The only Nottinghamshire cricketer to make a score of 300+, Keeton was an attractive free-scoring opening batsman, whose principal strokes were drives and cuts. As will be seen from the details of his career he was dogged by misfortune, but for which he might well have had a regular place in the England side.

Born in Shirebrook on 30 April 1905, Walter Keeton played his early cricket for Mansfield Colliery CC. He had a trial at Trent Bridge nets in June 1925, appeared in three 2nd XI games that summer and accepted a post on the Trent Bridge staff for 1926. Heading the 2nd XI averages in 1926, he made his First-Class debut for Nottinghamshire v Hampshire at Trent bridge in July that year.

The continued success of the Nottinghamshire old brigade - George Gunn, Whysall, Payton - held back Keeton's advance to full-time county cricket. In 1929 he played twice and in 1930 not at all.

Keeton was introduced in the sixth game of 1931, he made 20 and 37. He opened in the seventh game versus Surrey, did not make many runs but the committee persevered with him and in the 12th match he hit his maiden century.

George Gunn was brought out of retirement and together with Keeton formed the opening partnership for the rest of the season. Keeton was awarded his County Cap and also completed 1,000 runs for the first time. He also accomplished this in eleven subsequent seasons.

The County was indeed fortunate to discover a successor to Whysall within months of his death and Keeton, apart from his batting, was an asset in the field, being very swift in the deep and having an accurate throw.

He began 1932 with a century against Sussex and his run of good scores went right through the season. On 18 May 1932, a Red Letter day in Nottinghamshire cricket history, Keeton was accompanied to the wicket by Charley Harris for the first time to open the innings for the county. The pair did not achieve instant success. In fact their first few partnerships were very moderate affairs. It was not until August, after Nottinghamshire had given Keeton Joe Hardstaff, George Vernon Gunn and Frank Shipston as experimental partners, that the firm of Keeton and Harris realised their first 100 partnership - against Glamorgan at Trent Bridge.

The first three months of 1933 proved very moderate ones for Keeton, but on 5 August he hit the first hundred of the summer and five successive fruitful innings followed: 129, 66, 110, 168 and 110. Two hundreds and another fifty came before the end of the season and he had the unusual distinction of completing 1,000 runs in a calender month.

On 19 January 1935, Keeton was walking to a shop near his home in Mansfield when he was knocked down by a passing lorry and suffered fractured ribs, concussion and abrasions. Five weeks were spent in hospital and a further 10 in a convalescence. The newspapers were doubtful if he would play at all in 1935, but he was well enough to turn out for the Nottinghamshire Club and Ground on 30 May and for the First XI in June.

Both in 1936 and 1937, Keeton contented himself with consistency rather than long innings, in the former season his best score was only 115*, but he exceeded 50 on 13 occasions and in the latter season he averaged 45 with a highest innings of 136.  He seemed unable to find his form in 1938 and the answer to his lack of runs came perhaps in October when he underwent an emergency operation for appendicitis, after being ill for some weeks.

Prior to the opening of the 1939 season he was rushed to hospital, but his indisposition was not of a long duration and he resumed his place in the side in the third Nottinghamshire game of the summer. By mid-July he had played 25 innings without once reaching three figures, though he had made 10 fifties.

On 15 July at the Oval against Middlesex he batted all day for 263no, whilst Nottinghamshire reached 480 for 5. He began in fine style making 22 before Harris scored a single, his fifty came in 50 minutes, but he slowed down and did not reach his 100 until half an hour after lunch. Up to that stage his innings was faultless but he was dropped at 110 by Brown off Sims and again by the same combination at 135. Hotchin misjudged a high catch at 150, while at 176 he was dropped in the gulley and at 196 in the slip. His 300 came on the Monday morning, after seven hours batting, out of  total of 536.

On the strength of this he was chosen for the third Test at the Oval and opened with Hutton, scoring 0 and 20; it was his second and final match for England. Keeton was named one of the Wisden Cricketers of the Year for 1940, largely as a result of this record-breaking innings.

During the war, Keeton played with Bingley in the Bradford League and in 1946 resumed his cricket with Nottinghamshire.

After appearing in the first five games of 1951 with little success, Keeton was missing for several matches but Simpon's absence with England enabled him to play versus Gloucestershire at Trent Bridge and he hit 85, adding 143 for the 2nd wicket with Poole. His only century of 1951 was versus Kent at Trent Bridge, when he batted 4 hours and, with Simpson, put on 269 for the first wicket.

Keeton's contract with Nottinghamshire was due to end with the 1951 season and in normal circumstances he would have retired, but in view of his batting, he accepted another season's contract. He appeared however only once in 1952 - his final First-Class match against Yorkshire at Bradford.

After retiring from First-Class cricket he had a sports outfitters and latterly worked as a clerk for the National Coal Board.

In his younger days he was a well-known soccer player, representing Sunderland, Nottingham Forest and Grantham Town as an inside right.

William Walter Keeton was born in Shirebrook, Derbyshire, on 30 April 1905 and died in Forest Town, Mansfield, on 10 October 1980.  In his First-Class career he scored 24,276 runs at 39.53, with 54 centuries and a further 119 half-centuries; unsurprisingly, that 312no remained his highest score - and remains a Nottinghamshire record to this day.

July 2020

Nottinghamshire First-Class Number: 334

See Walter Keeton's career stats here