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The Mysterious Major

Dan Norcross becomes increasingly fascinated by the mysterious Major Nigel Harvie Bennett, a man who was as surprised as anyone to be made Surrey skipper, in an extract from Wisden Cricket Quarterly, The Nightwatchman.

The story begins and, as far as all discernible public records are concerned, ends in 1946. Bennett had left the army at the end of the war. With a jaunty step and giddy with the anticipation of the new first-class cricket season ahead, the first in nearly seven years, he headed for The Oval to sort out his season’s membership.

Bennett had played cricket at school, topping the Stowe averages in 1930, and in 1936 he appeared in three second XI fixtures for Surrey. Thereafter there is no record of him as a player. He was, it appears, a lover of cricket looking forward to filling his looming summer by gazing contentedly at the game he loved from within the comforting embrace of the pavilion.

Indeed, I dare say the thought of an idle few months letting the world drift by was a very attractive one to a recently demobbed army major. The fact that he pitched up at The Oval in February rather speaks of a man pretty keen for the onset of the season. Fate, however, had other ideas.

What Bennett didn’t know upon handing over his membership paperwork was that the Surrey committee had decided to appoint Major Leo Bennett, a prolific club cricketer before the war, as captain.

The Times reported: “Alf Gover, in his autobiography, wrote that the pavilion clerk took the papers in to the secretary, who happened to have the chairman with him: they offered the captaincy to this Major Bennett, who accepted.”

Now hold on. They did what? He did what?

Click here to read this piece in full and view a free sample of the first edition, which features the work of Osman Samiuddin, Christian Ryan and Rob Smyth.

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