History

A brief history of Hampshire

Sam Collins

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Formed 1863
First-class debut 1864
Admitted to Championship1895
County Championship 1961, 1973
Gillette/NatWest/C&G 1991, 2005
Benson & Hedges 1988, 2002
Sunday League 1975, 1978, 1986
Twenty20 Best - Quarter-finals 2004

Hampshire was, with Sussex and Kent, one of the birthplaces of cricket in this country, with matches traced as far back as the late 16th century. The mantle for Hampshire cricket passed to the Hambledon club in the 18th century, and for a period of around 30 years in the second half of the 18th century the club was to all intents and purposes English cricket. Hambledon's importance waned when the Marylebone Cricket Club was formed in 1787, but the county continued to play cricket regularly until the club as we know it now was formed in 1863, playing their inaugural match against Sussex in 1864.

The club was recognised as a first-class team and allowed to compete for the unofficial Champion County title, but they lost this status in 1886 after consistently poor results. They regained first-class status in 1895 when they were re-admitted to the fledgling County Championship.

They spent most of the pre-World War One era near the foot of the Championship table, but improved slightly afterwards, with Lionel Tennyson, the grandson of the poet laureate, to the fore. Hampshire's batting in the inter-war years was dominated by Phil Mead, who scored 138 hundreds among his 48,892 runs for the club, both records unlikely to be broken.

They did not experience success until Colin Ingleby-Mackenzie took over the captaincy in 1958, finishing second in his first year in charge then claiming the title for the first time in 1961 under his cavalier regime. The 1970s was a golden age for the club, as the supporters enjoyed the flair of the West Indians Gordon Greenidge and Andy Roberts, as well as the runs of Barry Richards. They produced the goods on the pitch as well, as Hampshire won the Championship in 1973, and the Sunday League in 1975 and 1978.

Following this success eluded them, save for sporadic one-day titles in the era of Malcolm Marshall, Robin Smith and David Gower, until Rod Bransgrove arrived as chairman in 2000. Resembling more a football owner than a cricket one, he underwrote the move to the Rose Bowl, and secured the county's hitherto precarious financial position. He brought in high profile players such as John Crawley, Shane Warne and Kevin Pietersen, and while Hampshire won the C&G Trophy in 2005, the lack of Championship success allied to the Rose Bowl's failure to gain Test Match status means that the future is almost totally dependant on Bransgrove's continuing involvement.

Sam Collins is a freelance journalist based in London

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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