Tuesday, August 3, 2010

When Irish eyes are smiling

Eoin Morgan’s maiden Test century was one of the highlights of England’s first Test victory over Pakistan at Trent Bridge. His innings of 130 helped lift England from 118-4 to a total of 354 and an eventual 354-run triumph.

Morgan first made his name for Ireland and reached a career best of 390 points in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for ODI batsmen in April 2009, shortly before switching allegiances to England. Since then, he has gone from strength to strength, peaking at number 13 in June this year and making his Test debut against Bangladesh at Lord’s the same month. However, Morgan is not the first Irish-born cricketer to play Test cricket. In fact he is the tenth. So – who are the others, and how did they perform in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings?

The first Irish-born cricketer played in the very first Test Match of all – at Melbourne in March 1877. Tom Horan was bon in Midleton, near Cork and emigrated to Australia with his parents as a small child. His highest Test score of 124 came in his third Test – the 1882 New Year’s Test in Melbourne and his highest rating was 319 points achieved in his penultimate Test in 1885. Bowling-wise, he managed to reach 375 points the same year, the highest by any Irish-born player. He then turned his hand to journalism, contributing a weekly column to the ‘Australasian” under the pseudonym ‘Felix’.

Close behind Horan was Thomas Kelly who debuted for Australia in the second Test in 1877 scoring 19 and 35 (of which 32 came in boundaries). His career extended to just two Test Matches but he was widely acknowledged as being one of the finest point fielders of his generation.

1879 saw the sole Test appearance of Leland Hone who represented England despite having been born in Dublin and having no first-class experience. Educated at Rugby School, he was drafted into the side captained by Lord Harris as wicket-keeper but only managed scores of 7 and 6 to reach the not-so-giddy heights of 45 Rating points.

Sir Tim O’Brien was a colourful character who was an Irish Baronet, born in Dublin and fathering ten children. He won a Blue at Oxford University, despite making a ‘pair’ in the University match and played regularly for Middlesex throughout the 1880s and 1890s. His Test career spanned twelve years although he failed to pass 20 in any of his eight innings at the top level, and therefore never achieved more than his 139 points or 24th position early in his career.

Joe McMaster was unique among these Irishmen as he played a solitary Test but failed to record either a batting or bowling point as he was dismissed for a duck to the only delivery he faced. He was not called upon to bowl and that was the extent of his first-class career. As the match was only designated a Test some time later, for the two days he participated, he was unaware he had become an international cricketer.

Robert Poore was an army man who was stationed in South Africa in 1896 when he was called up to play three Tests for the home side against the England tourists. Like O’Brien, he too failed to pass 20 in his six innings in the series as George Lohmann routed them to the tune of 35 wickets at the miniscule average of 5.80. The highlight of his career came for Hampshire in 1899 when he scored 304 against Somerset at Taunton, adding 411 for the sixth wicket with fellow Army man Teddy Wynyard. He peaked at 197 points after the third of his Tests.

For the second of those ill-fated Tests in early 1896, Poore was joined in the South African team by Clement Johnson, who only managed to score 3 and 7; dismissed by Lohmann in his first innings and run out second time around. He was born in County Kildare but left Ireland for South Africa in 1893 due to ill health. He toured England as part of the first South African team the following year with some success, but that Johannesburg match was his only taste of the big time.

The owner of the highest Test score by an Irish-born player, Frederick Fane played 14 Tests for England between 1906 and 1910, captaining them in five of those. His innings of 143 at Johannesburg in March 1906 was in just his third Test, but was unable to prevent England falling to a heavy defeat. His other claim to fame is that he was Jack Hobbs’s first opening partner for England – against the Aussies at Melbourne in January 1908 – outscoring the ‘Master’ in the second innings. His peak of 457 points was good enough for 11th place and it that points tally remained an Irish-born record until Eoin Morgan sneaked past it after his recent century.

After more than eighty years, another Irish-born player took the field. Martin McCague was born in Larne and grew up in Australia but represented England in three Tests in the mid 1990s, taking 4-121 on his debut against Australia in 1993 at Trent Bridge. However, his undoubted pace couldn’t be backed up by consistent control and so he only managed to reach 86 bowling points, despite performing admirably for Kent for the best part of a decade.