Hampshire’s Oldest Former Player Celebrates 90th Birthday 

Dennis Baldry made his Hampshire debut in May 1959

Hampshire’s former batting all-rounder Dennis Baldry celebrated his 90th birthday on Boxing Day – he is Hampshire’s oldest former player.

Dennis was born in Middlesex in 1931 and played 2nd XI cricket for his native county from 1950 and in 1953 he played a solitary first-class match for the county, and then appeared more regularly between 1955-1958. In 49 matches for Middlesex he passed 1,000 runs with five half-centuries ((HS 61) and took 11 wickets.

After the retirement of Alan Rayment in 1958, Hampshire persuaded Dennis to move south and on 6 May 1959 he made his Hampshire debut v Glamorgan at Portsmouth and scored 151, becoming only the second Hampshire player to pass three figures on first-class debut for the county, and the first in a Championship match.

Dennis Baldry enjoyed probably the most prolific start of any Hampshire cricketer. After a quiet match v Gloucestershire he returned to Lord’s and scored 123 v MCC, in his fourth match v Kent at Southampton he scored 62, took two wickets and was awarded his county cap, next at Old Trafford, coming on second change, he recorded his best bowling figures: 28-7-76-7, followed by 3-28 at Edgbaston (and 75 runs in the match). It seemed that Hampshire had found a new number four, and Baldry finished that season with 1,605 runs at 29.72, including three centuries and 30 wickets (31.13).

He would enjoy further successes over the next three seasons, but less consistently, while newcomer Danny Livingstone seized fourth place for the decade. Baldry’s 24 matches in the damp 1960 season brought 678 runs with an average nearer 20 and a best of 93 - there would be no more centuries.

In 1961 that average dropped again to 19.31, and as the season ran its course to the title, he lost his place to Mike Barnard. Nonetheless his best of that season, 84* was a key innings in late May at Headingley, when Hampshire, going well, met the reigning Champions Yorkshire, who had won their first three Championship matches. The home side posted 279, Trueman took three quick wickets and Baldry arrived with Hampshire in trouble at 45-5. With Peter Sainsbury he added 109 and despite another collapse remained firm taking Hampshire to a position where they were able to draw the match quite easily.

After a run of fairly low scores he played another important innings, described in the Hampshire Handbook as “brilliant”, v Nottinghamshire at Southampton, when his 61* enabled Ingleby-Mackenzie to declare and Hampshire won by 15 runs with just three minutes to spare – the last wicket, a direct throw run out by Baldry. There was a third half-century at Hove and 4-41 at Leyton although both matches were lost, and travelling from Essex to Derby, Mike Barnard returned for a successful late season run. Dennis Baldry had however contributed at key moments to the eventual great triumph of 1 September 1961.

In 1962, he had to wait until early July for his first Championship match, playing in 11 first-class games, as his batting average rose to 25.92, adding 23 wickets. In the last innings of the year, he arrived with Hampshire 80-5, facing defeat v Surrey, until another century partnership with Sainsbury secured the draw. Baldry was dismissed just ten runs short of 100 and although he would not know it then, also ten runs short of having opened and closed his county career with a century. He took work locally during the winter but as he was preparing to return for pre-season training, he was offered a permanent post, and at 31 he retired from first-class cricket.

There would be one further match however, Hampshire’s first-ever in the knock-out cup when, with Derek Shackleton injured he was called up to play v Derbyshire and is always delighted to point out that as an amateur for the day, his expenses exceeded his daily wages of the previous season. Hampshire lost that match narrowly but he took 4-70 in his 15 permitted overs. He played club cricket in the Southampton area for many years and regularly attends former players reunions.

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