raise enough to allow him to train as a stenographer with the Royal National Institute of the Blind in Cardiff.