A tall man for a spinner (around 188 cm, 6 ft 2 in), he whirled his arms to an unusual extent and had a low point of delivery that meant it was very difficult for the batsman to read the flight of the ball out of his hand. When O'Reilly died, Sir Donald Bradman said that he was the greatest bowler he had ever faced or watched. In 1935, Wisden wrote of him: "O'Reilly was one of the best examples in modern cricket of what could be described as a 'hostile' bowler." In 1939, Wisden reflected on Bill O'Reilly's successful 1938 Ashes tour of England: "He is emphatically one of the greatest bowlers of all time."
As a batsman, O'Reilly was a competent left-hander, usually batting well down the order. O'Reilly's citation as a Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1935 said: "He had no pretensions to grace of style or any particular merit, but he could hit tremendously hard and was always a menace to tired bowlers."
As well as his skill, O'Reilly was also known for his competitiveness, and bowled with the aggression of a paceman. In a short biographical essay on O'Reilly for the Barclays World of Cricket book, his contemporary, the England cricketer Ian Peebles, wrote that "any scoring-stroke was greeted by a testy demand for the immediate return of the ball rather than a congratulatory word. Full well did he deserve his sobriquet of 'Tiger'."
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