HAMPSHIRE Cricket is mourning the loss of Leo Harrison, who kept wicket for the 1961 County Championship-winning side and was one of only two surviving pre-war English first-class cricketers.

Harrison was 94 when he passed away this morning at home in Mudeford, where he was born on June 5, 1922 when the village was still part of Hampshire.

He made his debut, aged 17, on his ‘home’ ground of Bournemouth in August 1939. His passing leaves John Manners, a 102 year-old former naval officer and another former Hampshire player, as the only remaining pre-war English cricketer.

While Manners was restricted to seven appearances, Harrison went on to play for Hampshire until 1966, before becomign the Second Eleven coach.

Despite being limited to two appearances until he was nearly 24, Harrison played another 394 matches for Hampshire, scoring a total of 8,854 runs at 17.49, including a highest score of 153 against Notts at Dean Park (one of his six first-class centuries) in the days of uncovered wickets. He also claimed 567 catches and 99 stumpings.

His passing leaves Jimmy Gray, Mike Barnard, Malcolm Heath, Alan Wassell, Bryan Timms and Denis Baldry as the survivors of the 1961 team.

Writing on his excellent blog, Hampshire archivist Dave Allen writes: “Harrison joined the Hampshire staff in 1938, principally as a promising batsman.

“Just before the war the Essex cricketer and journalist Charles Bray had written in the Daily Herald that Leo was so promising as a batsman that he might be the new Bradman.

“During the war, Leo joined the RAF. In 1946, the new Hampshire captain Desmond Eagar inherited an ageing group of players and he set about creating a new Hampshire side, not least from promising local cricketers.

“Leo was one of those. When he returned he had to come to terms with failing eyesight and he would never reach the heights as a batsman.

“It took him some years and a good deal of patience to become a firm choice in the side. However he was an outstanding cover fielder and converted to one of the county’s finest wicketkeepers.”

Harrison was also a good friend of the legendary Hampshire broadcaster John Arlott, who wrote of him: “He is wise in cricket and shrewd about people.

“Honest as the day and a trier to the last gasp himself, he finds it hard to forgive anything which is not straight, or any cricket played with less than full effort. Know Leo Harrison and you must trust him and like him.”