This page is about the English cricketer. For other persons named William Booth, see William Booth (disambiguation).
Major William Booth (10 December 1886 in Lowtown, Pudsey, Yorkshire, England – 1 July 1916 near La Cigny, France) was a cricketer who played for Yorkshire County Cricket Club between 1908 and 1914, a season in which he was named one of the Wisden Cricketers of the Year.
Note that "Major" was a given name, not a military rank. His international career was restricted to the 1913-14 tour of South Africa, which was the last Test match tour before the First World War. After receiving a commission in the West Yorkshire Regiment, Booth became Second Lieutenant Major Booth, and died just under a year later when he went over the top on the trenches on 1 July 1916, the first day of the Somme offensive.
Booth’s earliest cricket was played at Fulneck School, and later he was associated with Pudsey St. Lawrence and the Wath Athletic Club, which played in the Mexborough League, and of which he was captain. He appeared regularly for Yorkshire Second Eleven in 1907 and the two following seasons, and in 1908 received his first trial for the county against Somerset at Dewsbury without success. He did not, however, secure a regular place in the team until two years later, but in 1911 he scored 1,125 runs for his county and took seventy-four wickets, with a highest innings of 210 against Worcestershire on the Worcester ground. Booth increased his reputation as a bowler in the following summer, and in 1913 made over a thousand runs and took 158 wickets for Yorkshire, whilst his aggregate of 181 wickets in first-class matches was the highest of any bowler that season. In 1914 he was not so successful in batting – it was said during the 1913 season that he should concentrate on bowling as his build was not ideal for hard work – but he obtained 141 wickets for Yorkshire at a cost of 18 runs apiece. Although a fine punishing batsman, Booth’s claim to fame will rest chiefly upon what he accomplished as a bowler. Possessed of a free, natural action, he made the ball come quickly off the pitch. On occasion his off-break was quite formidable, but his strong points were swerve and pace off the ground.
His best feats with the ball may be summarised thus:8-47, Yorkshire v. Middlesex, at Leeds 1912
8-52, Yorkshire v. Leicestershire, at Sheffield 1912
8-64, Yorkshire v. Essex, at Leyton 1914
8-86, Yorkshire v. Middlesex, at Sheffield: 1913
7-21, Yorkshire v. MCC and Ground, at Lord's 1914
14-160 (match figures), Yorkshire v. Essex, at Leyton 1914
3 wkts in 3 balls, Yorkshire v. Worcestershire, at Bradford 1911
3 wkts in 3 balls Yorkshire v. Essex, at Leyton 1912
3 wkts in 4 balls Yorkshire v. Warwickshire, at Sheffield 1913
3 wkts in 4 balls Yorkshire v. MCC and Ground, at Lord's 1914
3 wkts in 4 balls Yorkshire v. Kent, at Sheffield 1914
In two consecutive matches in August, 1914, he and Drake bowled unchanged throughout, Gloucestershire being dismissed for 94 and 84 at Bristol and Somerset for 44 and 90 at Weston-super-Mare. In the second innings of the latter match Booth had the very rare experience of bowling throughout without obtaining a wicket, Drake taking all ten for 35 runs.
In 1913 Booth was chosen for the Players at Lord's, and during 1913-14 toured South Africa with MCC’s team under Douglas’ captaincy. His doings abroad were somewhat disappointing, and so strong was the side that he was left out of three of the Test matches. In the 144 games in which he appeared for Yorkshire Booth scored 4,213 runs with an average of 22.65 and obtained 556 wickets for 18.89 runs each. Tall of stature, good-looking, and of engaging address, Booth was a very popular figure both on and off the cricket field. Booth was brought up at Town End House near the Britannia Inn at Pudsey. He was the best man at Roy Kilner’s wedding and the latter named a son after him. There is a memorial tablet in St Lawrence Church in memory of him.
In the First World War Booth joined the British Army as an enlisted man and rose to the rank of sergeant before being commissioned as a second lieutenant on 16 July 1915. Later that year he was posted to Egypt, arriving on 22 December 1915, before returning to the Western Front.
On 1 July 1916 he went "over the top" near La Cigny on the Somme while serving with the 15th (Service) Battalion, the West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales's Own), also known as "The Leeds Pals". He was followed a short while later by another wave of soldiers among whom was Abe Waddington (later also Yorkshire and England). Waddington was hit and found himself in a shell hole with Booth, who was also injured, and held him until he died. Booth's body then remained there until the spring, when he was buried at Serre Road No 1 Cemetery.