Robert Dennis Fraser Bland
Born in West Bridgford in 1911, Robert 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.
After joining Nottinghamshire, he made his first class debut against Essex at Trent Bridge in May 1929 aged 17. 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. A stockbroker by profession, he represented England in bridge matches.
Dennis Bland, who died in Sherwood on April 10th, 1997, was a left arm spin bowler and right hand batsman.
As his father was a very keen local cricketer and Dennis Bland was born in one of the houses facing the Trent Bridge Cricket Ground on Hound Road – he had every incentive to develop into a useful cricketer.
Educated at Shrewsbury, he was in the eleven in 1927 and 1928. In the first season he took 44 wickets at 14.81, being second in the bowling table; in the next season he captured 76 wickets at 8.77 and topped the averages.
His form was such that he was selected for both Public Schools matches at Lord’s that year.
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.
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.
This game was at Trent Bridge against Essex. 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 – Arhur Staples was playing soccer.
He picked a cluch of valueable wickets- Hobbs, Layland, 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. In 1930 Bland played in 12 matches and picked up one five wicket haul, but in 1931, in seven games, his wickets proved very expensive and, apart from a couple of outings in 1934, no more was seen of him in first class cricket.
He did however turn out fairly regularly for Notts Seconds and performed well in club cricket for Notts Amateurs.
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.