Wisden Cricketer / Features

December 2005

Hampshire cult heroes

Pat Symes on the cult heroes produced by Hampshire

Pat Symes

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George Brown (Hampshire career 1908-33)
George Brown's Hampshire was light years away from the international glamour brought by Shane Warne and Kevin Pietersen and he would not have seen the funny side if someone suggested dyeing his centre-parting yellow. But George was different even by the standards of 1906, the year he walked 60 miles from his Oxfordshire home to Southampton for a trial, hauling a tin trunk containing all his worldly belongings. The 18-year-old had every incentive to succeed. If not he would be walking back. Tall with powerful shoulders and a profile that could have been hewn from a rock face, this genuine allrounder played seven Tests as a wicketkeeper, often in motorcycling gloves (by then he no longer needed to walk). Brown enjoyed mocking opponents like Kent's Arthur Fielder, reckoned to be about the fastest bowler around. When the pair met in 1913, Fielder sent down a menacing bouncer. Brown, anticipating it, dropped his bat, squared up and took the impact on his chest. As Fielder stared in disbelief, Brown said with a calm dignity "He's not fast." He went on to make 71.

Mervyn Burden (1953-63)
Mervyn was a nervous, affable member of Hampshire's first Championship-winning side in 1961 and as a Southampton lad was much loved by supporters. Reporting to the County Ground for trials in 1947, Burden did not have his own pads or bat and his flannels were held up by a plastic belt. Shaking with stage fright and bowling medium-pace, he let go of his first delivery and watched in horror as it flew over the nets without bouncing and shattered a dining-room window. On his second day Burden was asked to assist groundsman Ernie Knights, only to kick a bucket of whiting all over the square. He later turned to offspin and took 481 wickets in 11 years. A genuine No. 11, his one moment of batting glory came with a half-century as a nightwatchman against Warwickshire in 1960. Distracted, he was leg-before to Ray Hitchcock next ball.

Cardigan Connor (1984-98)
Connor took more than 1,000 wickets in all competitions for Hampshire after being unearthed by talent-spotting Charlie Knott playing for Buckinghamshire. Never has a more popular player appeared for the county. It was often said that Connor in the early part of his career tried to compete for pace with his new-ball partner, Malcolm Marshall. It was only after Marshall retired that Connor's true worth became clear and it was no coincidence that his career-best 9 for 38 came at the age of 35. There was talk of a possible limited-overs international career but it never materialised and he had to content himself with two Lord's finals and a benefit of £147,000, money he took back to his native Caribbean island, tiny Anguilla, where he works as a hotel masseur.

Tom Mottram (1971-77)
Tall, ram-rod straight and with a strange walk, Mottram was known as the Pink Panther because of his resemblance to the cartoon character. He burst into Hampshire's life suddenly from an architect's practice in Poole and disappeared just as abruptly a few years later - but not before helping clinch the county's second Championship in 1973. The Liverpool-born Mottram could not bat and was an atrocious fielder but he generated deceptive bounce from his wiry 6ft 4in and in 1973 took 57 wickets at 22. Andy Roberts replaced him the following year and Mottram quietly faded, finishing with 35 first-class matches, 111 victims and a special place in the affections of local fans. His finest moment came in the title decider against Northamptonshire at a packed Northlands Road. The opener Roy Virgin belted a delivery back at him and, after a full-length dive, the beanpole Mottram took a return catch and set Hampshire on course for the title.

Colin Ingleby-Mackenzie (1951-65)
Choosing between captains Ingleby-Mackenzie and his fellow Old Etonian Lionel Tennyson is no easy task but `Ingleby' is remembered especially fondly for bringing success after years of benign failure. Discovered by his predecessor Desmond Eagar as a 15-year-old, he spawned a fund of anecdotes, some of them true. City businessman, avid racegoer and punter, MCC president and reputedly the last man to see Lord Lucan, he is best remembered for telling his 1961 Championship-winners to be in bed by breakfast time. You can just hear Duncan Fletcher saying that. Not many players made their highest score at Cowes, Isle of Wight (132*) but that was where Ingleby got his and it was somehow typical of him. Hampshire's last amateur captain, he once persuaded umpire Harry Baldwin to bring a radio on to the pitch so he could listen to a horse race while he was fielding. But his apparent indifference and easy-going manner belied a determination to succeed, which he did with style and daring.

This article was first published in the December issue of The Wisden Cricketer.
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