Hampshire Cricket History


Leo (part one)
October 12, 2016, 11:23 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I must depart for Winchester quite soon but I’m compiling an obituary for whoever needs it. Here is the first part:

Look up Mudeford today and you will find it down by sea in the southeast corner of Dorset. Until the 1974 boundary review however, it was in Hampshire, so it was that the Hampshire cricketer Leo Harrison was Hampshire born-and-bred, a rare enough feature of the modern Hampshire side. Indeed, by the time of the county changes, Leo was 52 and had retired after a long career as a cricketer and coach.

He joined the Hampshire staff in 1938, principally as a promising batsman and in the following season made his debut against Worcestershire on his ‘home’ ground of Bournemouth at the end of August. 40 wickets fell, neither side reached 200 in any of the four innings, there were just three half-centurions and so Leo’s innings of nine and 12 were neither significant nor poor. A very weak Hampshire side lost by 32 runs. He retained his place for the second match of the ‘week’ and Hampshire’s final Championship match, not merely of 1939 but until 1946.

They met the Champions Yorkshire and perhaps unsurprisingly lost by an innings. Bill Bowes dismissed Leo without scoring and Sutcliffe, Hutton and Mitchell took Yorkshire past Hampshire’s score with just one wicket lost, after which the promising Gosport-born ‘leggie’ Tom Dean took 5-58. Yorkshire led by just 127 but it was enough – only Sam Pothecary (61) and Leo with 16 reached double figures and Hampshire’s season was over. More poignantly Hedley Verity, who took six first innings wickets, and Hampshire’s ‘Hooky’ Walker would never return from the war, while the county careers of the great Herbert Sutcliffe and Hampshire’s Baring, Boyes, Creese and Mackenzie also came to a conclusion.

Just before the war the Essex cricketer and journalist Charles Bray had written in the Daily Herald that Leo was so promising as a batsman that he might be the new Bradman. During the war, Leo joined the RAF and his return to the first-class game was delayed somewhat as he was not demobbed in time for the start of the 1946 season. When he returned he had to come to terms with failing eyesight and he would never reach the heights as a batsman. He was however an outstanding cover fielder and converted to one of the county’s finest wicketkeepers.

In that first post-war season he played twelve first-class matches for the Combined Services, RAF and Hampshire, including a Services match v the Indians at Portsmouth, but averaged just over 10 per innings. While still primarily regarded as a batsman, he did have a first experience of ‘keeping’ with three stumpings. It would be his future …

 

 

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