George Dennett    Getty Images
George Dennett Getty Images

The motto on the family crest reads: Per Dei providentiam. Freely translated, this means: By God s providence. The family name had been carried into England along with the Norman Conquest under William I in 1066. The original title had been D Anet, and after the initial settling in process had given over, and a sizable number had taken up residence in Sussex, the family title had been anglicised to Dennett. Astill: Uncomplaining Leicestershire giant

Edward George Dennett, more commonly known as George Dennett, was born April 27, 1879 at Upway, Dorset. The archives show him as a left-hand bat and a left-arm orthodox spinner.

The first mention of Dennett in a senior match is found in a game between Gloucestershire and Scottish Counties at North Inch, Perth, in August 1902. The 23-year old Dennett scored 3, but opened bowling, sending down 8 overs for 14 runs, not taking a wicket. It may be noted that the Perth mentioned above is a city beside the river Tay in central Scotland, and that inch is an old Scottish term for island .

In a First-Class career span of 1903 to 1926, George Dennett played 401 matches, scoring 4,102 runs. His highest score was 71 and he averaged 10.33. He hit 4 fifties and held 298 catches. He also took 2,151 wickets. His best innings bowling figures were 10 for 40. He had a bowling average of 19.82, and he took 5 wickets in an innings 211 times and 10 wickets in a match 57 times. However, even with these exceptional figures, Dennett never played any Tests for England.

Dennett s First-Class journey began with Gloucestershire against Middlesex at Lord s in May 1903. The opening pair of skipper Plum Warner (149) and Leonard Moon (122) both scored centuries and put on an opening stand of 248. More carnage was to follow, with Albert Trott, scoring 103 from No. 8, to boost the total to 502. Lord Bernard Gordon-Lennox, playing his only First-Class game, scored a duck in his only innings, thus providing generations of cricket trivia lovers with something to treasure. Dennett took 2 for 126 runs from his 21.2 overs, his first First-Class wicket being that of Trott. The bowling honours were with Fred Roberts, who took 6 for 88 including the first 4 in the batting order. William Ward: The banker who bought Lord s and scored the first First-Class double-hundred

Gloucestershire were dismissed for 188. Skipper Gilbert Jessop scored 1 and Dennett contributed 2. Following on, Gloucestershire were dismissed for 196, this time the skipper top-scoring with 49. Dennett scored 11. The home side used 4 bowlers, the sequence being George Beldam, Bernard Bosanquet, Trott, and Old Jack Hearne, and they took 1, 2, 3, and 4 wickets respectively, providing another wonderful situation for trivia lovers. When all was said and done, Middlesex had won the match by an innings and 118 runs.

Dennett topped the 100 wickets in a season a total of 12 times, with a continuous sequence of 11 years from 1904 to 1914, both seasons included. He did it again in 1921. In 1907 Dennett took 201 wickets from his 26 matches, with best figures of 8 for 9. He took 5 wickets in an innings 23 times in 1907 and 10 wickets in the match 7 times.

For Gloucestershire alone, Dennett took 2,082 wickets from his 388 matches with 205 five-wicket hauls and no less than 56 ten-wicket hauls. In the list of the highest wicket-takers for Gloucestershire, headed by Charlie Parker with 3,170 wickets, Dennett lies in the third position, behind Tom Goddard with 2,862 scalps.

It is very unfortunate that Dennett never played Test cricket. In the list of the highest First-Class wicket-takers never to have represented the country at the highest level, Dennett is second with his 2,151 wickets, behind the workhorse of Glamorgan, Don Shepherd, with 2,218 wickets from his 668 matches. Jimmy Binks: The big gloves that brought glory to Yorkshire

In the first half of the 20th century, there were four spinners from Gloucestershire, who, between them, had taken in excess of 10,000 First-Class wickets at an average of around 20 runs each; yet one of them never played a Test, two of them had only one Test cap each, whilst the fourth had only 8 Test caps. The details are as follows:

Player Span M W Ave Tests
George Dennett 1903-1926 401 2,151 19.82 0
Charlie Parker 1903-1935 635 3,278 19.46 1
Sam Cook 1946-1964 506 1,782 20.52 1
Tom Goddard 1922-1952 593 2,979 19.84 8

The enquiring mind may muse over the issue of why Dennett, given his exemplary record, never played Test cricket. Martin Chandler analyses the situation well in an article. Dennett possibly suffered from competition from his contemporary players. He was deemed not to be as good a bowler as Colin Blythe nor as good a bat as Frank Woolley or Wilfred Rhodes; on top of all this he had in the ranks of his own county, another very accomplished left-arm spinner in Parker. It was also felt that, despite the presence of the Graces, Jessop and Wally Hammond Gloucestershire were not one of the Big Six teams of the county circuit. Added to all this was the dearth of Test matches played in those days, mainly against the old enemy Australia and the selectors were, perhaps, reluctant to indulge in any experimentation.

Blessed with an admirable fortitude, and keeping his faith in The Almighty, George Dennett soldiered on for his county despite the disappointment of not attaining a Test cap. Some of his deeds for his county have become the stuff of legends.

