Ton-up for Hampshire legend McCorkell

Neil McCorkell behind the stumps
Neil McCorkell behind the stumps
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Hampshire hero Neil McCorkell is celebrating the finest century of his illustrious career after reaching three figures.

The county’s Portsmouth-born former wicketkeeper, who spent 14 seasons behind the stumps – spanning the Second World War – from 1932-1951, turns 100 years old today.

Born in White Hart Lane in Old Portsmouth, McCorkell learned his cricket in church teams in the city and is the last state-educated Portsmouth boy to earn a Hampshire county cap and enjoy a full career with the club.

As well as keeping wicket, McCorkell was an opening batsman and played 383 first-class matches for the county, scoring almost 16,000 runs – more than any other Hampshire keeper.

His 688 dismissals places him just 12 behind Bobby Parks, who heads Hampshire’s records, while his 176 stumpings are more than any of the county’s keepers of the past 80 years.

McCorkell, who made his career best 203 against Gloucestershire at Gloucester in his final season with the club – also registered 17 centuries, which is only equalled by Nic Pothas among the county’s illustrious list of glovesmen.

After making his debut at Taunton in May 1932 in a side captained by Lord Tennyson, he played his final game in September 1951 alongside four future county champions Jimmy Gray, Colin Ingleby-Mackenzie, Derek Shackleton and Leo Harrison.

That was before he retired to South Africa with his son Dennis, who was also briefly with Hampshire.

While he never played for England, he represented the Players against the Gentlemen at Lord’s in 1936.

And in the winter of 1937-38 he toured India with Lord Tennyson’s team and was a member of the fire brigade in Newbury’s Vickers Factory during the War.

McCorkell was also the only Hampshire player featured on a series of John Player cigarette cards, below, depicting nearly 60 English and Australian greats, including Don Bradman, Denis Compton, Len Hutton and Wally Hammond.

Hampshire historian Dave Allen said: ‘About 10 years ago, I wrote to Neil. He replied in a hand-written letter recalling many things about his days with Hampshire.

‘He went to Portsmouth Town School and explained how he had started playing in a team with fellow pupils before playing for Portsmouth Brotherhood Cricket Team, progressed to play for Portsmouth District against Hampshire Club & Ground and was then invited to join the staff as a junior professional at the age of 19 on April 1, 1931.’

While McCorkell saw his career interrupted by the outbreak of war, he returned to the Hampshire ranks in 1946 and was one of five players to be granted a joint benefit over three years, which yielded a then club record of £1,470 each.

When he retired, the Hampshire Handbook (1952) paid tribute to his ‘efficiency, his modesty (and) his lack of fuss’.