June 18, 1958. Colin Ingleby-MacKenzie, the 24-year-old captain of Hampshire, hit the season’s fastest hundred, beating his own record by 37 minutes. And doing so he cleaned up the winnings of a wager he had placed against his own record. Arunabha Sengupta recalls the feat of this dashing, debonair amateur, one of the last of his type.
“Colin was no mug, he was a very astute captain,” recalled former Hampshire fast-medium bowler Malcolm Heath. Of course, he had to be. After all, Hampshire won the county championship under his leadership in 1961. His charisma, flair and panache were no secret. Yet, as Heath disclosed, “But we never really felt he was 100% with us after two o’clock.”
Once the afternoon races kicked off, the flamboyant old Etonian, that inveterate gambler, was too occupied with the news that flitted in from the courses.
Generally, Ingleby-Mackenzie was the last to arrive in the dressing room in the morning. Immediately, he would turn to the racing page of the paper and exclaim, “Now for the serious business of the day.”
When emerging on the field, his pep talk consisted of: “Come on boys, I want you to show them. I want electric fielding, please pay particular attention to anything in the air, and I want lots of buckets, no fuck-its.”
When a cricket-agnostic anchor on Junior Sportsview interviewed, Ingleby-Mackenzie’s answers went on to become a part of cricketing folklore.
“Mr Ingleby-Mackenzie, to what do you attribute Hampshire’s success?”
“Oh, wine, women and song, I should say.”
“But don’t you have certain rules, discipline, helpful hints for the younger viewer?”
“Well, everyone in bed in time for breakfast, I suppose.”
“Yes, thank you. Perhaps we could take a look in the dressing room?”
“Certainly, if you don’t mind me wandering about in the nude.”
It could have been understandable had the interview taken place after the 1961 Championship triumph. That was after four seasons as the full-time captain, with a Championship under his belt, and perhaps he could be forgiven for taking liberties.
But, this interview was conducted in 1958, when Ingleby-Mackenzie was 24 and in his first full season as captain of Hampshire.
Ingleby-Mackenzie, just back from a fascinatingly enjoyable tour of East Africa, warmed up for the 1958 season by having the time of his life in the Guineas meeting at Newmarket. According to his autobiography, “Our first championship match did not start until May 10th and I was therefore able to attend the Guineas meeting with a clear conscience.”
As usual ‘pushed for cash’ and hopeful of making money, the young skipper enjoyed a most successful social week while his finances plunged to a disastrous low at the races. Late night parties, plenty of champagne, and optimistically backed horses who trotted in last was more or less the order of things every day.
Just before the opening match against Yorkshire at Bradford, Ingleby-Mackenzie almost ended up in Bermuda. On his way to the northern county, the skipper had gone to see off Solna Thomson-Jones, the wife of racehorse trainer Harry Thomson-Jones. Solna was leaving for Bermuda on the Mauretania. So engrossed were they in saying farewell, the signal for visitors to leave the ship fell on deaf ears, and Ingleby-Mackenzie became aware of the impending departure of the vessel only when gangplanks were being drawn up. It took quite serious persuasion on his part to coax the crew into letting him off.
The first hundred
The start of the season was poor. Hampshire sat two days in pouring rain while Ingleby-Mackenzie played bridge with three illustrious Yorkshire opponents, Brian Close, Johnny Wardle and Ray Illingworth. After that, when play started on the third day, it was reduced to a race for first innings lead in a scramble for the points. After batting first and leaving Yorkshire 106 to score in 55 minutes, the captain was aghast to find the hosts overhaul the total in just 13.1 overs. Fred Trueman, who had captured four wickets while Hampshire batted, now came in at No 4 to hammer 57 in just 25 minutes. Bill Bowes, reporting the match, walked over and told the young captain that he should not have declared at all.
The following two matches were lost to Nottinghamshire and Lancashire. Hampshire suffered ignominy at Old Trafford by being bowled out for 50 in the second innings.
Yet, the captain did not change his attitude a wee bit. He drove to the team hotels late in the night before the matches, starting late and trying by some miracle to reach there before the establishment stopped serving dinner. He would try to race his motor up the winding A-roads of pre-motorway England. Once on an uphill road he found himself behind a lorry. At the first sight of a petrol station, he rammed down his accelerator, swung round the pump, and emerged in front of the huge vehicle. He was a gambler in more ways than one.
Hampshire managed to win the following match against Worcestershire at Portsmouth, scoring the required 127 in 68 minutes. At last they had a point on the table. And then they went down to Southampton to host Kent.
