A diminutive right-handed batsman with a strong defence, Quaife played one match for Sussex before moving, with his older brother Walter, to Warwickshire in 1894. He made a century on his debut and, 35 years later at the age of 56, made another on his last appearance for the county in 1928. In between, he scored more than 36,000 runs with a further 70 centuries and, for good measure, took 900 wickets with leg break bowling that, early in his career, was suspected to be illegal. He passed the 1,000 run mark in 25 seasons and was the leading batsman as Warwickshire won the County Championship for the first time in 1911. His career total of 36,012 runs puts him 36th on the all-time list of run-getters.
Quaife made only seven Test match appearances, starting with two matches against the Australians in 1899, and then featuring in all five games on the 1901-02 tour to Australia under Archie MacLaren. He met with little success, except at Adelaide, where he scored 68 and 44 in the third Test.
In his playing career, Quaife was usually listed as “W.G.Quaife” and Wisden lists him as “William George Quaife” in its obituary in 1952. The middle initial (or name) appears, however, to have been acquired merely to differentiate him from his brother, Walter, who was eight years his senior and an established Sussex cricketer before moving with William to Warwickshire, where he played until 1901.
Quaife played with his son Bernard twenty times in first-class matches. On one occasion, for Warwickshire against Derbyshire at Derby in 1922, the Quaifes played against the father-son combination of Billy Bestwick and Robert Bestwick. The Smart brothers Jack and Cyril also played for Warwickshire in this match..