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W.E.Astill: All-rounder debonair

Written by Antony Littlewood

Ewart Astill was not only an outstanding all-rounder who amassed more than 2,000 wickets and very nearly 20,000 runs over 30 years with his native county, Leicestershire; he was also a person of thorough honesty, decency, kindness, cheerfulness, determination and loyalty.

Only four players have scored more runs for Leicestershire and none took more wickets. One of only two cricketers who appeared in every season between the Wars, Astill played a record 628 first-class matches for his county and achieved the double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in a season no fewer than nine times.

To the Leicestershire faithful, he was the youngster of enormous promise and then the evergreen post-war veteran, who even more than his colleague George Geary shouldered the burden of their county’s bowling, and often their batting too, with a smiling chivalry and unwearied dedication that embedded him deep in their affections.

Astill was one of nine first-class cricketers who achieved the 20,000 runs/2,000 wickets double, and his meagre total of nine caps for England – all abroad – probably reflected Leicestershire’s perceived status as an ‘unfashionable’ county, rather than his playing ability.

Off the field, Astill was a hugely popular figure, a champion billiards player, a fine musician and an accomplished vocalist. He was frequently invited by leading representative teams to tour overseas and was seemingly the life and soul of the party off the field.

Fred Root called him the most versatile cricketer he had ever known and David Frith’s opinion was that ‘Of the stalwarts who served their countries for almost a lifetime, Ewart Astill has an exalted place.’ But for Leicestershire supporters, he was simply the best-loved of all their heroes.

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