Augustine Patrick Kelly

Born1 January 1894, Dublin
Died12 May 1960, Hackney London
EducatedAmpleforth College, Dublin University
Debut22 July 1920 v Scotland at Raeburn Place, Edinburgh
Cap Number298
StyleRight-hand bat, wicket keeper
TeamsDublin University, Phoenix
HistoryAugustine Kelly was a commanding cricketer. As a batsman, he had no fear of the fastest bowlers. When the West Indian paceman, George Francis struck him in the face, then had him leg before for 4, as the Windies played the University at College Park in 1923, Kelly was ready for him in the second innings. "I'll teach the ------- to hit me," he said, and, striding out to bat, made a quick fire 36, driving Francis out of the attack. He was also an autocratic, but skilful captain, and a good wicket keeper, who went virtually unchallenged in the Irish side throughout the 1920s.

At Dublin University the last two years before the War, he was in the XI in both seasons, becoming wicket keeper in 1914, when he averaged 27 with the bat. A man of his temperament needed little encouragement to join up once hostilities commenced. He was a Lieutenant before the year was out, and was soon commanding a machine gun battery. He won the Military Cross, then in 1919 returned to University to complete his degree. Perhaps missing his command, he insisted, because he was, of course, captain in 1919, on kit inspections before play started, and "brooked no argument in the field. "However, though his team was a mixture of school leavers and former soldiers, his leadership ensured that only 3 matches were lost in a programme of 32. In the first ever Leinster League season, he contributed 628 runs at 24.10. The following season, he scored 897 runs at 38.88, 405 being in the League with three 50s, but including a majestic 130* against the Dover Garrison, on tour, on a crumbling wicket against genuine pace. He also made 65, first in last out, against Cambridge on a College Park turner, when his colleagues could not fathom future Test "leggie" CS Marriott.

On leaving the University he played for Phoenix for whom he scored 3048 runs at 29.88. For three years from 1919 he was the leading wicket keeper in Leinster, with appearances for both his clubs in the first two years. He still turned out to help his alma mater on occasions: his 36 against the 1923 West Indies side has been mentioned, but there was also a magnificent 98 at Brentwood, against Essex, on a turning wicket, that almost rescued an impossible situation. He played 25 times for Ireland, scoring 810 runs at 20.76, with four fifties, the highest of which was 82 against Wales at Cardiff in 1923.

His figures were probably not a true reflection of his ability: as with the University matches he tended to reserve his best for the big occasion. Thus he made 68* at Lord's in 1927, sharing a stand of 115 for the 6th wicket with James MacDonald. In 1929, Lord's was also the scene of one of his autocratic displays as captain. He clashed with brilliant all round sportsman George McVeagh, allegedly sending him off the field for turning up late in borrowed flannels. When George was allowed back, he was banished to long leg at both ends and the team were forbidden to speak for him. McVeagh was demoted to 8 in the batting order, but he and his captain added 44, when Ireland needed the runs. It must have been an interesting partnership. Kelly was not graced by a Wisden obituary, but is profiled in Siggins and Fitzgerald's Ireland's 100 Cricket Greats. He is not out of place in such company.

Edward Liddle, April 2007

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