|Born||18 October 1889 Westminster, London|
|Died||2 July 1984 Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin|
|Educated||Wellington College, Berkshire; Cambridge University|
|Debut||4 August 1921 v Scotland at Rathmines|
|Style||Right-hand bat, right arm leg break and googly.|
|Teams||Cambridge University, Middlesex, MCC, Gentlemen, Phoenix|
|History||Leslie Kidd was a top class all round cricketer. English born and educated, he was, without question, one of the finest players to appear for Ireland in the inter war - or, arguably, any other - era. RL Arrowsmith, for more than a decade Wisden's obituarist, who played with both Lord Harris ( England captain 1878 - 1884) and Peter May ( 1955 - 1961), and whose knowledge and judgement of cricketers he had seen or played with - both in Kidd's case - was second to none, described him thus in the 1985 edition of the Almanack: |
"As a batsman he had a strong defence and bowlers saw little of his stumps...he could hit powerfully and was far from being a slow scorer. He bowled slow leg breaks with a high action, at his best with great accuracy, and was a superb field, especially in the gully."
He came, from an Anglo-Irish background and a family distinguished by longevity. His grandfather, Joseph Kidd (1824 - 1918) was a Limerick born doctor who spent most of his working life in London, though did return to Ireland during the Famine, attempting to alleviate suffering with homeopathic remedies. He, one of at least fifteen brothers and sisters, had eight children himself, the eldest of whom, Percy Marmaduke Kidd (1851 - 1942) was Leslie's father. Percy was also a good club cricketer, but his one first class match, for Kent in 1874, ended in failure. One of his nephews, and thus Leslie's cousin, was Ronald Kidd, co - founder of the National Council for Civil Liberties (Liberty as it is called today).
Always playing in spectacles throughout his career, Leslie developed his skills for the game at Wellington College, thus being part of the link between the elite public school and Irish cricket. He was preceded into the Irish side by George Berkeley, who won caps v I Zingari in 1890 and 1891, having been a prominent Wellington cricketer before winning his Blue at Oxford. A near contemporary of Leslie's at Wellington was Irish cricket historian Pat Hone. All three played cricket at school under the guidance of HW Brougham, wicket keeper on Ireland's 1879 American tour. After their time, in the 1950s, Wellington and Cambridge batsman Robin O'Brien, whose father had learned the game at Dublin's Masonic School, was a welcome addition to the Irish team until his tragically early death. Leslie was one of the few really outstanding cricketers produced by the College before 1914, one of the reasons being that many boys left school early to go to Sandhurst or Woolwich, as the College had a strong tradition of preparing its students for military careers. Leslie was four years in the XI, captain in his last two, before entering Cambridge, where he won his Blue each year from 1910 to 1913, being captain 1912. For Cambridge he scored 1863 runs at 36.42 with two hundreds. His highest score was 167 made against Sussex at Fenner's in 1912. They had also been on the receiving end of his best bowling figures the previous season. This was a remarkable spell in a match in which the Light Blues had followed on 158 runs behind. Thanks to good batting by Harry Mulholland, later Stormont Speaker, who had scored a century for Ireland v Scotland the previous summer in what was to be his only match for Ireland,and future Norfolk captain Michael Falcon, they made 437 in the second innings setting the county 280 to win. An opening partnership of 127 seemed to have made this a formality, but, as Wisden recorded, "Kidd, however, bowled with much skill and received excellent support in the field." He finished with figures of 16.4 - 2 - 49 - 8 to give his team a 42 run victory. His best performance in the University Match was in 1912. In a closely fought contest he made 46 and 45, besides taking 5-75 and 3-68. He led his side to a 3 wicket victory, though Oxford were handicapped by GEV Crutchley developing measles while batting and having to retire ill on 99* in the first innings.
Leslie had been making holiday appearances for Middlesex since 1910. His highest score for them came at Lord's in 1911. Middlesex won by an innings, totalling 554/9 declared. Leslie came in at 8, and, "accomplishing by far his finest performance in important cricket, hit so brilliantly that he 150 not out in two and a half hours without a chance." (Wisden). In 1912 he led the county in several matches as PF Warner was recovering from a serious ulcer related illness suffered on the 1911/12 Ashes winning tour of Australia. Leslie's leadership was highly praised. As he had also made two Gentlemen v Players appearances achieving some success in 1912, when his four wickets included those of Jack Hobbs and the prolific left hander Philip Mead, he was seen by many as a potential Test cricketer and possible captain. His development, like those of many others, was halted by the War. He did manage some Middlesex matches in 1919, the year of the two day county championship and scored 102 v Surrey at The Oval, but, the need to earn his living being paramount he had accepted an appointment with Guinness and moved to Dublin. Had he not done so, he would almost certainly have played Test cricket in 1921. England were humiliated by Warwick Armstrong's Australians that year. They had lost the Ashes 5 - 0 in Australia the previous winter and now went down 3 - 0, with rain intervening in the final two Tests. In the fifth, the Australian captain picked up a newspaper which blew across the field and started read it. "I wanted to see who we were playing, " he later explained.
