The well-deserved selection of Kim Garth in the Australian women's squad for the forthcoming series in England brings to mind the part played in Australian men's side by cricketers of Irish origins since the first ever Test in 1877. What, I wondered would be the best team that could be chosen from them over the last 145 years.
My opening pair would be JACK FINGLETON and LINDSAY HASSETT. Jack was born on 23 April 1908, his paternal grandparents having emigrated from Portlaoise to Melbourne about 1870. Jack's father, a Sydney tram driver who became a Labour MP in the NSW Parliament, died when Jack was 12, so he had a tough adolescence, but emerged as a highly competent but dour opening bat and a very talented journalist, who became both a Canberra based political reporter and one of the best Australian cricket writers. In a cricket career cut short by war, he scored 6816 first class runs at with 22 centuries and a highest score of 167. He was also the first batter to score 4 successive Test hundreds - three in South Africa in 1935/36 and one against England in 1936/37. He had already shown skill and courage in carrying his bat for New South Wales against the Bodyline attack in 1932/3, besides making a four hour 82 in the Second Test of that acrimonious series. A fearless close fieldsman, he was, for both state and country often to be found as one of the 2 forward short legs, which Bill O'Reilly employed to back up his top spin and googly. Jack was not selected for the 1934 tour of England, something for he which he blamed Don Bradman, with whom he had a long-running feud, carried on by their sons after both men had died, but did tour in 1938. After retiring from cricket he became known as one of the best cricket writers as well as covering rugby tours of Australia and continuing his political journalism. He wrote 10 books of which at least one Brightly Fades The Don is one of the classics of cricket literature. Unfortunately his biography of Victor Trumper was anything but a classic, however all the rest are very well worth reading. He was not always an easy man to work with - having a mutual antipathy with such diverse characters as E.W. Swanton and John Arlott but had a long and enduring friendship with Bill O'Reilly who as player and journalist probably knew him better than most. Jack died on 22 November 1981, mourned by the wider cricket community, ironically just as his autobiography Batting From Memory was about to be launched. Although he was not the most ardent supporter of the British Empire, he was pleased to be made an OBE for services to cricket and journalism shortly before his death.
LINDSAY HASSETT, whose great grandparents are reputed to have hailed from Ennis in Co Clare had a very different upbringing from Fingleton being educated at the prestigious Geelong Grammar School, where, though always on the small side for a sportsman, he excelled in all games, particularly cricket and tennis. The youngest of six brothers, one of whom also played first class cricket, he was born on 28 August 1913 and made his debut for Victoria in 1932/33. He began as a brilliant stroke player who, because he could spot the googly, sometimes got the better of Bill O'Reilly. He toured England in 1938, scoring over 1500 runs, a feat he repeated 10 years later. He had all the shots and made batting look easy. After war service, in which he refused a commission, he captained the Australian Services XI on their tour of England in 1945 and was vice-captain to Bradman from the 1946/47 Tests against England until The Don retired in 1948. He succeeded to the captaincy in 1949, despite Bradman trying to have former opener Bill Brown, who had lost his place in the Test side, have the role. Lindsay then led the side until his retirement after the 1953 Ashes series, having series wins over South Africa 1949/50, England 1950/51 and the West Indies 1951/52, drawing 2/2 with South Africa in 1952/53 before finally losing 1-0 to England in 1953. In that series he had to convert himself into an opening bat after the First Test, but, having scored a century in that match, hit another in the Second. He had become a much more defensive player in the absence of Bradman, but was still his side's major batsman. He was a popular figure in England that summer never - in public at least - protesting at Len Hutton's negative tactics - which would now be illegal - that robbed Australia of a win at Leeds, or Australia being dismissed by Tony Lock's highly dubious action on an equally dubious pitch at the Oval in the deciding match. He retired immediately after the tour and spent his retirement fishing and working as summariser for the ABC Test Match commentaries.
A Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1949 he was awarded the MBE for services to cricket and died on 16 June 1993. In all first class cricket he scored 16980 runs at 58.24 with 59 centuries his highest score was 232 for Victoria v MCC in 1950/51. At the time of his retirement, only Bradman had scored more. In Tests he made 3073 runs at 46.56 with 10 hundreds and a highest score of 198* against India in 1947/48.
