White had a most singluar career in county cricket..in January 1966, the Nottingham Guardian reported: "Notts have obtained the services of the aggressive Middlesex left-handed batsman, Bob White, aged 29." Based on the available evidence that seemed an accurate enough comment. In 1963, for example, batting at 4, White had finished second in the Middlesex batting averages, only a smidgen behind Peter Parfitt. He did not bowl - after 115 matches for Middlesex he had sent down precisely 2.3 Championship overs.
Yet In 1971, with Notts, he was the county's principal wicket-taker, both in terms of victims and average!
The circumstances which led to this are two-fold, at Middlesex the spin bowling department was already full from Titmus downwards. In 1965 Notts' main spinner was Gillhouley but in 1966 some umpires threw doubts on the fairness of Gillhouley's delivery. He dropped out of the side and Notts just gave White a go. He proved quite useful. However, in 1967 Notts decided to sign the Northants spinner Peter Watts who went straight into the First XI at the beginning of the summer, but failed to worry batsmen. White was then used in substitute; "White toiled for long periods," read the end of season comment. He bowled nearly 600 overs - spinners need a lot of practice to develop and he got it!
1970 saw White top 70 wickets for the first time; he was easily the County's leading wicket-taker and only the veteran Halfyard sent down more overs. White was combining some crafty flight with subtle spin and this paid dividends. In 1971 he took 10 wickets in a match when only 13 Derbyshire wickets fell. His spin was not so effective in 1972, but he did score over 800 runs and in a number of matches opened the batting. 1973 followed much the same pattern. White headed the bowling table in 1974 in terms of average and victims, though his batting declined and more often than not he went in at No 7. Latchman, the Middlesex leg-spinner, was signed by Notts to add variety to the spin department but, aside from one great spell, his effectiveness over 1974 and 1975 was minimal.
In his final summers at Trent Bridge White was manager and captain of the Second XI. In 1979 he did not appear in a single Championship game; in 1980, aged 43, he was brought back and dismissed Derbyshire for 54, taking six for 24. In his two games his return was 11 wickets at 7.72, a formidable finale.
Robert Arthur White was born in Fulham on 6 October 1936. He played almost no cricket at school and left at 15 to join the MCC staff at Lord's. In 1955 and 1956 he was on National Service, mainly in Cyprus, but in 1957 he played regularly for Middlesex Seconds and topped their batting averages. His Middlesex First-Class debut came in 1958. White retired from Trent Bridge in 1982 and the following summer joined the First-Class umpires' list. He continued until 2001 when he reached retirement age.
Bob, known as 'Knocker' - a nick-name occasionally given to people with the surname White (apparently in reference to a miller's assistant who would be white with flour). Another possible explanation is from his days at Middlesex when he bet on himself when playing for the Seconds and winning loads of money (players were later banned from such practices).
White was involved in a bizarre match at Tunbridge Wells in 1963. Middlesex decided to head back to London on the Saturday night (Sundays were a rest day back then) and when they returned, the traffic was heavier than usual on the Monday morning and only three Middlesex cricketers (White, Sid Russell and the twelfth man) made it back for the 11:30 start. Sid Russell had already been dismissed. With the Middlesex captain Col Drybrough absent umpires Lofty Herman and Dusty Rhodes thought hard, and “officially closed the Middlesex innings” (Wisden). Kent captain Colin Cowdrey allowed Kent to field multiple substitutes until the rest of the Middlesex team gradually arrived. The match was eventually drawn when rain arrived early on the last day with White and Hooker once again at the crease!
Bob White was a popular member of the Nottingham Cricket Lovers Society (NCLS) and a regular attendee at their meeting and at the former players days held by the Club. He died aged 87 on 8 November 2023, less than a month before he was due to share the speaker's role at the December NCLS meeting with long time friend and former team-mate Bill Taylor. The Club and the Society extend their sympathies to Bob's family and friends.
Nottinghamshire First-Class Number: 443