In whatever era of cricket they emerge, genuinely fast left-arm bowlers give even the best batsmen trouble – and George Howitt of Old Lenton was certainly fast, being especially dangerous on bad wickets, with a break-back from the off. Such was his prowess that he once dismissed W G himself for a ‘pair’; he took a hat-trick twice in the same game and another in a later match. An impressive haul; sadly, for Notts, none of these achievements came in matches for his home county.
Howitt, born on 14 March 1843, was living in Bow, East London from 1858 and played much of his early cricket in that area. He took part in the first ever game arranged by the nascent Middlesex CCC – in May 1864 – representing the XIV Colts of Middlesex v the XII Gentlemen of Middlesex. During that season he was engaged as a ground bowler for Middlesex and in 1865 made his First-Class debut, against Lancashire at Old Trafford. In those early seasons with his adopted county, he was rated as among the most effective bowlers in the country.
He returned to Nottinghamshire in 1866 and played in the first team v Yorkshire at Bradford but the game was restricted to a single day by rain and Howitt neither batted nor bowled. He played for both Notts and for Middlesex until 1870, his last First-Class game for Notts being v Kent at Crystal Palace in August that year. For Notts, he played eight First-Class matches, scoring 45 runs, highest knock 16, at 3.75; he took 23 wickets at 16.65, with two five-wicket hauls and a best return of 5-25 versus Cambridgeshire.
His notable bowling performances include that double over the Grand Old Man in a match between the XXII of Cadoxton (nr Neath) and the United South of England Eleven. The double hat-trick came for the United North of England v Grantham XVI and the third of his career for the United England Eleven (UEE) v XXII of Leeds. In 1867 playing for UEE against XXII of Hull, one of his fastest deliveries apparently sent a bail flying more than 60 yards and out of the ground.
From 1871 he confined his appearances to Middlesex and representative XIs and finished his First-Class playing career with 348 wickets at 15.91, with best figures of 7-19 and a remarkable 26 five-wicket hauls, with ten wickets in a match seven times. His batting, also left-handed was ‘of little account’ and his only innings of note was 49 for Middlesex v Kent at Islington in 1868.
After playing, he umpired in First-Class cricket and took up coaching posts. Whilst coaching in Winchester in 1879 he ruptured a blood vessel over his heart and his health never fully recovered. In August the following year he travelled to Australia to improve his health, some of the costs being defrayed by an award of £12.5.6 from Middlesex; that county also organised a benefit match v his native county, Nottinghamshire in 1877.
Howitt kept a law and general stationer’s shop in Bow whilst in London and was latterly employed by a solicitor in Nottingham. He died of consumption in Nottingham on 19 December 1881; the following year a subscription was raised to support his orphaned children.
George Howitt’s father, Charles, was a noted local cricketer, with a penchant for single wicket contest, and his cousin was William Scotton of Nottinghamshire and England.
Nottinghamshire First-Class Number: 111