Hampshire Cricket History

Vic Cannings
October 31, 2016, 2:06 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Vic was born in April 1919, in the Hampshire village of Bighton, which tended to confuse people in his early days as he was listed sometimes as a man of Sussex! In his teens he played club cricket in north Hampshire, but then served abroad in the Palestine police so did not play county cricket until after war.

Hampshire could not afford him initially, so he joined Warwickshire and made his debut in 1947. In that first season he took 63 wickets at just under 30 apiece but he played less regularly in the next two seasons. Hampshire’s veteran pace bowlers Herman and Heath had no obvious replacements and Hampshire, seeking a partner for the promising Derek Shackleton, approached Vic.

He came back to Hampshire in 1950 just after his 31st birthday and took 83 wickets at under 25 each in that first season. He and ‘Shack’ bowled together for the first time at Lord’s, dismissing Middlesex for 103 and Vic’s dismissal of Denis Compton was the first of a number of times, such that the great DCS Compton became known as Vic’s ‘rabbit’. In 1952, ‘Shack’ and Vic bowled unchanged in both innings in a victory at Southampton over their traditional Whitsun opponents Kent – in the first innings Vic also held three gully catches as Kent were dismissed for 32.

The two formed a fine opening partnership through the 1950s, as Hampshire finished 3rd (1955) and 2nd (1958) for the first time ever. He took 100 wickets in four consecutive seasons, 1951-1954 and his 94 wickets in the wonderful 1955 season cost just 17.64 each and an economy rate barely above two runs per over. His batting was less remarkable with a career average of around 10 and one half-century (for Warwickshire) but in 1950 he and Charlie Knott steered Hampshire from 131-9 to 152 all out and a tie with Kent. Extraordinarily in 1955 at Eastbourne, Vic and Peter Sainsbury came together at 84-8 with Hampshire chasing 140 for victory. The ninth wicket pair brought the scores level, at which point Sussex took two wickets without addition and Hampshire recorded the third (of four) ties in their history with Vic’s dismissal twice enabling that result.

In 1953 he had the odd record of being the only bowler to dismiss the Australian’s Bill Johnston. Vic was fond of last-minute thrills. In 1955 he had Kent’s Doug Wright lbw from the last ball to win the match, and against Oxford University one year later, Hampshire won by one run when Vic took two wickets with the last two balls of the match.

Vic was capped very soon on returning to Hampshire and having been similarly rewarded by Warwickshire, he added a third later with Buckinghamshire in Minor Counties cricket. In all he took 834 first-class wickets for Hampshire in ten seasons at an average of 21.68 – all after his 30th birthday.

He took his benefit in 1959 (£3,787) then retired and coached at Eton for many years (John Barclay has written of being coached by him). At 97 he was the second oldest living Hampshire cricketer (after centurion John Manners).


Vic bowls v Northants at Portsmouth. The non-striker is Frank Tyson


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Dave, Firstly many thanks for your excellent appraisals of the careers of Leo, Jimmy and Vic.

Due to problems with Broadband, my computer has been ‘hors de combat’ for most of October,so i have been unable to log on to ‘the blog’ for some time.

On Monday I received the Cricket Society Newsletter with the sad news about Leo Harrison. Then, at last, the computer was up and running, so I switched on to be confronted with more sad news re Jimmy Gray and Vic Cannings.

Jimmy was a real gentleman and it was always a pleasure to talk to him when he was visiting the Ageas Bowl. He will be sadly missed by all Hants supporters who were fortunate to see him play.

My memories of Vic go back as far as 1946 when, as a 7 year old boy along with my father and brother, I used to watch Vic playing club cricket for Farnham at weekends. He had actually played for Farnham as a 15 year old boy before the war and bowled to Jack Hobbs when a Surrey XI visited ‘the Park’ in 1934. Legend has it that he troubled ‘the great batsman’, once hitting him on the pads, but did not appeal. The umpire told him afterwards that if he had appealed, Hobbs would have been given out. By the time he joined the Palestine police in 1938 he had made his mark, along with the Bedser twins, in the Surrey Young Players team skippered by Stuart Surridge.

I can still picture his springy, bouncy approach to the wicket, blond hair flopping down over his forehead. I know one’s judgement becomes clouded with age, but it seemed as if in most matches for Farnham, he took 5 wickets and often scored 50+runs. He looked a good bat in club cricket! He had just the one season after the war with Farnham before signing for Warks and then Hants in 1950. Vic was quoted as saying -“I think I may have set a record for the shortest time in which a player has won two county caps; Warks. after nine weeks, Hampshire’s after five weeks”

October has ended on a very sad note with the loss of 3 great Hampshire cricketers. May they rest in peace.

Comment by Dave Wilson

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