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Hampshire won the County Championship in 1961 under the breezy captaincy of Colin Ingleby Mackenzie. In the years immediately after the First World War, Hampshire were led by major the Hon. Lionel Tennyson, a grandson of the poet, Lord Tennyson. H.L.V. Day, a notable all-round amateur sportsman, was a fine hard-hitting batsman for Hampshire in those days. A three-quarter and accurate goal-kicker, he played for England and later became an International Rugby Union referee. Here he give his impressions of Hampshire forty years ago.
Cricket is a glorious game chiefly because such a vast amount of fun can be derived from it by all and sundry, except apparently by that tiny fraction of the playing fraternity who engage in county cricket. The fun seems to have gone out of that.
Since the war, whatever the reason, there has been an increasing amount of abominably dull stuff served up as entertainment by first-class counties, otherwise why all these proposals to ginger up the players, almost all professionals, and the proceedings?
Much of the blame can be laid at the door of the captains. The difference a lively, gay, adventurous captain can make has been well and truly underlined by A.C.D. Ingleby-Mackenzie. He accepted the challenge between bat and ball which is the essence of cricket, and was rewarded by leading Hampshire to their first championship.
The full details of that commendable achievement are recorded elsewhere in this publication, and it is not my province to comment on it, except perhaps to say that it was accomplished without the doubtful bolstering of pools. Surely it is a bad thing for cricket to be dependent for its very existence on other than its own attractions.
I have been asked to recall some of the Hampshire cricketers as I knew them. Cricket for me was a huge lark. How could it have been otherwise with Lionel, Baron Tennyson to cajole, harangue, curse or applaud us as the fancy took him? But he did not by any means have it all his own way. We had some lively sparks like T.O. Jameson, C.P. Brutton, W.R. Shirley, R. Aird and R.R.H. Utley among the amateurs. And no game could ever be insipid with George Brown in action with his antics and mimicry.
There is nothing new under the sun according to Holy Writ. I could not help thinking of this as I listened to the answers of the present Hampshire captain, give doubtless with his tongue well up in his cheek, on his training schedule for his team -- wine, women and song, and bed before breakfast.
Forty years ago his predecessor in the captaincy followed the some programme but only for himself, and with the proviso that he frequently never went to bed at all. But he would kick up an unholy stink if he caught any of his young amateurs up after midnight, unless he wanted them for some ploy of his own.
They evidently enjoyed themselves in the dim ages of Hampshire cricket on Broad Halfpenny Down whether victors or vanquished. John Nyren records that they drank punch, not your modern cat-lap milk punch, but good unsophisticated John Bull stuff that would make a cat speak! Sixpence a bottle!
Captaincy of any county, never a tea-party, becomes increasingly complicated. Lionel's leadership was based on unhesitating obedience. He had no intention of humouring anyone. The choice of his team, its strategy and tactics, if any, were his affair. He would allow no interference.
He might or might not accept advice from the Committee, or from our tactful and persuasive secretary, Colonel J.G. Greig, but orders never. When there seemed a singular lack of originality in the management of his bowling I felt like the old pastor who, before setting forth on his visiting rounds, would pray O, Lord use me if only in an advisory capacity.
In match after match he would start with Kennedy and Newman, leaving them on until they were fit to drop. How they kept up their inexhaustible persistence and accuracy through a whole season was a mystery.
Kennedy with his beautifully smooth action and his ability to move the ball late in its flight, and off the ground, supported by Newman with his vicious off-break, formed as good an opening attack as any county could then boast. What a harvest of wickets Newman would have reaped under the new l.b.w. rule! Furthermore, they could be relied upon for runs. Look at their figures, 4,926 wickets and 31,829 runs.
George Brown could swing the ball amazingly, but Lionel never dreamt of opening the proceedings with him. I did one day at Worcester and received a blistering telling-off for exercising my initiative.
Brown bid fair to be the most accomplished all-rounder of all time. Has any other cricketer ever opened the bowling and the batting, and kept wicket with such mastery? He was unsurpassed, too, as a silly mid-off. As a batsman he pricked the bubble of solemnity if the spirit moved him. He could mix barn-door defence with fierce aggression, and village buffoonery with majestic strokes.
