Born in West Bridgford in 1911, Dennis Bland was educated at Shrewsbury School and represented the prestigious school team in 1927 and 1928. In his second year in the school team he took 76 wickets at an average of 8.77 and twice represented a select eleven made up of the country’s most talented public schoolboys.
Today’s representative Public Schools sides are a pale shadow of those in 1920s. In Bland’s year for example ten of the eleven went onto to appear in English First-class Cricket and therefore it was not extraordinary that Bland should be given a place in the Notts First Eleven, the summer following his Lord’s appearances.
After joining Nottinghamshire, he made his First-Class debut against Essex at Trent Bridge in May 1929 aged 17. The fact that Sam Staples was still unfit – his health broke down during his trip to Australia in the winter – meant that Bland was given a place in the first Notts game of 1929 and not only took four wickets, but hit 16 not out in as many minutes. A few days later he caught the eye of Neville Cardus:
“The boy Bland interested me, perhaps most of all because he has played cricket at Shrewsbury School. That means he is one of the blest of the earth. He knows what it is to walk down the avenue of Limes to the river, to call out, ‘Boat!’ to the ferryman, to climb the hill, to walk through the gate near the little chapel, to come suddenly upon the playing fields stretching to the west. He has seen the cotton tree shredding its blossom in July and has known the peacefulness of summer in a place where, at high noon, the each seems to stand still for a brief moment in the head. And he has heard (or ought to have heard) the crow flapping back to his nest in the dark branches over the chapel in the day’s silent end. Bland bowls left handed, and has an easy action, though on Saturday he appeared to be trying for more pace than his style calls for. I did not observe that he turned the ball to much, but it was evident he was trying to do so. He occasionally got a dangerous pace off the pitch and perhaps that will be his chief asset against county batsmen. He certainly is a most promising young bowler.”
Bland appeared on and off through the great Championship season and found himself in the side against the rest of England at the Oval in September – Arthur Staples was playing soccer.
He picked a clutch of valueable wickets - Hobbs, Leyland, Robins, Tate, O’Connor – and at the end had the daunting experience of coming in to bat at Number 11 with Notts wanting 19 to win. Ten runs were added before Bland was caught in the slips off Walter Robins.
He maintained his place in the side for 12 matches in that season without achieving anything remarkable but showed improved form in 1930, taking best figures of 5-61 against Glamorgan. A run of poor performances in 1931 confined him to the Second Eleven and he made just one more First-Class appearance, against Cambridge in 1934. Bland played alongside his father for Nottinghamshire Amateurs – the pair bowled unchanged through an innings against Sheffield Collegiate in 1928.
Robert Dennis Fraser Bland, who died in Sherwood on 10 April 1997, was a left arm spin bowler and right hand batsman. As his father was a very keen local cricketer, and he was born in one of the houses facing the Trent Bridge Cricket Ground on Hound Road, Bland was perhaps pre-destined to become a useful cricketer.
By profession he was a stockbroker and, apart from cricket, a keen bridge player. He represented England, but was not as good as his daughter, who also gained international honours as a bridge player.
He was a great supporter of Notts Cricket Lovers Society, being for many years the Chairman and latterly President. Bland also came to Notts Players Reunions until he was very frail.
Nottinghamshire First-Class Number: 340