Obituary

William Keeton

KEETON, WILLIAM WALLACE, who died on October 9, 1980, aged 75, was a great servant of Nottinghamshire and one of the many candidates for a place in the England side as an opening bat in the years immediately before the Second World War. In fact he played in only two Tests, v Australia at Leeds in 1934 and v West Indies at The Oval in 1939. Probably most people would reckon that the selectors were right, that he was a good county player but not quite Test class. He had a sound defence, was a fine cutter and also had a good cover drive, but what spectators will chiefly remember is his leg-side play and in particular his mastery of that difficult and neglected stroke, the on-drive.

Moreover he was, as befitted a first-class soccer forward, a fine outfield. He first played for his county in 1926, but the Nottinghamshire batsmen of that era retained their skill almost undiminished to a patriarchal age and it was not until 1931 that the premature death of Whysall secured him a serious trial. He made the most of his opportunity, scoring his thousand runs with an average of 30 and making two centuries. For most of the season he had the valuable experience of opening with George Gunn. From then for twenty years his career was interrupted only by illness or injuries, of which he had more than his share; in January 1935 he was knocked down by a lorry and was lucky to be able to resume his place in the side late in June.

But despite all this and the loss of six seasons in the War he reached his thousand runs on twelve occasions and made 54 hundreds. His highest score, 312 not out in seven and three quarter hours v Middlesex at The Oval (Eton were playing Harrow at Lord's) in 1939, remains the only innings of 300 ever played for Nottinghamshire, and he is also one of the few batsmen to have scored a century against every county. From 1932 to 1948 his regular partner was that eccentric player, Charlie Harris, and a notable pair they were. On 45 occasions they put up three figures, fourteen times they exceeded 150 and five times 200. Twice they put up 100 in each innings. Their highest stand was 277 v Middlesex at Trent Bridge in 1933. Keeton was still as good as ever after the War, but Hutton and Washbrook had now established themselves as England's opening pair.

As late as 1949 he scored 2,049 runs with an average of 55.37. In 1951, at 46, he lost his regular place in the side, but against Kent at Trent Bridge helped Simpson to put on 269 for the first wicket. A single match in 1952 concluded his career. In all he had scored 24,276 runs with an average of just under 40. After retiring he had a sports shop for a time and later worked for the National Coal Board.

© John Wisden & Co