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All about Cricket: What Makes a Yorker a Yorker?

What makes a yorker a yorker, and where did it originate? I play cricket in York, where the locals are known as Yorkers, at least in some sections.

Even a basic online search reveals that there are numerous theories. The Oxford English Dictionary, on the other hand, is the only sensible place to start for real etymological work. The bowling variant, the demonym, and the cryptically interesting “anything that is used to tie a pant leg beneath the knee” are all included there.

Author Assumed His Readers Knew What’s Yorker

Bell’s Life in London & Sporting Chronicle claimed in August 1861 that “Buchanan stopped some time, and disturbed the bowlers immensely, as he would not strike even a ‘Yorker‘.” Leaving aside the reality that failing to strike a yorker would almost certainly finish rather than lengthen a batsman’s innings, it’s evident that the author assumed his readers knew what a yorker was.

Extremely Unconvincing

However, Michael Rundell finds this “actually extremely unconvincing.” In his Wisden Dictionary of Cricket (3rd ed.,2006), Rundell claims that the genuine tale is one of deception: the yorker is from Yorkshire, but only because “york” is a slang term for cheating.

No Idea How To Bowl A Yorker

Whatever its roots, the fact that Lasith Malinga “had no idea how to bowl a yorker” when he was called up to the Sri Lankan national squad is reassuring to those of us still trying and failing to perfect it. Waqar Younis’ play against Kenya in the 2011 World Cup “reminded me of myself in the good old days,” according to Waqar Younis.

And, given that Malinga appears to have refined his talents by bowling at a pair of shoes in the nets, I can’t help but wonder if he’s unwittingly throwing us back in time, reuniting the yarker with its boots.

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