England used 30 players in the series, Leslie would surely have been picked had he been available. In Dublin he joined Phoenix, for whom he was very successful. In fact he was not always available either for his club or for Ireland. This was partly because of work and partly because, he still returned, in his holiday time, to play in England. He appeared, albeit spasmodically, in first class cricket until 1930 and was also to be seen in some more social cricket. Thus in 1923 he played for I Zingari and Free Foresters v West Kent CC in the latter's cricket week at Chislehurst. For IZ he made 85 and then took the only three wickets to fall as West Kent cruised to a 7 wicket victory. For FF in a two day game, he had 10 wickets in the match. For Phoenix in the Leinster Senior League, then often played as two day matches, he made 74 appearances scoring 3155 runs at 40.97 and took 256 wickets at 13.59. In his first season, 1919, he took 52 wickets at 12.17. During his time with the club, they won the League four times. One match, in 1926, shows his value. Against Dublin University in College Park, Phoenix, having won the toss, batted first in a match and quickly lost their openers, but Leslie then made 50 at No 3, adding over 100 for the third wicket with Cyril Buttenshaw (78). Phoenix totalled 224, whereupon, Leslie took 6-38, his wickets including a future bishop and future Nobel Prize winner, to give his team a big lead. Phoenix lost three quick wickets on the second morning, but Leslie was undefeated on 15 and in control when the rain came. Phoenix did not appoint a regular captain until 1932, the skipper being chosen a match basis. It was usually Leslie if he was playing. On one occasion v Leinster at The Park, he tossed for choice of innings with RH Lambert "Harp," called Bob. The coin fell harp upwards. "We'll bat," said Leslie. "But I called harp," responded Lambert. "Never heard of it," said Leslie. "It's heads or tails. We'll bat."
Leslie played six times for Ireland between 1921 and 1930, being unavailable on several occasions. He scored 376 runs at 34.18 and took 23 wickets at 20.00. He only played against Scotland and MCC and, apart from his Rathmines debut v Scotland, all his matches were at College Park. A further curiosity is that while he passed 50 in all but one of his first five innings, making 20 on that occasion, his last six brought him only one half century, 68 in his final match, while he made only one other double figure score.
His debut match was rain ruined, unusual in the long hot summer of 1921. Almost half the playing time was lost but Leslie batting at 3, had the time to score, "a chanceless 66 in 85 minutes of beautiful confident strokes." (Derek Scott). He added 81 for the 4th wicket with RW Power (30).
He was not available again until the MCC match in College Park in 1924. Played before large crowds, this was a magnificent match, Ireland, set 238 to win, finishing on 213-8. Leslie had his best bowling figures for Ireland in MCC's first innings of 274: 21.3 - 3 - 63 - 5 He then took a further 3 in the second innings. His first innings figures were particularly noteworthy as he operated mostly with a wet ball, never easy for a leg spinner Batting second wicket down in the Irish first innings he made 57, hitting future spymaster JC Masterman for two huge sixes, before he was run out due to a mix up with Bob Lambert. He also had a good all round match v Scotland the following year in a match which Ireland won by 179 runs. This game is most remembered for a brilliant debut hundred by the former Warwickshire batsman MC Parry of Cork County. However in their 4th wicket stand of 144, Leslie, hitting a chanceless 73 in 130 minutes, lost little by way of comparison. He also made 68 in the second innings, besides having 6-115 in the match.
The MCC match of 1926 saw him fail with the bat but contribute to a 183 run victory with match figures of 8-157. His finale in 1930 which also marked the farewell appearances of AP Kelly and Bob Lambert, the latter 37 years after his debut, was also notable. In the second innings he hit a brilliant 68 which was, according to Derek Scott's match report, "full of courageous strokes." He batted 115 minutes and, better supported would have saved the match. As it was the visitors departed victorious by 10 wickets. Lambert, incidentally, finished his career with a pair.
Leslie played his last match for Middlesex in 1928 and his last first class match for Free Foresters v Cambridge two years later. Unfortunately, there was no grand finale at Fenner's. He made 0 in his only innings but, having not bowled regularly for some time, had match figures of 5-110.
In all first class cricket he scored 5113 runs at 24.94 and took 186 wickets at 24.62. He would certainly be under consideration for a place in any fantasy All Time Ireland XI, though he probably did not play enough to earn selection. Likewise any "Best Cricketers Never to play for England XI", particularly one based on pre World War Two players, would have to consider him for inclusion. Eric Leslie Kidd retired to London in 1937, but returned to Ireland to live in Dun Laoghaire thirty years later. He maintained his interest in and knowledge of cricket to the end of his long life, giving interviews to both "Irish Cricket Union Yearbook" and "Irish Cricket Magazine" in his last years. His obituary is in Wisden 1985 and he is, of course, profiled in Siggins and Fitzgerald "Ireland's 100 Cricket Greats."
Edward Liddle, April 2009
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