ANDOVER cricket stalwart Keith Williams has called time on a noteworthy career as a player and umpire spanning six decades.

A fast medium-pace bowler - until his knees gave up and he reverted to off-spin – Williams played for 38 years for Andover before hanging his boots up and retiring to become a prominent umpire on the Hampshire club cricket scene.

At 79 years of age, he brought his umpiring career to a close by officiating the Southern Premier League’s T20 Plate final between Bashley (Rydal) and Sarisbury Athletic.

Players and officials from both clubs formed a guard of honour as Williams left the field for the last time.

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Williams vividly recalls his Andover debut back in the 60s.

“I played cricket at school and then Penton. I was asked to guest for Andover at two hours' notice one midweek afternoon against Southampton Wednesday and took four wickets, John Wolfe being my first victim,” he smiled.

Almost 40 years later Williams was still at it, opening the bowling for Andover in the Hampshire League before dropping down to the fourths in his twilight years.

“I still have the scorecard of my best bowling in County 1, July 1982, 8 for 42 in 16.4 overs against Calmore Sports at London Road.  

"Those were the good old days before individual bowling restrictions were introduced,” he chuckled.

Keith’s son Ian was a decent cricketer, playing for Hampshire Schools through the age groups as a batsman/wicketkeeper for Andover and later Longparish.

“We had plenty of backyard Test matches over the years, but when we played against each other in the old Southern League, Longparish won," he laughed.

When his knee injury eventually prompted his retirement, Keith swapped his bowling boots for an umpire's coat and spent 20 years or more becoming one of the most respected officials on the club circuit.

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Having trained to become an umpire, Williams stood in a Hampshire benefit match with Denis Emery – ironically, his partner in his farewell Southern Premier League match at Sparsholt – and then went on to ‘debut’ at Tichborne Park alongside the late David Kirk.  

At the end of his second season ‘in the middle’ Keith Williams was elevated to officiate in the Premier Division – and so began two decades of umpiring games galore from league matches, county age group, seniors and visually impaired cricket et al.

He's umpired for the Club Cricket Conference and had the honour of standing in the Sovereign Trophy Final with Huw Evans (South Coast Panel chairman) and this season the Semi Final of the Bertie Joel Trophy between Walton on Thames and Sandwich Town.

He was also one of three SPL officials at the ECB Vitality Blast T20 south finals at Basingstoke, which Wimbledon won before going on to lift the national trophy for a third time.

Among his highlights are umpiring a Hampshire v Middlesex pre-season friendly, meeting Courtney Walsh when he was coach to West Indies U16s, standing in an England v Australia over 70s 'Ashes' Test match and three SPL T20 finals.

Keith Williams certainly won't be lost to cricket. He'll be at London Road most days in the summer months helping prepare Andover's pitches and, on Saturdays, watching on from the sidelines.

"Umpiring is a  wonderful way to be involved in cricket and I would say to anyone interested, give it a go, the training available in Hampshire is second to none and you will meet some fabulous people," he said.

"I would like to thank all my colleagues, players and clubs who have made the past 20-odd years so special."