From The Archive: Hampshire & Essex

Hampshire Cricket Historian Dave Allen begins a new 'From The Archive' content series with a look at Hampshire's history with Essex

Hampshire Cricket is pleased to announce the launch of 'From The Archive', a new content series in collaboration with Hampshire Cricket Historian, Dave Allen.

The series will see Dave dig into the archives around each of Hampshire's Specsavers County Championship fixtures, the first instalment of which follows this week's victory over  Essex.

Cricket books are mostly a thing of the past. I don’t mean because of the digital revolution, it is simply that by the time they are written, we’ve moved on to a new season, new players, new fixtures. Mostly they recount what has happened.

Cricket, perhaps more than most sports is a game of memories. The leisurely pace of most forms allows us to share stories of the great days, the thrilling matches, the finest players and these memories are often informed – perhaps corrected – by the evidence collected in published statistics, accounts, biographies or annuals including our bible, Wisden.

I have one by me now – it’s 57 years old, hardback from the days before the yellow jackets and with the gold lettering fading, but what it contains, far from fading, are the richest memories of my first season as junior member, 11-years-old and following my county, as they went to the greatest triumph, their first Championship title.

I’m not sure that I remember much of the season itself very clearly although I recall that on that great afternoon of Friday 1st September I walked home from a swim off Southsea beach to hear on the Light Programme that we had done it. Confirmation came in the next day’s newspapers with the first full, printed scorecards and the table, showing Hampshire top. We have won quite a few trophies since then, but 1961 remains the most romantic of them – the victory that reconnected us with the giants of Hambledon, two centuries earlier.

What is often forgotten about this very happy Hampshire team is that it consisted for the most part of tough, experienced ‘pros’ coming to the height of their achievement. The sense that they brightened what was largely a pretty dull first-class game in that period was derived principally from their charismatic young captain, the Old Etonian Colin Ingleby-Mackenzie, who had the capacity to make everyone he met feel like the most special person in the world.

He was spotted by Hampshire at Southampton’s Easter coaching in 1946 and groomed for the captaincy by his predecessor Desmond Eagar. He led Hampshire first in 1958 and only a poor run-in left them in second place behind Surrey, who were winning the title for the seventh time. After two less successful seasons, everything went right in 1961.

As a cricketer, Colin Ingleby-Mackenzie had two great qualities, he extorted his team to “entertain or perish”, playing cricket that way himself, and he had a very good eye. His relatively modest first-class record belies the fact that from his days at Eton he had been a fine all-round sportsman and a man who simply loved life in a way that found expression in his cricket. He was a decent wicket-keeper, sometimes deputising for his great friend Leo Harrison, while he batted usually around six or seven and frequently departed having hit not quite correctly, towards the left-handers favoured leg-side.

One of the clichés about him is that he encouraged the opposition to make generous declarations and that is how we won the title, but it’s untrue. Of our nineteen victories in 1961, 15 came by taking 20 wickets, one more with 19, and in all three of our successful run chases, our opponents had realistic prospects of victory. The first of these was at the Oval where we trailed Surrey by 166 runs but a new regulation prevented the Londoners from enforcing the follow-on. They declared, set Hampshire 308 to win, but Roy Marshall’s 153 took Hampshire to a superb if somewhat lucky victory. A month later Hampshire dominated a match v Gloucestershire but lost the whole of day two to rain. On the third morning Ingleby-Mackenzie infuriated his players by sacrificing certain first innings points; Gloucestershire declared in turn, but chasing 199 to win and despite the captain’s half-century, Hampshire fell to 162-8, until ‘Butch’ White hit furiously, made 33* his best score of the season and Hampshire won with just two minutes left!

That was one of six consecutive victories which took Hampshire to the top of the table, before they lost to one of their main challengers Middlesex, at Lord’s. In mid-season, with Leo injured, the captain was keeping wicket, as the next match v Essex took them across the Solent for their sixth annual visit to Cowes, Isle of Wight. On the Saturday, South African Joe Milner (120) and former England all-rounder and Essex captain Trevor Bailey (72) took Essex to 321-9 declared, and they gave Hampshire’s openers a difficult evening spell, but Gray and Sainsbury survived and moved on to 83-1 on Monday morning. But why Sainsbury? Because Hampshire’s star Roy Marshall had injured his leg in the field and only appeared, with a runner, at 197-5. He went quickly and with the last five wickets falling for just 21 runs, Essex went to a lead beyond 150 on the second evening.

Hampshire faced another match with no points as the Essex captain Bailey pushed on to 44* and declared, setting Hampshire 241 to win in three-and-a-half hours – no specified overs in 1961. This might seem a generous challenge, but Essex sought a victory which would eventually have taken them into fifth place.  Scoring was slower too in those days – England had just been beaten by the Australians, after a second innings in which they were bowled out for 202 in 97 overs!

Bailey and his opening partner Ken Preston then took two cheap wickets each and were anticipating victory with Hampshire 35-4, when the captain joined fellow left-hander Danny Livingstone (44) in a partnership of 86. After Livingstone was stumped, young spinner Alan Wassell was promoted and supported his captain until he was sixth out at 171. Hampshire still needed 70 as Marshall limped out again, and in just three-quarters-of-an-hour he and his captain hit Hampshire to a remarkable and very important victory. Ingleby-Mackenzie scored 132*, beating by just two runs his previous highest innings v Worcestershire, five years earlier – on the same Cowes ground. The young man, son of an Admiral, and a sailor himself while on National Service, particularly enjoyed his trips across the water.

And those books? The Hampshire Handbook described it as the captain’s “match” having “brought victory for his side from seemingly certain defeat”, while Wisden, emphasising the nautical link, suggested he had “turned the tide … with a brilliant innings”. Ingleby-Mackenzie’s impact was such that before his thirtieth birthday, he published his autobiography Many a Slip in which he recounted that after Saturday’s play he and a friend “set about breaking the world drinking record”, before he took a boat back to the mainland at 7am – but not before falling into the Solent fully clothed. That Sunday afternoon he appeared in a benefit game for the injured Marshall, then returned to the island to win the match. He was a quite extraordinary, quite wonderful man – one of the last of the true amateurs.

Dave Allen

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