Born On This Day: 26th January

A new series from Hampshire Cricket historian Dave Allen marks the birthdays of notable and fondly remembered Hampshire cricketers

Alexander (‘Alec’) Johnston was born in Derby in 1884. He was an amateur and principally a batsman whose father had played for Derbyshire but was later Director General of Ordnance Survey in Southampton. Alexander attended Winchester College and played for Hampshire in 1902, when just 18.

He was a professional soldier, reaching the rank of Colonel and playing football, hockey and polo in the Army. Despite those duties, he played fairly regularly for the county, although missing the seasons of 1907 & 1909, and he played first-class cricket also for MCC, Gentlemen v Players and the Army.

When he returned to the county in 1910 he achieved his best aggregate of 1,158 runs at 36.18, and was invited to tour West Indies with MCC but withdrew. He reached four figures again in 1912 with an average of 54.94 and his highest score of 175, followed by 100* in the second innings, v Warwickshire at Coventry. There was a third century that season v Worcestershire at Portsmouth and a suggestion that he might have played for England in the triangular tournament, but the captain CB Fry was apparently unable to contact him. Fry, Johnston and Mead headed the English averages that season.

He fought at the front from 1914, until badly wounded and sent home in the autumn of 1917. He was awarded the DSO and MC, but the injury left him with a permanent limp; he tried to return to the first-class game with a runner, but the authorities were not sympathetic, so post-war he played just one Championship match (73 for once out) and two other first-class games, although he continued to play, touring Egypt as late as 1930.

His last recorded match was for Aldershot Division v RAF in 1941. For Hampshire, he played in 108 first-class matches, scoring 5,442 runs at 30.74 with ten centuries, and bowling occasional leg-breaks, took 18 wickets. John Arlott (1957) recorded CB Fry’s view that with his timing and technique he was “the best of all our soldier batsmen”. He died in Woking on 27th December 1952.


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