Butch White: Explosive Hampshire fast bowler
Thursday, 14 August 2008
Seasoned Hampshire cricket supporters still look upon 1961 as the most wondrous in the club’s history, for it was then that the old county finally won its first County Championship. To all the players associated with that team a golden aura attached thereafter.
Butch White was one of them. In fact, he was one of the key bowlers, taking 117 Championship wickets in his 1010.3 overs of honest, puffing, heaving, explosive fast bowling. His partner with the new ball was the fabled and relatively gentle Derek Shackleton, whose deadly accurate seamers gathered in 153 wickets that summer. With the jovial, unpredictable Colin Ingleby-Mackenzie in charge, Hampshire surged to a famous title. Frustrated Yorkshire beat them in the final match, but by that time the matter had been settled: the southerners had clinched the honours by beating Derbyshire at Bournemouth.
Born in 1935 in Sutton Coldfield, David White (he was universally known as Butch) played club cricket for Aston Unity and for Warwickshire 2nd XI during his National Service in the Army. Offered a chance by Hampshire, he made his first-class début at 21, in 1957, and played his last match for the county 14 years later, having taken 1097 first-class wickets (at 23.36) for them with raw pace off a long, bustling, menacing run-up. Developing his range with movement either way and with new-ball partners including Malcolm Heath, Shackleton and Bob Cottam, he saw to it that no opposition batsmen looked forward over-confidently to Hampshire matches.
There was a worrying period during the jittery witch-hunt against chuckers in the 1960 season when Paul Gibb unaccountably no-balled White three times in the match at Hove for throwing. White, then perhaps the fastest bowler in England, had been in the Test selectors’ thoughts, and this, his first full season, was to be his best ever with 124 wickets at 19.10. But he had to wait another year, when his effectiveness in Hampshire’s summer of triumph earned him selection for the 1961-62 tour of Pakistan and India, led by Ted Dexter.
The first of White’s two Test caps came with the opening encounter in a winter of eight Tests on the subcontinent. At Lahore, in England’s first Test ever in Pakistan, he bowled Hanif Mohammad with his eighth ball and had Imtiaz Ahmed caught by the wicketkeeper John Murray five balls later, finishing with 3 for 65 in the innings; England went on to win. But it was not until 14 weeks later that White earned his second and final cap after England had played a further five Tests in India and another in Pakistan. This time, at Karachi, he bowled Ahmed with his first ball but pulled a muscle in his third over, and that, as it turned out, was to be the end of his Test career. He could reflect with pride upon first place in the overall tour bowling averages, with 32 wickets at just under 20.
White remained a highly regarded cricketer on the county circuit, and although his workload caused him to temper his pace at times he still made headlines. His two hat-tricks both came at Sussex’s expense, the first in 1961 in a tense situation at Portsmouth, when he unleashed a sensational over: he caused Jim Parks to play on with the first delivery, had the night-watchman Ian Thomson caught by wicketkeeper Leo Harrison next ball, secured the hat-trick by sending Don Smith’s off stump reeling, had the new batsman Graham Cooper dropped by Jimmy Gray at slip from the fourth ball of the over, and then caught at gully off the sixth: all this while the Sussex skipper Dexter stood helplessly at the non-striker’s end.
The second hat-trick, which came at Hove the following summer, was symbolic of White’s recurring bad luck. Again he blasted out three quality batsmen – Denis Foreman, Ken Suttle and Jim Parks – but then his groin gave in, preventing him from bowling until later in the match.
It is uncanny that Butch White should die in Sussex, the county he so often tormented with the ball. Having moved to West Sussex to coach at Christ’s Hospital, he later worked as a golf marshal. He suffered a fatal heart attack on Pulborough golf course.
One of his happiest times came with a performance in 1965 of 6 for 10 as Yorkshire buckled for 23 all out on a lively track at Middlesbrough, still that county’s lowest ever total. Hampshire won inside four sessions. White’s best bowling figures came at Portsmouth in 1966, when nine ashen-faced Leicestershire men were dispatched at a personal cost of 44.
As a batsman (a left-hander) White was straight out of the blacksmith mould, once making an undefeated 58 at Portsmouth against Essex, but rarely showing pretensions above the number 11 slot. His most spectacular effort came against Oxford University in 1960 when he blasted 28 runs off an over from Piachaud with four sixes and a four; far more valuable was an unbeaten 33 in 18 minutes in a crisis against Gloucestershire (and the ticking clock) which secured precious points on the way to the 1961 Championship. But the popular Butch well knew his batting limitations.
His benefit in 1969 raised him £4,547, but the strains and stresses on his body were starting to tell. His last season with the county was 1971, and he had one match and some limited-overs cricket for Glamorgan in 1972. Later he played for New Milton in the Hampshire League, and as is so often the case with old fast bowlers, his bulk and his glare and his reputation earned him a lot of wickets.
David William “Butch” White, cricketer: born Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire 14 December 1935; twice married (one son); died 1 August 2008.