CRICKETER OF THE YEAR - 1940

Walter Keeton

WALTER KEETON, whose 312, not out, against Middlesex was the highest score of last season and the largest ever made for Nottinghamshire, was born at Shirebrook on April 30, 1905. He first obtained a regular place in the county side in 1931, and since then has been one of the most consistent and attractive of opening batsmen. He has also been one of the unluckiest, for besides having his share of injuries incurred on the field he was, during the winter of 1934, involved in a very serious motor accident. The mental as well as the physical effects of this proved stubborn to overcome, and it speaks volumes for Keeton's pluck that he fought his way back to his best form.

When, at the end of 1930, Nottinghamshire decided to look for younger players, George Gunn was one of the old hands whose retirement was announced. But the death of Whysall and a poor start to the next season caused the veteran to be recalled, and Keeton had the fortune to be chosen as his partner. He filled the position to a nicety and definitely established himself by scoring 1,140 runs in county matches and by fielding splendidly at third man and in the deep. The next year he made a further advance scoring 2,062 runs altogether and making six centuries, the highest being 242 against Glamorgan. That the selectors were alive to his excellence was shown by his being picked for the two Trial matches at Manchester and Cardiff. In the first of these he was badly hit on the knee and had to retire.

The summer of 1933 began unhappily and finished in the greatest triumph. A blow on the head in the Yorkshire match kept him out for a couple of games, and he took some little time to get going. When he did so it was with a vengeance. By most brilliant batting in fifteen innings during August he scored 1,102 runs making six centuries, four in five consecutive innings, and together with Harris--that enigmatic person who stops half-volleys and drives good length balls to the boundary--putting up 125 and 128 for the first wicket against Kent at Trent Bridge. At the end of the season in which his full tally was 2,258 he played for the Rest against the Champion County, and local enthusiasts were already coupling his name with the great Nottinghamshire men of the past.

Several causes contributed to make 1934 a somewhat painful year for Nottinghamshire, but Keeton, personally, was just as good as before and thoroughly deserved to be picked for England against Australia at Leeds when Sutcliffe had strained his leg. He made 25 and 12 in the match which ended in a draw, a cloudburst saving England from defeat. Then in the winter came his motor accident, and the next year he could play in only thirteen matches. How, without resorting to safety methods, he regained his former eminence has already been indicated.

After an operation for appendicitis he was in great form last season and played for England at the Oval, but did not come off against the West Indies fast bowlers. It was also at the Oval that he made his 312 (beating A. O. Jones' 296 against Gloucestershire in 1903) when Surrey lent their ground to Middlesex, as Lord's was occupied by Eton and Harrow. It was not a very characteristic innings and he was missed at least four times. Much more like his real self was the brilliant driving and cutting in the century which he made in the return match at Trent Bridge. Misfortune still dogged him, for at the end of August he had the middle finger of his right hand broken at Clacton.

In his earlier years Keeton was a useful Association footballer, appearing for Sunderland and Nottingham Forest.

© John Wisden & Co