|Born||4th quarter 1888 Bramley, West Yorkshire|
|Occupation||Semi professional cricketer in Yorkshire|
|Debut||2 August 1930 v MCC at College Park|
|Style||Right hand bat; right arm medium pace|
|Teams||Yorkshire 2nd XI; Cork County; Leinster|
|History||Joseph Shires was a high quality medium pacer with the ability to move the ball through the air and off the wicket. A Bradford League professional, he made several appearances for Yorkshire Seconds before the First World War, at a time when the County had withdrawn from the Minor Counties Championship but took part in a number of matches against strong opposition within the county, mostly combined sides drawn form local leagues and played over two days.
In 1912 two performances stand out. Against a Heavy Woollen XI (this being in one of the leagues) he had figures of 17 - 1 - 48 - 5 to put Yorkshire into a winning position but rain washed out most of the second day. Though his batting was, later, little valued, he batted in the middle order at this stage. Against Huddersfield, he came in at No 6 and hit 73, easily top score, to set up a commanding total that led to a 10 wicket victory. At No 3 was the 26 year old Percy Holmes, who - after serving a long apprenticeship - formed a famed Yorkshire opening partnership with Herbert Sutcliffe after the War. The presence of Jack Hobbs meant that Percy played only 7 Tests but he scored over 30000 first class runs with a highest score of 315*. In 1932 he and Sutcliffe put on the English - and then world - record 555 for the first wicket v Essex at Leyton. Against Huddersfield twenty years earlier, he was out batted by Joseph.
Joseph made a few appearances for Yorkshire Seconds when they returned to the Minor Counties Championship after the War. In 1922 at Old Trafford, in a match lost by 10 wickets, he opened the attack and removed three of the top five in the order including the captain the ageing Archie Maclaren, now 52, but in his prime one of the most magnificent stroke makers in England, He held the record for the highest score in English first class cricket - 424 v Somerset in 1895 - until a certain Mr Lara entered the county scene! Joseph did little else in these matches but had the experience of playing along side Maurice Leyland, later one of England's greatest left handers, and the redoubtable Arthur "Ticker" Mitchell who characterised the no holds barred tough Yorkshire attitude of their victorious inter war years. After the war he was an unrelenting taskmaster as coach for 25 years, players like Brian Close, Raymond Illingworth and Geoffrey Boycott were cast in his mould. The young Len Hutton, early in his career found himself sent to field beside Mitchell in the slips. Normally the slips were reserved for elder statesmen, while the young did the running about. Mitchell eyed the future knight and master batsman critically. "What the **** are you doing here?" he asked.
Joseph, perhaps, lacked the mental toughness or desire to play with people like Mitchell, but when his work - so far undiscovered - took him to Ireland he had, after a brief sojourn with Cork County, a highly successful three seasons with Leinster. He was not always available but headed both the Club and LCU bowling in 1930 and 1931, with 26 wickets at 3.15 in the former year and 29 at 4.13 in the latter. In his first four League matches in 1930, he returned the figures 4-19, 7-8, 5-21, and 4-10. In 1931 he had a sequence of 7-22 v Phoenix on their ground, followed by 7-14 against Pembroke at Rathmines and, also at home, 7-20 against Civil Service. Clontarf, at Castle Avenue, were on the receiving end in 1932, when Joseph took 5-11.
His one match for Ireland came against the MCC in College Park in 1930 and was not a success either for him or Ireland, as the visitors won by 10 wickets. Rain had prevented them from winning at The Mardyke. Joseph came into the side as a substitute, seven of the original selection having withdrawn. He opened the bowling with Tom Dixon, after MCC had won the toss but took only one wicket, that of the South African all rounder, Test player Denys Morkel, thanks to a fine catch by Harrow schoolboy Fred Covington, at a cost of 54 runs. When Ireland batted, Morkel, a very good fast medium bowler, was too much for them taking 14-92 in the match. One of the few times he was held up came at the end of the Irish first innings when Joseph and Leinster team-mate Frank Reddy added 32 for the last wicket, "the only saving grace in the innings"(Derek Scott). Joseph, showing a resolution of which "Ticker" would have greatly approved made 12 before Morkel got him. He fell to the same bowler in the second innings, this time for a dozen runs fewer.
No further records of Joseph Shires' cricket after his time with Leinster have been found and he remains somewhat of a mystery. My researches for this piece, and for others for a variety of reasons, have failed to ascertain a certain date of birth for him - there being a large number of Yorkshire born men of his name at that time - while it has also proved impossible to find a definite date of death. Military records have likewise added to confusion. It goes without saying that if any reader is able to throw any light on these problems; such information would be most gratefully received.
Edward Liddle, February 2010
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