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Yorkshire's John Hampshire dies aged 76

John Hampshire 1941-2017 Getty Images

John Hampshire, the former Yorkshire captain and England batsman who went on to become an international umpire, has died at the age of 76 after a long illness.

Hampshire, who scored a century on his Test debut, against West Indies at Lord's in 1969, played eight Tests and three ODIs for England, but will be best remembered as an integral member of the great Yorkshire side that dominated the County Championship in the 1960s.

In a 23-year career that included spells with Derbyshire, Tasmania and, briefly, Leicestershire, Hampshire scored a total of 28,059 first-class runs at 34.55, including 43 hundreds - the vast majority of those coming during his 456 appearances for Yorkshire.

He debuted for the club as a 20-year-old in 1961 and won the County Championship on five separate occasions, holding his own in a team packed with club legends including Geoff Boycott, Ray Illingworth, Fred Trueman and his first captain, Brian Close. An upright front-foot driver with a strong leg-side game, he was one of the most handsome batsmen of his time.

"Initially Yorkshire might have been a difficult dressing room to feel at home in, but Brian Close was a tremendous captain," Hampshire told ESPNcricinfo in one of his final interviews earlier this year.

"He integrated everyone. Most of the guys, they wanted to do well because they wanted the side to do well. And they wanted other players to do well. There were some terrific rows, but they were cricket rows. They weren't personal vendettas or anything like that. Closey was the ringleader a lot of the time, but as soon as they were finished it was, "Right, come on, we'll have a drink."

Hampshire, like many in that side, could be an intimidating figure on first meeting, but once respect was won, hidden behind a serious exterior was a warm and self-deprecating humour.

Just a year after the end of his playing career in 1984, he became a first-class umpire, and stood for the first time in a Test match at Old Trafford during the 1989 Ashes.

Later that year, he and John Holder were invited by Pakistan's captain, Imran Khan, to stand as neutral umpires during Pakistan's home series against India, a move that helped pave the way for that to become the standard across all international matches. In total, Hampshire stood in 21 matches up until 2002, and finally retired from the county circuit in 2005.

Andy Flower, coach of England Lions, was a prominent figure in the Zimbabwe side that was coached by Hampshire upon their entry to Test cricket in the early 1990s and maintained the friendship from that point.

"He was very passionate about Zimbabwe cricket," Flower told ESPNcricinfo. "He grew to love the country, and its cricket, and he was a very important part of our early years. He gave us a really good grounding in the basics of the game, which served us very well.

"I last saw him at Lord's during the summer. He was there as a guest of the ECB, and we had a couple of great chats during the day. Even though he was unwell, he was always such a strong and generous guy, so he'd still be smiling and giggling at himself.

"It was always the right balance with John, between playing hard on the field, and relaxing and chatting off it. When he was coach and I was captain, he would often sit me down with Scotch or a good wine - he fancied himself as a connoisseur - and we'd talk about the game for hours."

In March 2016, Hampshire stepped up to the role of Yorkshire president, an appointment he described as being "the icing on the cake" of his career. To some extent, it was a final show of brotherhood by Yorkshire because his county career at Headingley had ended in disillusionment. In 1978, Hampshire famously was instrumental in a batting go-slow at Northampton in protest at a six-hour century by Geoffrey Boycott. It cost his side a bonus point and Boycott the captaincy. Hampshire replaced him but only for two seasons, before he departed for a simpler life at Derbyshire.

"From a very humble beginning, getting trains, trams and buses to Headingley to practice in the winter in hope of getting a game for Yorkshire Seconds, to being president. I think it's quite an achievement," he said.

"John epitomised everything that's good about Yorkshire County Cricket Club," said Steve Denison, Yorkshire's chairman. "Brave, talented and with a heart of gold, he captained Yorkshire, scored a century at Lord's on his Test debut and became a highly respected umpire after hanging up his playing whites.

"Loved by players and members alike, John capped his wonderful life in Yorkshire cricket as our club president last year. On behalf of everyone involved with and connected to the Club, I would like to extend our most sincere condolences to John's wife Alison and two sons Ian and Paul. He will be sorely missed by all at Headingley."