Born in Eastwood on 9 August 1875, Thomas William Oates began his cricket career with Eastwood Collieries CC. In April 1896 he was chosen for the XXII Colts v Nottinghamshire and later appeared for J A Dixon's Colts XI v Nottingham Castle and for Nottinghamshire Colts v Yorkshire Colts in early May 1896.
His debut for Nottinghamshire was at Northampton that same month when he scored 21no, though his forte was, in fact, wicket-keeping. His only other Nottinghamshire match of 1896 was another minor affair v Worksop & District on 31 August.
He began the 1897 season in the Nottinghamshire team to play Gloucestershire at Cheltenham in August, when he deputised for Arthur Pike. In face of competition from Pike and Carlin, Oates did not secure his place in the Nottinghamshire XI until 1902. Tom Oates generally batted at Number 8 or 9 for Nottinghamshire and could be relied on for a few quick runs on most occasions - in most seasons he registered at least one 50 (top score of 88).
In 1919 he actually had a batting average of 30.76 and in 1911 of 20.66. Oates continued to represent Nottinghamshire until nearly 50 years of age and his final First-Class match was against Leicestershire at Leicester in June 1925. He held the Nottinghamshire record for dismissals (967: 744 catches and 223 stumpings) until it was broken by Chris Read in 2017.
Between 1899 and 1926, Oates was engaged on the Lord's staff and from 1927 to 1938 was a member of the First-Class umpires list; he stood in five Test matches between 1928 and 1930. In 1939 and part of 1940 he was the Nottinghamshire scorer, resigning through ill-health.
A miner by occupation, Tom Oates always resided in Eastwood, where he died on 18 June, 1949.