At No 3 comes the imperious CHARLIE MACARTNEY, known as the Governor General, because of his lordly and imperious manner at the crease. With a Co Antrim ancestry, he was a right hand bat who had every stroke in the book and many more besides. Invariably batting at first drop or opening, his favourite ploy was to hit he first ball he received straight back at the bowler's head. "It unsettles them, " he would explain to his startled partners who had had to take evasive action themselves. His batting has been described as "Brilliantly unorthodox but profoundly safe." Charlie was also a very good slow left armer, a Test class spinner, whose bowling was once seen as his stronger suit. He toured England 4 times, scoring 335 before tea against
Nottinghamshire in 1921 - going on to a career best 345- and in 1926 made a hundred before lunch on the first day of the Leeds' Test. Australia had been put in and were 2/1 when Charlie arrived. He was dropped at slip first ball - by the England captain Arthur Carr - and the rest is history. Carr never led England again, Charlie meanwhile hit two other hundreds that series. In 1935 aged 48 he toured India with an unofficial Australian XI, bowled as well as ever and still rolled out his strokes on occasion. In all first class cricket he scored 15019 runs at 45.78 with 49 hundreds while in 35 Tests he made 2131 runs at 41.78 with a highest score of 170 and 7 hundreds. Bowling he took 419 first class wickets at 20.95 while his Test figures were 45 wickets at 27.55. An accomplished writer on the game, his autobiography My Cricket Days includes an account of a match he played at Ormeau, Belfast in 1926, but does not sparkle like his batting. A Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1922, he died 9 September 1958. "His brave beauty and original skill" wrote Neville Cardus, "bring tears to my eyes yet."
At 4 comes another brilliant stroke maker, STAN McCABE who was born on 16 July 1910 of Irish origin on both sides of his family. The courage with which he later faced the Bodyline attack in one of the all-time great Test innings may have come from his paternal grandmother who once faced down a quartet of bush rangers who attempted to rob the coach she and her young family were traveling in. One of four sports-mad brothers, Stan was a brilliant schoolboy cricketer and also a fine rugby full back, but on leaving school concentrated on the summer game. He toured England in 1930 becoming a permanent member of the Test side. In the First Test of the 1932/3 series he played an almost lone hand as a Bradmanless Australia went down by 10 wickets to Jardine's men. Stan, however, had made a superb 187* hooking Larwood with impunity and causing some of the English side to doubt the validity of their tactics. Three years later in South Africa, Australia lost an early wicket chasing 399 in very poor light. With Jack Fingleton as his partner Stan unleashed his brilliance on the hosts' attack as a dust storm enveloped the ground. Eventually the South African captain appealed against the light, fearing his fielders' safety. The match ended with Australia on 272/2, Stan not out 189. At Trent Bridge in 1938 he did it again. England, with two young batters called Hutton and Compton each scoring centuries in their first Ashes Test had declared on 658/8, the visitors then lost early wickets including Bradman and Fingleton. Enter Stan to score 232 before being last out having hit 30 fours and 1 six. Bradman, who called his players out of the dressing room to watch, thought it was the best innings he ever saw. "If I could play an innings like that, Stan. I'd be a proud man." The Don was never over generous with praise, particularly to other batsmen, so he must have really meant it. Stan was also a useful medium pacer who sometimes opened the Australian attack. He did not resume in major cricket after the War, but kept to his Sydney sports shop. He refused to write his memoirs, "I never hated anyone enough" but after his death. from a fall over a cliff on 25 August 1968, he was the subject of a biography by Australian journalist Jack McHarg. In all first class cricket he scored 11951 runs at 49.38, hitting 29 hundreds with a highest score of 240 and took 159 wickets at 33.72. In Tests he made 2748 runs at 48,21 and 6 hundreds, the epic 232 being his highest score. He also took 36 wickets at 42.86.