It was the annual Whitsun match, and the Kent was ahead early on. Colin Cowdrey did not declare at the end of the first day, as was customary in three-day matches. They laboured to 279 for 8 before asking Hampshire to bat. On a rain affected wicket, off spinner Colin Page was almost unplayable as the hosts were bowled out for 131. They had just managed to avoid follow-on, and Ingleby-Mackenzie had scored a duck.
Kent batted again, and this time Cowdrey declared with four and a half hours remaining in the game, the target 304 runs. The wicket, however, had got better.
As Roy Marshall and David Blake walked out to start the innings, Ingleby-Mackenzie ran off to the nets to get his eye in. Yes, there was more to his cricket than gambling. When Blake fell to Page at 78, the captain strode in. He had batted at No 6 in the first innings. This time around, he was raring to go at No 3.
There followed a spectacular demonstration of hitting. Marshall, the Barbadian recruit who had played four Tests for West Indies in the early 1950s, remains one of the greatest ever to bat for Hampshire. More than 30,000 runs and 60 centuries for the county. Stands used to fill up in anticipation of his setting about the bowling from the word go.
And today he was joined at the wicket by the left-handed maverick brilliance of Ingleby-Mackenzie. When the latter got going, which unfortunately happened rather less frequently than expected, perfectly good balls could disappear through the covers or over the bowler’s head.
The mayhem lasted 109 minutes, before the captain nicked one from medium pacer Alan Brown into the gloves of Godfrey Evans. By then the duo had added 204, Ingleby-Mackenzie’s share being 107. He had raced to his hundred in 98 minutes. The fastest century of the season.
Marshall got 131 in as many minutes. Hampshire won by five wickets with ten minutes to spare.
There was a £100 prize for the fastest hundred of the season. But, it was just the 27th of May. Three and a half months of cricket remained, and 98 minutes, while quick, was not really unbeatable.
Marshall had won the prize the previous season. And now he advised his captain to cover himself in case his record was eclipsed in the coming months. A bookie offered odds of four to one, and Ingleby-Mackenzie, every instinct of the gambler alert in him, paid £25 against his own hundred ending up as the fastest of the summer.
The second hundred
There followed matches with mixed results. A frustrating draw against Leicestershire, a big defeat against Middlesex, followed by big wins in the return match against Leicestershire and against Somerset at Yeovil.
After an early end to the Yeovil game, Ingleby-Mackenzie dashed out and drove at breakneck speed to Ascot with Leo Harrison, stopping only at Reading to buy some carnations to create the right atmosphere. They had a fabulous lunch, a great afternoon’s racing, and it was followed by a cocktail party and then dinner at Compleat Angler. By the time Harrison and Ingleby-Mackenzie got back in Southampton it was seven in the morning. They went to bed in the same clothes, carnation and all.
The entire period till the next match was spent in much the same vein. When Somerset and Hampshire met at Bournemouth, Ingleby-Mackenzie was feeling the strain. As he walked out to toss with the Somerset skipper Maurice Tremlett, he confided that it was most important that Hampshire won the flip of the coin. Ingleby-Mackenzie wanted his team to bat. He did not believe he could field all day.
Tremlett called wrongly, and the Hampshire skipper, greatly relieved, fell into a deep and relaxed sleep in the dressing room. He had slotted himself at No 6 and asked his team to wake him only when he was the next man in.
The formula worked perfectly. Marshall and Jim Gray put on 114 for the first wicket, Henry Horton got a hundred and it was 255 for 4 when Ingleby-Mackenzie was stirred awake and asked to bat.
Revived by the long and dreamless sojourn, the captain emerged to bat like a dream. He admits in his memoirs that he was no Wally Hammond, but goes on to point out that the great Gloucestershire and England batsman also used to sleep before his innings. Well, so did Napoleon before his battles.
This day Ingleby-Mackenzie lashed out at everything and kept connecting. Ken Biddulph, Brian Langford and the two Aussies, Colin McCool and Bill Alley … it was quite a formidable Somerset attack. But whatever they bowled disappeared as Ingleby-Mackenzie blazed away. The swing of the bat was nonchalance itself, and the outfield an open canvas for streaks of red.
So brilliantly was he timing the strokes that he altered the timing of declaration. It was Ingleby-Mackenzie’s normal tactic to leave half an hour for the opposition to bat on the first day. But on this particular afternoon, he was hitting the ball too well. He went on and on and remained 113 not out at close of play, the total reading 427 for 5. His hundred had been amassed in just an hour and one minute. He had broken his own record, and set one that would stand through the season.