Then there was Philip Mead whose appearance as he came waddling to the wicket caused more bad language among bowlers in my hearing than any other batsman. For a man of his build he was impressively quick on his feet, making him a real joy to watch against slow spinners.
It has often been stated that he was dull. Nothing of the sort. He got his hundred before lunch, and once 280 in a day. He never gave his wicket away. After collecting one hundred, you could see him settling down for the next. He had a prejudice against getting out.
One whose praises went unsung was A. Bowell. The name may mean very little except to old Hampshire cricketers, but this ginger headed, bowed legged, squat figure, who looked anything but an alert and agile coverpoint, was also a very useful opening bat, with every stroke in the book, made from a pronounced two-eyed stance.
He joined the county in 1902 so that, presumably, he must have been past his best when I began to play, but he continued to collect and save runs with great consistency. He was the first of a number of valuable recruits obtained from Oxfordshire including the two Rogers, Brown, Arnold and Herman.
By the time he retired in 1927, Bowell had scored more runs for the county than anyone else except Mead, though Brown and Arnold, who came after him, exceeded his total of 18,510. He rarely failed to gather his thousand runs in a season. His most profitable shot was the square cut. Very quick on his feet, he played spin bowling extremely well, a necessary accomplishment in those days, since every county had one or more good slow spinners.
We had two who might have achieved much greater distinction with any other captain than Lionel. They were T.O. Jameson and Boyes. Jameson, like me, was a regular soldier, and his opportunities were strictly limited. But whenever he played, or rather was allowed to bowl before batsmen had got dug in, Jameson always looked likely to get wickets.
The tragedy was that here was a wonderful support for Kennedy and Newman, if used judiciously, but he was so often wasted. He bowled slow right-arm from an enormous height, he stood six feet four, which appeared absolute jam from the ringside but had even the best batsmen in a pother. He was not merely a technically perfect bowler, he was a schemer, constantly probing a batsman's weakness, or playing upon his indulgence. In addition, he became a very stylish batsman with immense wristy power as befitted an amateur rackets champion. A great pity he could not play more frequently.
The other spinner was Stuart Boyes, taken on the ground staff on the recommendation of Bowell. A slow left-arm bowler, he had a beautifully smooth action, turned the ball on any wicket and appreciated the value of flight. Also a very fine fielder close in. Here again was a bowler who could have been a great foil for Kennedy and Newman, if only he had been used with discretion.
It may be that Lionel had an aversion to slow bowlers. They made him look rather foolish, especially Tich Freeman. He would, or could, not shift his bulky frame down the pitch. Crease bound, he had to let fly from where he stood, and leg-break bowlers like Freeman had him expending a vast amount of energy thrashing the air.
He came in to join me one day at Bath as I strove to get runs off Jack White's impeccable length. After taking guard, he summoned me to a mid-wicket conference. "You've been in an hour, and look at the damned score. You get a move on or else I'll run you out."
I tried to explain that I was baffled by the flight, and would like to see how it should be done. "Flight!" thundered Lionel. "I'll give him flight."
He scythed and swished for two overs, but somehow the ball had either not arrived or had gone. At any rate, he departed breathing heavily without disturbing Jack White or the fieldsmen, but to the huge disappointment of the onlookers at the quick end to a knock-about turn.
Against fast bowling it was a very different matter. From his semi-crouching stance which combined the comical with the aggressive, he seemed able to deal effectively with the fast men. Had he not been so impetuous he might have ranked with A.W. Carr and F.T. Mann, among the greatest of firm-footed hitters.
Playing against Kent on Whit Monday 1920, he carted a ball into the Bannister club's tennis courts, a distance from hit to pitch of 139 yards, 1 foot, 8 inches. Who can ever forget his heroic 63 one-handed against Gregory and McDonald in the 1921 Test match at Leeds?
He had more than his fair share of luck in the matter of being dropped by fieldsmen. In a match against Essex, J.W.H.T. Douglas must have had him missed half a dozen times, and became so exasperated he informed Lionel in his most endearing manner: "If I had your -- luck, I'd make a thousand every May."
But those sort of digs left him cold. If success attended his efforts, he rejoiced with undisguised delight, for there was none of that reticence that ties the tongue of the diffident English sportsman.