At 5 we have that somewhat enigmatic batsman NORMAN O'NEILL. Born on 19 February 1937, he was a strongly built right hander, best known for his powerful back foot play, but when going well, had all the strokes and was a delight to watch. In the 1957/58 season, having made a great impression in his two previous summers as a teenager, he became only the third player to score 1000 runs in a Sheffield Shield season, and then had a millstone put around his neck, by being called "the new Bradman" as if there could ever be one. Nevertheless, he averaged 56. 40 in the 1958/59 series with England, a debut 71 at Brisbane being the only memorable batting in a Test otherwise remembered for a Trevor Bailey marathon of boredom. On the tour of India and Pakistan in the following season, he hit three Test hundreds, before making 522 runs v the West Indies in the epic making 1960/61 series. In the tied Test at Brisbane, he made a dazzling 181 which was to remain his highest Test score. In England in 1961, he made a superb 117 in the Fifth Test, besides scoring 1981 runs on the tour. Unfortunately, he was never quite the same again, failing badly, for example, in the Tests in England three years later. He was unhappy against the West Indian pace attack in the Caribbean in 1965 and, regrettably, rushed into print in a newspaper article which accused Charlie Griffith of throwing and attacked the former Australian all-rounder Keith Miller. He lost his Test place and retired from first class cricket 3 years later. Nevertheless, he deserves his role in this side, with 13859 first class runs at 50.95 with 45 hundreds and a highest score of 284, besides taking 99 wickets at 41.09 with his leg spin, In 42 Tests he made 2779 runs at 45.55. His leg breaks brought him 17 wickets at 39.23. He later had the pleasure of seeing his son Mark score 3 Sheffield hundreds and, himself, became a radio commentator, before his early death on 3 March 2008.
At 6 is the Victorian left hander LEO O'BRIEN who must be regarded as one of the more unlucky of Australia's cricketers. Born on 2 July 1907, he was said to have all the attributes needed to make a successful opening bat, proving as much in grade cricket. However when he began his first class career, the opening roles for state and country were held by the legendary pair of the two Bills, Woodfull and Ponsford and when they both retired after the 1934 Ashes tour of England, Fingleton and Bill Brown both of NSW took over their roles as the Test openers. However, Leo continued to score consistently in state matches, his strong driving and pulling being features of his play. An innings of 145 against Queensland in 1932/33 brought him into the Test side in the Bodyline series. Dropped after a failure in his first match, ironically the only match Australia won in the series, he returned for the 5th, where, batting at No 4 he made 61 in the first innings, putting on 99 for the 4th wicket with McCabe, before falling to the iconic dismissal of c Larwood b Voce. Though Australia scored 435, they still lost by 8 wickets. Leo also toured South Africa in 1935/36, winning his place thanks to a career best 173 against NSW the previous season. Batting in the middle order he made 59 in the Fourth Test and 48 in the Fifth, Australia winning both by an innings. In the 1937/37 Ashes series, he played in the Second Test but failed making 0 and 17. He retired from first class cricket at the end of the season Also a talented baseball player and successful amateur boxer - the only bout he lost being his last. He later became a successful racehorse owner. He scored 3003 runs in first class cricket at 36.70 with 7 hundreds and took 3 wickets. In his 4 Tests he made 211 runs at 23.67. Having played social cricket - if there is such a thing in Australia - well into his 70s, he died on 13 March 1997. Only Bradman - having the last word as usual - remained on either side of the participants in the Bodyline series.
At 7 we have TOM HORAN who has to be included as the only member of the side to have been born In Ireland - on 8 March 1854 - and also as a participant in the first ever Test Match at Melbourne in 1877, A short, stocky man, with a black beard and black pads to match, he was heavily bearded with powerful forearms and hit powerfully off the back foot. Unusually for his time, he favoured the leg side with his shots. He also bowled round arm medium pace - effectively in helpful conditions -and was renowned for his "cricket brain." He toured England in 1878 and 1882, making 1197 runs on the latter occasion including a career best 141* against Gloucestershire at Bristol. He made 124 in the First Test of the 1881/82 series and in 1884/85 captained Australia in the Second and Fifth Tests when most of the regular team refused to play because of a financial dispute. Tom's medium pacers were best seen at Sydney in the Third Test of that series when he took 6/40 to help Australia to a 6 runs victory. By profession a journalist, he was Australia's first great cricket writer, his match reports and general comments, written under the pen name of Felix are still of great value to historians, particularly his dramatic account of the 1882 Test at the Oval when the Ashes legend was born. Two of his sons also played first class cricket but did not match his longevity. In all first class matches, he scored 4027 runs at 23.27 with 8 hundreds and took 35 wickets at 23. 68. These figures were perfectly respectable for his time as was his Test record of 471 runs at 18,64 and 11 wickets at 13.00. He died on 16 April 1916.
