Born On This Day: 20th February

A new series from Hampshire Cricket historian Dave Allen marks the birthdays of notable and fondly remembered Hampshire cricketers

GEM (George) Heath was born in Hong Kong in 1913. He was a right-arm pace bowler, who first played in the Bournemouth area, then joined Hampshire’s groundstaff in 1934 and spent two years playing for the Club & Ground, until in May 1937 he made his first-class debut, at Portsmouth, v Essex and in the second innings took 4-76, although Essex won.

In that first season, he took 79 wickets at 22.92, three times taking five or more wickets in an innings, then in 1938, 97 wickets at 23.77 including 7-89 v Kent at Southampton. John Arlott (1957) said “he bowled a late out-swinger, which troubled the best batsmen in the country… (and) as a shock opening bowler he was of very high quality indeed”.

He suggested further that in that second season “he was seriously considered for Test selection against Australia”. That did not happen, and his third season brought 57 more expensive wickets, followed by the six-year break for war; when he returned he was already 33.

In the first three post-war seasons, he took 155 wickets at around 30 each, including his best of 7-49 v Derbyshire in 1947, but with Derek Shackleton playing regularly, there were just four games in 1949 after which he retired. He was subsequently awarded a Testimonial match at Bournemouth.

Heath played all of his 132 first-class matches for Hampshire, taking 404 wickets at 28.11 but he was no batsman, scoring just 586 runs at 5.58 with a best of 34*.  He died in Fareham on 6.3.1994.

Also today: Arthur Richards (1883-1904)


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