A model of consistency, accuracy and endurance, Derek Shackleton plied his trade for Hampshire for 21 seasons - perhaps only Wilfred Rhodes and Fred Titmus bowled more ball in first-class cricket, and they were spinners. John Arlott described his bowling as "shrewdly varied, and utterly accurate … beating down as unremittingly as February rain". He took more than 100 wickets in 20 consecutive seasons, and his career average dropped season by season. One of the most respected bowlers of his generation, his domestic record was superb, 2,857 wickets at an average of 18.65, conceding just over 2 runs per over. He was unfortunate to play but seven Tests in two series separated by more than a decade - perhaps the selectors were impressed by the spectacular bowling of those with more pace. It is fair to say, however, that he appeared less effective in his Test appearances - his 18 wickets were uncharacteristically expensive. He toured India in 1951/52, and despite being the top-wicket taker on tour, was not selected for the Tests. His best performance in Tests was in the 1963 Lord's Test where we took 7 wickets - but his role in that thrilling match will be best remembered for his last-over run out that brought the injured Cowdrey in to see out the draw.
He bowled more balls and took more wickets for Hampshire than anyone else before or since. His best bowling of 9/30 was achieved against Warwickshire in 1960, and he took 9 wickets in an innings three more times. In 1955 he took 8 Somerset wickets for just 4 runs, his full figures being 11.1-7-4-8 (he took 6/25 in the second innings for his best match figures of 14/29. Against Leicestershire in 1950 he produced the astonishing sequence w.w.ww..w - five wickets in 9 balls (not including a hat-trick, one of the few bowling feats to elude him in his career).
Born in Tormoden on the Lancashire/Yorkshire border, he came to the notice of Hampshire when playing Services cricket after the war. Recruited as a batsman who bowled occasional leg-spin, he was asked to try his hand at pace bowling as Hampshire desperately sought opening bowlers. He took 21 wickets in his first season, nearly did the double in his second (taking 100 wickets), and thereafter his bowling went from strength to strength as his batting declined. His method was text-book - a 12 step run led to a side-one effortless delivery with the arm high. He rarely strove for pace - although he was faster than he looked - and bowled straight, and to a good length. Scoring runs against him involved risk, as if the ball was missed, it was more than likely to hit the stumps. He originally bowled mostly in-swing, but soon developed an out-swinger; both deliveries swung late, and moved just enough to catch the edge. Added to movement in the air was the ability to make the ball deviate off the seam, a leg cutter, a clever yorker, and a slower ball that was spun like an off-break. A tireless worker, he was devastating in conditions that suited him, but would bowl all day without giving away a thing on batsmen's wickets.
A quiet man, much liked by his team-mates and opponents, he was a cricketer's cricketer, who commanded the utmost respect from those who played against him. After retirement from active cricket he went first to Canford School in Dorset as coach and groundsman, where he retired in 1990. He had a brief spell as a first-class umpire in 1979.
(Article: Copyright © 2003 Dave Liverman)
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