Dennis Amiss is the only Warwickshire player to score 100 first-class centuries. In the first of three exclusive interviews for the Bears website during December, Amiss reflects upon that achievement…and reveals how he almost fell 14 short.
The name of Dennis Amiss sits on many important cricket lists but none more prestigious than one to which no more names will ever be added.
Just 25 batsmen have scored 100 first-class centuries – a feat requiring the ultimate combination of sustained skill, appetite, fitness and graft.
Jack Hobbs tops the list with 199, far ahead of Patsy Hendren who is second on 170. Their careers stretched either side of the First World War – more recently, the momentous milestone has been reached in the 21st century by Graham Gooch, Graeme Hick, and Mark Ramprakash.
The latter will forever remain the last to reach it, cricket itineraries having changed so radically. The current player nearest to a ton of tons is Shivnarine Chanderpaul on 77. Mighty though the West Indian’s ability and appetite undoubtedly are, it’s unlikely that, aged 43, another 23 centuries lie ahead of him.
The 100 100s club is a truly elite band in which Amiss, who struck 102 centuries among his 43,423 first-class runs (the 12th highest career-tally in history) is the only Warwickshire representative.
I didn’t know how many hundreds I’d got but David Brown came to me one day and said ‘look you’ve got 86 hundreds, we’d like you to play another four or five years, help bring on the youngsters.Dennis Amiss
And the Bears would have had no member of that glorious pantheon at all had Amiss not been persuaded to ditch thoughts of retirement early in the 1980s.
“I was about 38 and thinking about packing it in and going to play in the league,” he said. “I didn’t know how many hundreds I’d got but David Brown came to me one day and said ‘look you’ve got 86 hundreds, we’d like you to play another four or five years, help bring on the youngsters – Andy Lloyd, David Smith, Asif Din – and open the batting and get your 100 hundreds. So I did.
“It is something I’m proud of. You don’t think of those things at the time because you are just trying to score runs and help the team win, but it is a nice achievement.”
An achievement rooted principally in talent, of course, but in Amiss’s case also abetted by a timely move up the batting order – and some very good advice from another great Bear.
“Tiger Smith was a great mentor to me,” Amiss said. “And he often said to me that, as a batsman, you will have your bad times when you get your noughts and ones and twos, so when you get 100 take a fresh guard and go on to 150 and when you get to 150 take a fresh guard and go on to 200, if there’s time.
“He ingrained in me that you must do that to make up for all the low scores. There were plenty of low times and they hurt and at one stage I was struggling to get in the team. Early in the 1972 season I was in the 2nd XI behind a very strong middle order of Rohan Kanhai, Alvin Kallicharran and MJK Smith. But John Jameson and John Whitehouse were opening and not getting many runs so I said to A.C Smith ‘give me a chance to open’ because it was my only way back in the side.
“I’d got two or three hundreds in the 2nd team so was told I’d be opening for the firsts and had two or three matches to show what I could do. I got Bob Willis and Browny to bowl at me for hours with new balls in the indoor school so was ready as could be and then we played Middlesex at Edgbaston and I got lucky. I played and missed once or twice early on but survived and got runs – and that gave me the confidence to open.”
As always, Amiss is unutterably modest. Far from lucky, that innings of 151 not out, on a damp pitch on which Middlesex had been bowled out for 158, was a knock of enormous technical skill which underpinned a ten-wicket victory.
In the next home, Amiss scored an unbeaten 156 against Worcestershire and his 1,129 runs at 66.41 that season helped power the Bears to the title. Four months on from languishing in the 2nd XI, Amiss was breakfasting on celebratory champagne and kippers on the first morning of the last game of the season, having played a huge part in bringing the championship crown to Edgbaston for only the third time.
Amiss was to conclude his career with 102 first-class centuries though, having played a lot of cricket on uncovered wickets, he also built many smaller innings more satisfying that some tons on flatter tracks.
“I was pleased with my highest score – 232 against Gloucestershire,” he said. “That was a good one, at Bristol against Mike Procter and all he could throw at us. But another very satisfying innings was against Hampshire and Malcolm Marshall on a wet wicket at Bournemouth. I only scored 60 but it was like 150 on a flat wicket. Malcolm was a fantastic bowler. He bowled the odd short ball but most of the time just kissed the deck and kept the pressure on. It was hard going. That innings was a bit special, even though it was only 60.
John Jameson and John Whitehouse were opening and not getting many runs so I said to A.C Smith ‘give me a chance to open’ because it was my only way back in the side.Dennis Amiss
“Batting could be tricky on uncovered wickets. The pitches could be really spiteful with people like Norman Gifford and Derek Underwood ripping it – you could smell the leather going past your nose. But then suddenly the roller went on and the pitch could deaden right down so nothing happened for the bowlers – and that’s when you made hay.”
You don’t enter the 100 100s club without possessing immense skill, of course, but there is another essential component in the great monument which is Dennis Amiss’s career. A simple love of cricket – and an endless appetite for playing it.
“Maybe things have changed a bit,” he said. “But I looked at Paine who played for the Aussies in the opening Test the other week having played hardly any recent cricket. I couldn’t imagine that.
“When I started at Warwickshire we had the first team, second team, minor counties, club & ground – and then sometimes clubs would ring up because they were short of players. As a batter, I was all for that.
“I remember playing for Aston Manor and getting a nought and they never asked me again whereas I got runs for Olton so they kept asking me back! But I just couldn’t play enough cricket.”