Hampshire Cricket: Black History Month (Part Five)

Hampshire Cricket's historian, Dave Allen, is back with a series of articles for Black History Month

Hampshire Cricket's historian, Dave Allen, is back with a series of articles for Black History Month - read part five below.

Through Hampshire’s long first-class history now approaching 160 years, only four regular bowlers, all pace men, have career averages under 20 per wicket. One is Kyle Abbott and a second our record wicket-taker, Derek Shackleton, but the two quickest men were from the Caribbean, Andy Roberts (1973-1978) and Malcolm Marshall (1979-1993).

Roberts followed Danny Livingstone from Antigua and spent 1973 qualifying by residence, scaring the country’s 2nd XI batsmen and watching the first team clinch their second County Championship. At the end of that season, with Barry Richards as one overseas player (and Greenidge at that point England-qualified), Hampshire had the difficult task of releasing slow-left-armer David O’Sullivan from New Zealand who had just bowled them to the title through August, because they recognised Roberts’ potential.

They were not wrong, and especially in 1974 he contributed hugely to what was arguably the finest and yet unluckiest Hampshire side in their Championship history, taking 119 wickets at 13.62, six times taking five or more wickets in an innings, including 8-47 against Glamorgan at Cardiff when Hampshire led by 140 runs on first innings yet contrived to lose the match. They were nonetheless then still top-of-the-table with three matches to play but rain wrecked all three of those games with just 457 overs bowled in nine scheduled days – about 50% - and Hampshire finished runners-up, two points behind a Worcestershire side they had thrashed by an innings in two days just weeks earlier.

That was Roberts’ finest season for Hampshire and perhaps in that one year he bowled as quickly as any man ever for the county. In 1975 he was in the West Indies World Cup-winning side, then  in 1976 their Test touring team and in 1977 there were just 14 matches and 44 wickets. In 1978, he and Barry Richards departed mid-season in unhappy circumstances, although he played subsequently for Leicestershire, while in 47 Test Matches he took 202 wickets for his country. For Hampshire he finished with 244 wickets in 58 first-class games at 16.70 to which he added 104 wickets in limited-overs games.

Gordon Greenidge remained in 1979 and was joined by the relatively unknown Malcolm Marshall, like Gordon, from Barbados. In the winter preceding his arrival at Hampshire Marshall played in his first three Test Matches in India and in 1979 he spent some time with the West Indies World Cup side but still took 47 wickets at just over 20 each. In 1980 he toured with the West Indies Test side as Hampshire finished last in the Championship for the only time in well over 100 years but when he returned to the side late in the season his 9-92 in the match helped them to their only victory.

Through the 1980s it seemed that Hampshire’s final Championship position was almost wholly dependent on the presence or absence of their two great West Indians. In the years when they toured England, Hampshire finished 17th; 15th & 15th but when they were available, in 1981 they were seventh, in 1985 they were runners-up, and also over those ten years they finished third three times, fifth in 1987, and sixth twice.  

Marshall finished his Hampshire career in 1993 with 826 wickets at 18.64 plus 237 limited overs wickets at 18.34. In first-class matches he added 5,847 runs at 25.20 with five centuries, while in 81 Test Matches his 376 wickets cost just 20.94 each. He was a popular and greatly loved cricketer for his adopted county and returned as Coach, but became seriously ill and died, age just 41, in November 1999.

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