One of his pleasant little habits was to send telegrams to his batsmen on the field. One day at Trent Bridge I was trying to cope with the Notts fast bowlers. I failed completely to connect with a very short long hop and duly received it around the heart. It flattened me.
As I sat on the ground recovering my composure, I got a telegram which read, "What do you think your -- bat is for" signed Lionel. Another young amateur, striving to find his touch, received this encouraging message: "For God's sake get out and let someone else take a hundred off this jam."
That same young amateur, not a bad bowler, had the temerity to suggest a change in the bowling. Lionel demanded to know with some heat: "Who's captain of this outfit?" And the poor chap was banished to the deep -- at both ends.
Field placing did not worry Lionel unduly. He made up his mind that you were no good in certain positions and nothing could persuade him otherwise, though he used the most horrific language if a catch was put on the floor, or a boundary let through.
An amateur, usually distinguished for his fielding near the wicket, happened to be stationed in the deep on the Portsmouth ground, which was not exactly a billiard table since it overlapped the Rugby pitch. He began by putting down a gaper, and followed this by being deceived by three successive drives bouncing very awkwardly. They all went for four.
Lionel then decided to change the bowling, and this unfortunate amateur, cupping his hands to his mouth, shouted: "Where shall I go, Lionel?" And before word could come back from an irate skipper, a broad Yorkshire voice roared: "Home, guv'nor, home."
Lionel had no distorted notions that honour or prestige was dependent upon success. He played with the firm conviction that the principal object was to enjoy oneself. This he certainly never failed to do.
It was due to this combination of courage and gaiety that Hampshire won the historic match against Warwickshire at Edgbaston in 1922 after being diddled out for 15 by F.S.G. Calthorpe and Harry Howell in the first innings.
As the match against Leicestershire at Southampton ended early the previous day, Lionel ordered me to accompany him in his car to Edgbaston, which I agreed to do provided he got me there at a reasonable hour.
But I reckoned without my Lionel. We made lengthy calls at several country houses and did not get to bed until dawn was breaking. When I tried to remonstrate with him he told me not to worry, he would win the toss. Imagine his disgust when Calthorpe called correctly and, of course, batted. We did well to get rid of Warwickshire for 223, and in I went for a much needed rest.
Hardly had I settled to a comfortable snooze than Lionel informed me I was to go in first wicket down. I tried to persuade him to put me in lower. A shout announced that one of our opening pair had been removed. It must have been one of the longest two minutes between the outgoing and incoming batsmen.
I eventually reached the crease to be greeted by Tiger Smith's enquiry: "Did you have a nice nap, sir?" Little did he guess -- I was hardly awake.
Calthorpe swung the ball prodigiously that day. He sent me one that seemed to start from mid-on and was destined to finish at third slip. I made no effort to impede it, but there was a rattle of bails. The extraordinary procession continued and only Philip Mead, six not out, looked as if any of us had ever held a bat before.
Before our second innings started Calthorpe suggested that the amateurs should play golf at Stourbridge on the following afternoon, as the match would be over in the morning. This brought forth an immediate flow of good Anglo-Saxon from Lionel, who without a quiver of an eyelid announced that Hampshire would be batting until lunch time on the third day. Naturally this was greeted with howls of derision, and there were some substantial bets at long odds against us even drawing, let alone winning, in which I was a party.
Well, as the record shows, Hampshire made 521, chiefly thanks to a magnificent knock by George Brown who, despite six wickets falling for 186, attacked the bowling from the moment he went in and made 172. He received valuable support from Walter Livsey, the number ten, who had the enormous satisfaction of playing a great part in this miraculous recovery and at the same time hitting his first hundred in county cricket.
Once again our two incomparable bowlers, Kennedy and Newman, carried us to victory by 155 runs. Kennedy took five for 53 and Newman four for 47.
At the end of the match Lionel gave a passable imitation of a Highland fling under the shower baths, and both teams retired to the Queen's hotel as his guests. What a cricket match! It bore out his whole approach to the game which made it such fun.
If only present-day county players would realise that it matters enormously who is going to win; it does not matter a hoot in hell who has won.