Dave Allen: Keith Barker For Hampshire

Following Keith Barker's contract extension, Hampshire Cricket historian Dave Allen has taken a look at the all-rounder's time at The Ageas Bowl so far

Since the formation of Hampshire County Cricket Club in 1863, the majority of their matches have been played along the county’s southern coastal region and in particular in or close to its two largest cities, Southampton and Portsmouth. These cities, two of the country’s key ports, are used to welcoming travellers from all over the world, some visiting, others here to stay and perhaps that is one reason why from its earliest days, the cricket club has been a home for cricketers from elsewhere. For example, the side for the Club’s first match against Sussex in 1864 included the opening batter JC Lord from Tasmania, in the early years of the twentieth century South African all-rounder CB Llewellyn was a key member of the side and in the early 1950s Roy Marshall arrived from Barbados to strengthen the batting and take them towards the 1961 title. That link with Barbados would prove very fruitful over the years bringing Malcolm Marshall, Fidel Edwards and others to Hampshire, members of an almost unbroken succession of Black Caribbean cricketers at Hampshire going back to Antiguan Danny Livingstone more than 60 years ago.

Other valuable Hampshire cricketers have come to the county after significant service elsewhere, dating back at least to the great CB Fry more than a century ago and within more recent memory such men as John Crawley, Alan Mullally, David Gower, Bob Herman, Gareth Berg and bowling all-rounder MNS (Mike) Taylor who, discarded by Notts in 1972, came to Hampshire, and enjoyed a marvellous first year, capped with the Championship trophy.

Keith Barker came from Warwickshire in similar circumstances in 2019 and in four superb seasons has done as much as anyone to take Hampshire close once again to that elusive prize. He too, is one of that succession of Hampshire’s Black cricketers with Caribbean links, since his parents came from Barbados and settled in Lancashire, where he was born 36 years ago. Many people know that he showed promise as a footballer and played a few league matches for Rochdale but cricket has been his game. He played in 240 matches in all three formats for Warwickshire from 2009-2018, taking 359 first-class wickets and overall scored six centuries for them with a batting average of 28.43. Almost all his ‘White Ball’ cricket was for Warwickshire, although last year he appeared in three 50-over games in Hampshire’s successful season and also helped to coach the young pace bowlers; the impressive form of Campbell, Currie and Turner is testament to his influence.

He signed for Hampshire from the start of the 2019 season and in that first year, scored 401 runs at 26.73 with a best of 64 v Yorkshire at the The Ageas Bowl, adding 38 wickets at 26.34 with a best of 5-48 v Kent at Canterbury. In 2020 he played in the first two Bob Willis Trophy matches with a top score of 28* and seven wickets, before sustaining an injury, then in 2021 he won Hampshire’s Player of the Year award after taking 41 first-class wickets at 18.41, including a career best of 7-46 against Nottinghamshire at the The Ageas Bowl. He also scored 379 runs at 27.07 including a Hampshire best of 84 against Middlesex. At the end of the 2021 season he was one of seven players awarded his county cap and he enjoyed another very successful Championship season in 2022 as Hampshire challenged for the title. He finished with 595 runs at 29.75 and 52 wickets at 22.38 and was one of three Hampshire players in the PCA’s team of the season.

If one measure of a true all-rounder is a batting average higher than the bowling one, Keith’s overall record for Hampshire of 1,438 runs at 28.19 and 138 wickets at 22.61 confirms his value to the side. In the best of Hampshire traditions he is a welcome recruit to the county and his new contract is a cause for celebration.

First-Class Record: 40 matches; 1438 runs at 28.19, HS 84 v Middlesex at Lord’s (2021); 138 wickets at 22.61, BB 7-46 v Nottinghamshire at The Ageas Bowl (2021)

List A Record: 3 matches; 57 runs at 19.00; four wickets at 28.50

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