At the fall of the 6th wicket we have RAY LINDWALL come to the crease. Born on 3 October 1921, he arguably remains the greatest fast bowler ever to have played for Australia. Of Swedish ancestry on his father's side and Irish on his mother's, his approach to the wicket was beautifully smooth and controlled, while though his arm was lower than some purists approved, his action was near classical. He swung the ball both ways, had a devastating yorker, as Len Hutton, Tom Graveney, Peter May and Trevor Bailey - to take a random sample - all found to their cost. His bouncer was equally formidable but he used it sparingly. To bowl a bouncer at a tailender was " an insult to fast bowling." The young Alan Davidson, having been observed doing so was ordered to "Get into the nets and learn how to bowl." Ray was also a good lower order batsman who scored 2 Test centuries. His best series in Anglo-Australian Tests was 1948 when he took 27 wickets in the series, with his great friend Keith Miller tearing in at the other end, Ray taking 6/20 at the Oval as England collapsed for 52, of which Hutton made 30, before Ray had him caught behind. Ray continued as a formidable genuine quick for 5 more years before turning to medium pace, bowling more inswingers and also cutting the ball, Captaining his country once in this phase, he played Test cricket until 1960. His state cricket was played mainly for N SW but also for Queensland which he captained - for the final years of a career that ended in 1962. Both a state and national selector, he, together with his wife, ran a florists in Brisbane, fighting an illness which was to cost him the loss of a leg.
As a young man he had been a talented all round athlete, running 100 yards in 10.6 seconds and coming near national selection as a Rugby League full back. An autobiography Flying Stumps more interesting than many of its kind appeared in 1954 and he also wrote The Challenging Tests which covered the 1961 series. A Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1949 he was later awarded the MBE for services to cricket. In all first class cricket he made 5042 runs at 21.82 with 5 hundreds with a highest score of 134* and took 794 wickets at 21.35 while in Tests he scored 1502 runs at 21.51 with 2 hundreds besides taking 228 wickets at 23.03
At 9 we have our wicket keeper JAMES KELLY who was born on 10 May 1867 of Irish descent. A limited but courageous right hand bat, he was probably second only to the great Jack Blackham among Australia's pre First World War glovemen. Having moved to NSW as Blackham kept for Victoria, James succeeded him in the Test side on the English tour of 1896, keeping in 36 successive Tests until the end of the 1905 tour including the nerve-wracking Manchester and Oval Tests of 1902. A tall man with a prominent walrus mustache, he became the first keeper to allow no byes in an innings of over 500, when England posted 551 at Sydney in 1897/98 while, also at the SCG, three years later, he held 8 catches in a Test. An old-fashioned wicket keeper, he stood, legs wide apart, right up to the stumps except to Tibby Cotter and a few other bowlers of genuine pace. He was eventually forced to retire on medical advice after the 1905 tour of England, having been hit over the heart while batting at Old Trafford. Married to the sister of Victor Trumper's sister in law, he was born 2 days before his close friend, thr great medium pacer Hughie Trumble and died on the same day 14 August 1938. In all first class matches he made 4018 runs at 19.94 with 3 hundreds and a highest score of 108, besides holding 243 catches and making 112 stumpings. In Tests he made 664 runs at 17.02. Highest score 46*, held 43 catches and made 20 stumpings.
At 10 we have BILL O'REILLY regarded by Bradman, who initially was unimpressed by him, as the greatest bowler he ever saw. Bill, who would most certainly have agreed with this assessment, had a similar view of Bradman the batsman. There, however, the mutual admiration society ended, Bill like Fingleton had nothing but praise for The Don's batsmanship, but little, if any, if any respect for him as a man. Evidence suggests that this ill feeling was reciprocated. Born on 20 December 1905, the son of a teacher and grandson of a police sargent who had emigrated from Co Cavan, Bill, prematurely balding, stood over six feet high, and bowled at around medium pace, with a high whirling action, though he stooped at the moment of delivery, which proved to disconcert batsmen further
He bowled leg breaks, googlies and two different top spinners - employing two forward short legs - which spun really sharply. He also bowled with an accuracy not usually achieved by a wrist spinner, and was most certainly unchallenged as his country's - and probably everyone else's as well - best ever spinner until that sunny afternoon at Old Trafford in 1993, when a flaxen haired "leggie" spun a ball around Mike Gatting's ample frame to mount a challenge to Bill's supremacy.
