Hampshire Cricket History

The Best of … & the Worst of …
September 5, 2016, 9:06 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I thought I might start by quoting a fellow Pompey bloke, but it’s the Comment from Jo ref Liam’s figures yesterday that had me thinking.

If you look at the BBC’s list of six bowlers with expensive figures on ODI debut then a chap called Flintoff (7-0-62-1) took one fewer wicket and went at 8.86 per over whereas Liam went at 8.75. So, as Jo suggests, not the “worst” statistically albeit the most runs conceded – the others listed conceded fewer runs, more economically and David Lawrence actually got four wickets. Anyway if Liam’s career from now on compares with Flintoff’s, he’ll be doing OK.

But it got me thinking about ‘BEST’. What’s the best ever bowling for Hampshire? Is it Cottam or any of the others who took nine wickets in an innings? What about ‘Shack’s’ 8-4 at Weston-Super-Mare in 1955? Maybe Butch White’s 6-10 at Middlesborough in 1965?

My choice is simple – and in making it I’m suggesting strongly that best and worst cannot ultimately be defined statistically. My choice is:

Derek Shackleton 24-10-39-6 v Derbyshire at Bournemouth on 1 September 1961

Up to that point on Friday afternoon batsmen had dominated this three-day game. Hampshire 306, Derbyshire 318 (Shackleton 39-15-70-3) and then Hampshire overnight and on Friday morning 263-8 declared, chasing quick runs. Ingleby-Mackenzie declared following a quick partnership of 99 between Sainsbury and Barnard and Hampshire challenged Derbyshire to chase 252 in three-and-a-quarter hours (about 60 overs)

In the Hampshire Handbook, Desmond Eagar suggested that either side of lunch and during early afternoon Shackleton “never bowled better in his notable career”. On an easy pitch he reduced Derbyshire to 52-8 and the two slow-left-armers Wassell and Sainsbury finished it off. For Derbyshire, only young Bob Taylor, batting at number nine, reached twenty (48).

Shack’s analysis of 6-39 doesn’t even get mentioned in the published statistical histories of Hampshire County Cricket Club which list individual centuries and seven or more wickets in an innings, but it’s still my nomination because of context. It was of course the afternoon that ‘Shack’ bowled Hampshire to their first County Championship title. That’s why it’s the best.


11 Comments so far
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Quite a few seem to have been critical of TMS on twitter.

And one mentions Warne’s debut test analysis of 1-150.

Perhaps TMS should be re-billeted in the East stand until they repent?

Comment by Jeremy

When you move away from the traditionally accepted method of determining best bowling (ie most wickets taken followed by fewest runs conceded) it is very subjective.

On the same topic last Thursday I accompanied two friends to the County Ground Northampton to watch the second day of the Northants v Glamorgan game. In the morning session we watched part-time spinner Rob Keogh take nine wickets – all bowled, lbw or caught close to the wicket. It was the first time I had ever witnessed a bowler taking nine wickets in a first-class game. There was little danger for the batsmen at the other end and none at all for the batsmen from either end after lunch as Ben Duckett scored 119 not out by tea and 185 in all before being dismissed in the final session.

Statistically and in the context of the game this would seem to be the best bowling I have ever seen but I’m not sure it was. What it was was very bizarre!

Comment by James

In the match won at the Oval 30 years ago this week, Cardigan Connor 2-21 just might have been his best bowling for the county.

Statistically, a distance behind a nine-for, but in the circumstances (winning the JPL) and what it led to in the seasons that followed….

Musically, If you were there (the Isleys).

Comment by StephenFH

Good shout. I was there and This Old Heart of Mine was beating fast at times but I don’t think I’ve got the right title – it was a miserable day so no Summer Breeze …

Comment by pompeypop

Ultimately ‘best’ and ‘worst’ are probably the worst terms rather than the best, but I’m not sure in cricket that we have to stick with plain ‘stats’ in order to agree which is which. I’ve seen two ‘nine-fors’ (about 35 years apart) by Derek Shackleton and Cardigan Connor but I would still want to argue that Shack’s Championship winning performance in 1961 was superior, based on context and conditions – and supported by the views of those who reported on it. Those extra factors are harder to ‘measure’ than numbers, but that’s OK – it doesn’t make it merely subjective, it just requires the assembling of a range of more complex evidence.

