Thomas Brett (1747, Catherington, Hampshire – 31 December 1809, Kingston Cross, Portsmouth, Hampshire) was one of first-class cricket's earliest well-known fast bowlers and a leading player for Hampshire when its team was organised by the Hambledon Club in the 1770s.
Noted for his pace and his accuracy, Brett was a leading wicket taker in the 1770s and was lauded by John Nyren in The Cricketers of my Time.
An unusual feature of Brett's career at a time when players freely swapped sides as "given men" was that he always played for Hampshire. In fact, he did not even play for Hambledon per se because he resided at Catherington and so was ineligible to represent Hambledon's Parish XI.
Brett featured in the Monster Bat Incident 1771 as the bowler who led the protest; and it is almost certain that he wrote out the formal objection to Thomas White's huge bat. This document, which has been preserved, was countersigned by his captain Richard Nyren and Hampshire's senior batsman John Small. The protest resulted in the maximum width of the bat being set at four and one quarter inches in the Laws of Cricket.
Cricket's statistical record from the 1772 season gives proof of Brett's ability, bearing in mind that all his known wickets were bowled. It is reasonable to assume that a third or more of catches taken by Hampshire fielders were off his bowling. Brett made 31 known first-class appearances for Hampshire from 1772 to 1778 and his known wicket tally was 102, but the bowling details in every game are either unknown or incomplete. It is known that he took 29 wickets (i.e., bowled only) in just five matches in the 1777 season; with catches, the true figure could well be 40-plus.
His last recorded match was for Hampshire v Surrey at Laleham Burway in October 1778 when he was still only 31. It seems he went to live in Portsmouth so a change of occupation may have been the reason for his apparently early retirement.
In The Cricketers of my Time, it is said of Thomas Brett that he was the "fastest and straightest" of all bowlers. A similar view prevails re Brian Statham who was also noted for his accuracy despite bowling at high pace. Statham once expressed a philosophy that Brett might well have shared: "If they miss, I hit".