In August 1906 at Bristol, much to the delight of the partisan home crowd, Essex were bowled out for 84 in 38.4 overs. Dennett, opening the bowling as usual with Percy Ford, took all 10 wickets for 40 runs, this being the best bowling analysis by any Gloucestershire bowler in an innings till date. With this analysis, George Dennett also became the first bowler to take all 10 wickets in a First-Class innings for Gloucestershire. 1863-64: First First-Class match in NZ

Here is the list of the other bowlers to take all 10 wickets in an innings for Gloucestershire:

Bowler Figures Against Venue Season
Ken Graveney 10/66 Derbyshire Chesterfield 1949
Charlie Parker 10/79 Somerset Bristol 1921
Tom Goddard 10/113 Worcestershire Cheltenham 1937

The home team did not fare much better, being dismissed for 173. Skipper Jessop played a masterly knock of 75 in 95 minutes, and Johnny Douglas captured 5 for 50. Day One then ended with Essex on 63 for 4. The Bank Holiday crowd had witnessed 24 wickets going down on the first day of the game.

The next morning Essex were bowled out for 127. Dennett and Ford were the only bowlers used, and each picked up 5 wickets. Gloucestershire won by 9 wickets.

Later that month Gloucestershire batted first against Worcestershire at Cheltenham, and were bowled out for 523 on the second morning. Dennett then proceeded to put the proverbial Indian sign on the hapless Worcestershire batsmen, the innings being terminated at 147. Dennett, opening bowling with Ford, had figures of 8 for 69. Worcestershire followed on and were dismissed for 146. Again opening bowling with Ford, Dennett had figures of 7 for 71. The match was completed on Day Two, with 22 wickets falling in the day, and Dennett accounting for 15 of them, at a personal cost of 140 runs.

Of course, no story about Dennett is complete without the Northamptonshire match at Gloucester in June 1907. Batting first the home team were dismissed for a mere 60 in 32.5 overs, Jessop top-scoring with 22, the only double-figure knock of the innings. George Thompson and William East were the only bowlers used, and both took 5 wickets each.

Let us take up the story of what happened next from Simon Hughes from his book And God Created Cricket: Bowlers had their odd day in the sun, notably one June morning at Gloucester in 1907. In forty minutes play the entire Northants side were bowled out for 12, by Gilbert Jessop s pace and the left arm spin of George Dennett, who had the crazy figures of 6-1-9-8.

This first-innings total of 12 by Northamptonshire is still the record for the lowest innings total posted in Championship cricket. The innings lasted all of 11.3 overs. There was nobody in double figures and the innings had 5 ducks, and one man remained not out on 0 without facing a ball. Opening batsman Mark Cox scored his 2 runs from 23 deliveries faced, the longest of the innings. Skipper Jessop picked up 2 for 3 from 5.3 overs. Dennett s 8 wickets came off only 36 deliveries bowled.

The Gloucestershire second innings fetched only 88 runs from 29.2 overs, Jessop top-scoring with 24. East captured 7 for 36. The game ended in a draw when the stumps score on Day Two read Northamptonshire 40 for 7 from 30 overs. Opening bowling again with Jessop, Dennett had figures of 7 for 12, making it a match total of 15 for 21. His second-innings analysis included a hat-trick with the wickets of Roger Hawtin, Robert Beasley, and wicketkeeper Walter Buswell.

John Arlott had once compiled an England XI comprising players that have never had the good fortune to win a Test cap. This was the team, in batting order:

John Langridge (Sussex)

Maurice Hallam (Leicestershire)

Emrys Davies (Glamorgan)

Edgar Oldroyd (Yorkshire)

Jack Newman (Canterbury/Hampshire)

Harry Martyn (Somerset) wicketkeeper

Peter Sainsbury (Hampshire)

Wilfred Wooller (Glamorgan)

Don Shepherd (Glamorgan)

Charles Kortright (Essex)

Tom Wass (Nottinghamshire)

In the considered opinion of Arlott: George Dennett is unlucky because two capable batsmen in Emrys Davies and Peter Sainsbury also bowl slow left-arm. It was a case of a deserving, but unlucky, man been done out of the reckoning.

Dennett joined the Armed Forces as an Officer at the beginning of World War I, and was not demobilised before 1920. Sadly, he was not able to regain his pre-War form and expertise. His total of 107 wickets in 1921 was possible only because of the lack of quality batting among the other county teams in the aftermath of the War.

Dennett wound up his First-Class career with a match against Middlesex at Lord s in the end of August 1926. He scored 1 and 0 and took 2 wickets second innings.

Dennett had the reputation of being a good all-round sportsman, excelling also at football, billiards, fives, and shooting. He was thought to be a strong candidate for the Cricketer of the Year award for 1913, but the powers that be nominated John Wisden for the honour, 29 years after his death, and in commemoration of the 50th year of the publication of his famous almanac.

George Dennett s health deteriorated rapidly and he passed away on September 15, 1937 at Leckhampton, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, aged 58 years.

(Pradip Dhole is a retired medical practitioner with a life-long interest in cricket history and statistics)