Hampshire Cricket History

All the Eights (2)
April 16, 2018, 7:09 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized


In 1955, 60 years after they entered the County Championship, Hampshire finished third in the table, behind the two ‘giants’ of those days, Surrey and Yorkshire. To younger supporters that might not sound so special, but prior to that, Hampshire’s best position had been fourth in 1914 – and this was only the second time in 23 seasons they had even finished in the top half. In those times, Hampshire was a modest, unfashionable county but the captain/secretary Desmond Eagar was building a good side, and in 1958 he handed the captaincy to the charismatic young Etonian Colin Ingleby-Mackenzie, who advised his experienced, professional side to “entertain or perish”, and immediately led them to the runners-up spot.

In those days, the players’ only major cricket was first-class; 28 x three (not four) day Championship matches, plus friendlies against Cambridge and Oxford Universities and the touring New Zealanders. That was 93 days of cricket in a much shorter season from 10 May -2 September, an average of five-and-a-half days each week. When the season ended, most of the players went off to find winter employment – England toured Australia, but despite their fine performance, without any Hampshire players.

While third place in 1955 was so unexpected that it was widely celebrated, in 1958 there was a sense of an opportunity missed. In a very wet summer that favoured the bowlers on uncovered pitches, Hampshire beat Kent in the traditional Canterbury Bank Holiday fixture in the days when that August weekend came at the start of the month. They then drew matches against Middlesex and Warwickshire without taking the first innings points available back then, before the disaster of an alarming pitch at Derbyshire’s Burton-on-Trent ground. Hampshire’s giant pace bowler Malcolm Heath took 13-87 in the match, but Hampshire lost by 103 runs, as the match aggregate of 259 was the lowest in Hampshire’s history in a match in which 40 wickets fell. Hampshire were dismissed for 23 in the first innings, and Mike Barnard top-scored in both Hampshire innings with an aggregate of just 21 runs. Hampshire beat Essex in the next match, but failed to win any of the last four games and in the run-in Surrey clinched their seventh consecutive title. Three years later, the ever-popular Ingleby-Mackenzie went one better with most of the same players and a few new recruits and Hampshire were Champions for the first time.



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