I’m a cricket historian not statistician although of course I utilise stats constantly. I’ve published a few histories of Hampshire cricket. In not one of them did I mention that Roy Marshall scored 18 & 18 v Warwickshire at Southampton in 1961. Why? Because I judged it to be relatively unimportant. But I have written about Leo Harrison’s contribution of 34 in a century partnership which helped Hampshire to win that crucial game on the way to the title – despite it being only 34. Was my decision merely subjective? I don’t think so – it seemed valuable.

Similarly, if you were to ask for just one performance that won the title in 1973, I’d nominate Barry Richards’ two innings v Northants at Southampton in August – yet he didn’t reach 50 in either knock. Subjective? Again, I don’t think so. There would be lots of support and contextual evidence.

Inevitably all my narratives exclude about 95% of what has actually taken place. There is some kind of judgement going on which must be informed but it’s the judgements (and their rationales) that make the history so interesting. Perhaps I’ll publish a Statistical History of Hampshire Cricket based not on raw figures, but on the most valuable performances? That would be a challenge!

Comment by pompeypop

I would argue your examples are subjective because you haven’t watched every Hampshire game and so you aren’t in a position to judge the performances you have seen against other performances which other viewers might regard as superior for whatever reason. Plus of course a different person could watch exactly the same games you have and have a different opinion.

That’s why actual statistics are a better judge of a best performance because they aren’t open to debate (in the first-class game anyway) so, for example, there is no doubt that Shack’s 9-30 was his best performance.

Of course using actual statistics isn’t anywhere near as much fun and massively shortens any debate!

Comment by James

Having spent my entire professional life working in the arts – including mostly teaching and therefore assessing – I’m pretty relaxed about notions of subjectivity. Ultimately the problem with the argument that ‘I trust figures more than opinions’ is that it’s a subjective view, it’s your preference, not mine; you can’t escape. Shack’s 9-30 is his best statistical return. I posted the first piece to see what others thought but in truth I’m entirely happy to say that Shack v Derbyshire 1961 is the most significant bowling ever and lay the whole notion of best/worst to rest – which is where we started!

Comment by pompeypop

Agree the statistics are central; on the original point about Liam Dawson’s figures, bowling this week his numbers have the influence of 20 over cricket running through the game as a whole, Freddie in 1999 not, …puts LD’s performance in a somewhat better light.

Dave is surely right to point to certain ‘best’, in the sense of being most important, performances being a matter of circumstances. The win against Northants in 1973 came at a critical juncture in that season, and winning that match came down to a duel of sorts between Bishan Bedi and Barry Richards. The number of runs secondary.

But moot how far you can push this: 25 years ago Hants beat Surrey in a Lords final largely thanks to the 78 scored by Robin Smith and the 78 scored by Tony Middleton. Arguably the most important one-day performances by both of them for the county; was one more important than the other……would suggest that the stats did not lie, as they often don’t.

Comment by StephenFH

My argument isn’t that I trust statistics more than opinions it is that statistics are a more definitive method of determining an individual’s best performance.

I entirely agree that there is usually a difference between a player’s statistical best and his actual best. It’s just that there are normally many actual bests (depending on who you are talking to) but there is only one statistical best.

At the end of the day I think we are in agreement that there are two types of “best” but we just place more emphasis on different definitions!

Comment by James

I wonder what the headline might have been had he taken 10/200 off 10………improbable but not impossible

“Worst ever figures by debutant win match for England”

Comment by joster69

How much do statistics reveal? Roy Marshall is the second highest run-scorer in Hampshire’s first-class history (30,303) and has always been considered one of their finest players – a key figure in winning the 1961 Championship. Jimmy Adams is one of the best of the Hampshire-born players but not generally considered to be comparable to Roy. He has scored 11,863 f/c runs before today. But Jimmy’s average of 38.89 is better than Roy’s of 36.03. The reasons are obvious (3/4-day matches, covered pitches, few England players in Championship, Div Two seasons) but once you start introducing the reasons, you’re into judgements, not stats facts. Should we exclude them and simply assert that Adams is better than Marshall? (we could rename it Adams Drive)

Comment by pompeypop

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