Born on July 18th 1913, in Northcote, Melbourne, the first player ever selected to keep wickets for Australia, Hilda Mary Hills.
A founding member of the Preston Women’s Cricket Club, where her keeping skills began to blossom along with her batting, she won the club’s batting average for three successive seasons. Hilda was a rarity in Victorian cricket in those times: she did not need a backstop like so many others.
“It is a fine old sport, bringing out the best points of friendship and sporting spirit in a girl.”
She lived that spirit, when an opposing batsman fell over outside of her crease and Hilda refused to take the easy stumping opportunity.
Representative honours soon arrived when she was selected to play for Victoria in the National Championships in 1932 where she played as a batter. By 1933 she was wearing the keeping gloves as well and significantly was keeping to Peggy Antonio and Anne Palmer, the two best spin bowlers in the country.
In 1934 the England team toured Australia and against Victoria, Hilda Hills was right in the action with her gloves, stumping Betty Snowball and Mollie Child from the bowling of Antonio. When the team for the first Test was announced it was Hilda Hills who was the obvious choice as wicket keeper and was duly chosen.
On that Brisbane morning of 28th December at the Exhibition Ground, Margaret Peden won the toss and elected to bat. The England bowlers ran riot, and Hilda, batting at number six, didn’t have to wait long to get into the action with Australia in trouble at 10/4. More troubled ensued. Hilda mishit a pull stroke off the bowling of Myrtle Maclagan, the ball ricocheted from the bat into her nose.
Retiring hurt (becoming the first female Test player to do so) with just two runs to her name, Hilda was rushed to Brisbane Hospital where it was discovered that she had broken her nose. She would not return to the match and never donned the wicket keeping gloves for Australia! She was “absent injured” for the second innings of the Test, making her the first to record that entry in a scorebook.
In seven first class matches, which includes the first Test where she didn’t keep wickets, Hilda Hills took 7 catches and 12 stumpings. Little wonder she was the first selected. She passed away in 2003.