Hampshire County Cricket

Published: 2021
Pages: 116
Author: Saunders, Stephen
Publisher: Moyhill Publishing
Rating: 3 stars

A goodly number of the books we review on CricketWeb stand as monuments to the diligence of their authors’ attempts to throw light on neglected and forgotten aspects of cricket and those who play the game, and Stephen Saunders latest book is certainly one that falls into that category. Saunders is a Hampshire man, and a director of Hampshire Cricket Heritage Ltd and a committee member of The Hambledon Club. Those positions give a clear steer as to exactly what aspect of Hampshire County Cricket his latest book deals with.

The present county club, now based at The Ageas Bowl, was founded in 1863. Its history, and biographical details of all who have appeared for the county have already been well documented. In reality however there were matches aplenty involving sides styled as Hampshire before then, and it is that aspect of the history of the game in the county that Saunders seeks to set out.

It is now generally accepted that the earliest First Class match in Hampshire was played on the famous Broadhalfpenny Down in Hambledon in 1772. Some sources refer to the participants in that match as Hambledon and England rather than Hampshire and England, and part of Saunders’ brief is to look at that distinction. The preliminary chapters also look at the reasons those matches now recognised as First Class are classified in that way, and the grounds upon which the matches were played.

Moving on from there the bulk of the book is devoted to biographical details of the 252 men who played in at least one of these pre 1863 First Class matches. A surprisingly large number played in just one match, although that does not necessarily mean that that was their entire careers. The ‘Lion of Kent’ for example, Alfred Mynn, made a single appearance for Hampshire and thus qualifies for inclusion.

Saunders has managed to locate at least some information about all these individuals even if, as is the case for some, all he has to work on is a surname. A few are famous names, like Thomas Lord, Fuller Pilch, David Harris, ’Silver Billy’ Beldham and Edward ‘Lumpy’ Stevens to give a few examples. Their entries would, naturally, have been rather more straightforward to put together, but for many of the men involved basic information would have been much harder to find, and success in locating it represents an impressive piece of research.

Hampshire County Cricket is not, by virtue of the niche appeal of its subject matter, going to appeal to any casual readers, but for anyone who is interested in the ancient history of the game it is well worth the £13 inclusive of UK postage and packing that the book costs. Copies are available from the author who can be contacted via oastcottage@btinternet.com. For those in the Southern Hemisphere who are interested copies are on their way to Roger Page in Melbourne.

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