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ASTILL, WILLIAM EWART, for many years one of the best all-round players in England, died on February 10 in a Leicester hospital after a long illness, aged 57. Of medium height and slight build he became a very clever medium paced right-arm bowler, with spin either way, and batted in sound, orthodox style. Born at Ratby on March 1, he inherited his love of cricket from his father and was engaged by the county when 15. Next season he began his first class career, which did not end until 1939, when he rejoined the Army as an officer after playing a few times in the previous two seasons.
Astill gained special distinction by scoring a thousand runs and taking a hundred wickets in a season nine times, his only superiors in this respect being Wilfred Rhodes, George Hirst and V. W. C. Jupp. His best period came after gaining an Army commission in the 1914-1918 war. Previous to this his form varied but fromn 1920, when his aggregate runs reached 708 and his wickets numbered 97, he maintained steady excellence both with bat and ball; his first "Double" came in 1921 and the last in 1930, the only year in this decade when he failed to achieve this being 1927, when he headed Leicestershire batting with 1,311 runs, average nearly 40, and took 63 wickets. For a man of moderate strength he got through an enormous amount of work season after season, with George Geary his most effective bowling partner.
Astill twice went to West Indies and once each to South Africa and India with M.C.C. teams, his only rest from competitive cricket during seven years coming in the winter of 1928. He played in five Test matches in South Africa and four in West Indies. Altogether in first-class cricket he scored 22,648 runs, average 22.78, took 2,428 wickets at 22.64 runs apiece and made 402 catches, as given in Sir Home Gordon's "Form at a Glance"
A delightful man, Astill was equally popular on and off the field, making a name as a coach by the happy way in which he instructed and corrected faults, both with Leicestershire in 1938, when he gave up regular county cricket, and at Tonbridge School, where he was appointed coach in 1946. An extremely good amateur billiard player, he was once champion of the British Army of the Rhine.