Ingleby-Mackenzie thus collected the £100 prize as well as his winnings for the £25 that he had put down as insurance. A dream come true for a habitual gambler.
He did not score another century that season.
Rain ensured that in spite of following on Somerset escaped with two wickets still standing when time ran out. But Hampshire enjoyed a fantastic summer, winning 12, losing just 3 and amassing 186 points in the Championship.
Surrey won the competition for the seventh consecutive time, and with Alec Bedser, Peter Loader, Jim Laker and Tony Lock bowling for them few could stand in the way. But Hampshire finished second, in spite of the rather lax dressing room rules and confused priorities of the captain.
As for Ingleby-Mackenzie … the stories are endless.
At Bristol, just before the game with Gloucestershire, Horton looked over his newspaper and remarked “I see Leicester had a good day yesterday.” The skipper replied, “Yes, it is not often he has a 25 to 1 winner.” Of course, he had referred to Carboustie, Lester Piggot’s winner at Ascot the previous afternoon. Following this, Derek Shackleton captured 9 for 59 in the Gloucestershire first innings of 201, so the cricket went on as usual.
At Neath, Hampshire bowled Glamorgan out for 72, and Ingleby-Mackenzie declared at the score of 120 for 6. Shackleton’s 6 for 20 routed the opponents for 46 in the second innings and almost immediately the heavens opened up, the field flooded in a matter of minutes. “Gamble pays off,” said the papers. For Ingleby-Mackenzie this was perhaps the most calculated and logical declaration. To him, gambling was an entirely different ball-game.
By then the newspapers had named him Merry Mac, and there were whispers that he would make the Australian tour as reserve wicket-keeper. Especially since he was asked to keep wickets in the Gentlemen-Players match at Lord’s.
The Australian tour did not come off, but he did keep wickets with Prince Phillip at the crease when he played for Lord Porchester’s XI against a team captained by the Duke of Edinburgh to aid the National Playing Fields Association.
When the collection for Shackleton’s benefit match turned out to be disappointing, the skipper tried to rally around. “Never mind, I have a good thing at Leicester this afternoon and you can put the lot on.” Shackleton, ever pragmatic, refused. However, Time and Again, the horse Ingleby-Mackenzie had backed, won at odds of 100 to 8.
During the second match against Kent, the final moments were so exciting that the skipper had to keep his nerves calm with copious amounts of brandy and ginger. As he reflected, “It was this Dutch courage which led to the success of the now famous ‘wine, women and song’ television interview which I gather was projected as far afield as South Africa.”
Whatever be the priorities, strategy or secret of courage; before coming across Derbyshire on a treacherous wicket, Hampshire did look like pipping Surrey for the Championships. Les Jackson and Harold Rhodes ruined their chances. However, even as his side was being skittled for 23, Ingleby-Mackenzie was observing, “I fancy Golden Future for the five o’clock at Beverley.”
In the next game at Clacton against Essex, the skipper scored a vital 48 in a thrilling 3-wicket win. But, he was more delighted to land a winning treble, thanks to the information given by trainer Peter Hastings-Bass.
The messages from the race course were run by the twelfth man, Mervyn Burden, who sprinted into the field at the end of an over bearing the glorious news. Unfortunately, journalist Charles Benson heard of the tidings, and passed it to a colleague in Daily Express. The promptly produced headline the following day read ‘Colin’s Hat-Trick.’ It led to a roasting from one of the county’s vice-chairmen.
During the final Hampshire game in the Championship against Derbyshire at Bouremouth, when his father came down to watch him in action, Ingleby-Mackenzie scored a valiant 55 on a bad wicket against a challenging attack. There was, perhaps, that bit of good boy left in him, eager to please his dad, in spite of the obvious bent for the good life and incorrigible punting.
Hampshire vs Kent
Kent 279 for 8 decl. (Arthur Phebey 97, Robert Wilson 41, John Prodger 46, Colin Cowdrey 52) andn 156 for 5 decl. (Arthur Phebey 65) lost to Hampshire 131 (Roy Marshall 52, Colin Page 7 for 37) and 307 for 5 (Roy Marshall 131, Colin Ingleby-Mackenzie 107) by 5 wickets
Hampshire vs Somerset
Hampshire 427 for 5 decl. (Roy Marshall 75, Jim Gray 61, Henry Horton 112, Colin Ingleby-Mackenzie 113*) drew with Somerset 131 (Mervyn Burden 5 for 25) and 197 for 8 (Colin McCool 87, Maurice Tremlett 53; Mervyn Burden 6 for 84)