Bill was somewhat slow in getting into "big" cricket, because as a newly qualified school teacher, he was moved around the country by the NSW Education Department so that he was 26 by the time he made his Test debut against South Africa in 1931-32. In the following season - 1932/33 against England he made his place in the side permanent. He took 27 wickets in the series and in the Second Test, the only match the hosts won, he had match figures of 10/129. There are so many accounts of his achievements that perhaps, one will suffice here. Ironically, the scene was Old Trafford on a blazingly hot day on the first day the Third Test of 1934. Having won the toss, England were 68/0 when the ball went out of shape - a less common instance in those days. After a 10 minute break, Bill - armed with the replacement - had the dashing Worcestershire opener Cyril Walters caught at silly mid on with the first ball for 52. The second delivery bemused England captain Bob Wyatt and knocked back the middle stump. Enter the great Wally Hammond to edge his first ball in and out of keeper Bert Oldfield's gloves to the boundary. Bill, who hated all batsmen, but especially very good English ones, must have been furious. His next ball crashed into the stumps and 68/0 was now 72/4. England recovered to post 625 to which the Australians replied with 491, Stan McCabe making 136 and Bill weighing in with 30. The match was drawn. That series, which Australia won 2-1, saw him take 28 wickets. Down Under in 1936/37 he took 25, while even in England in 1938, when only 4 Tests were played because the Old Trafford match was washed out, he took 22, including 10 in the Headingly Test, after the English press had, unwisely written him off. No batsman ever really mastered him, Hassett, sometimes, as he could pick his googly and the Yorkshire left hander Maurice Leyland, on occasions. but Bill got him 9 times in the 26 innings they met. All the other great England batsmen of his time were wary of him but one, at least, knew his worth, Len Hutton saying that Bill would always be his first pick in a World XI to play Mars.
He continued teaching until 1939, before managing Sydney's Lion Tile business and becoming a special Cricket Correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald.
This proved a position position he was to hold for 42 years. He wrote books on the 1948 and 1950/51 series and a trenchant, but always fair, autobiography Tiger Sixty Years In Cricket. He was one of Wisden's Five Cricketers of the Year in 1935 and was later made OBE for services to cricket. He died on 6 October 1992.
In all first class matches, he took 774 wickets at 16.60 and scored 1655 runs at 13.33, while in 27 Tests he took 144 wickets at 22.59 and made 410 runs at 12.81. His highest score 56* was also his best score in all first class matches.
Lastly we come to our No 11 who must be a fast bowler, to share the new ball with Lindwall. Clearly this should be Glen McGrath, an excellent candidate for both roles, However I have not chosen him. Glen's tremendous achievements are so well known that I thought it would be more interesting for this side to select another whose name may not instantly come to mind. Our man, therefore, is ERNIE McCORMICK born on 16 May 1906, At his best he was a bowler of extreme pace, certainly among the fastest ever to represent Australia. Bowling off a very long run, some 31 yards, he began with a series of skips and then tore in with his arms stiff by his side. At his best in short bursts, he could make the ball lift alarmingly, once breaking the jaws of two batsmen in successive grade matches, besides, at practice, bouncing the ball off his captain's head.
Yet this terrifyingly fast paceman played only 12 Tests for Australia and was not picked until he was 29. He had a technical flaw in that he was almost completely unable to move the ball away from the bat, Further, under the old no ball law, he often fell foul of umpires, being a serial dragger. On the opening day of Australia's match at Worcester in 1938 - the first of the tour- he was called 19 times before lunch. Always a humourist, Ernie told his team-mates "Don't worry, It will be OK after lunch. The umpire's hoarse." He also suffered badly from lumbago which could affect him at any time. At the Gabba in the First Test of the 1936/37 series, he had opener Stan Worthington caught behind first ball. With the score on 20 Arthur Fagg fell in the same way for 4 and the next ball saw Hammond caught at short leg. Three overs later Ernie had to leave the field and was unable to bowl again. At Lord's in the Second Test of the 1938 series, he removed Charlie Barnett, Len Hutton and Bill Edrich to leave England reeling on 31/3, before Hammond played his greatest innings for England, a superb 240, though Ernie got him in the end. He was an almost negligible bat swinging optimistically at every ball. In the 1934/35 season for Victoria against Queensland he put on 90 for the last wicket with "Chuck" Fleetwood-Smith, an even worse performer. "Chuck" was dropped 11 times and Ernie 13, as he made his highest ever score of 77, in fits of laughter as he did so. His career ended in 1939 when he joined the Royal Australian Air Force.
A jeweler by profession he designed and made the Frank Worrell Trophy awarded to the winner of Australia / West Indies Tests. He died on 28 June 1991
In all first class matches he made 582 runs at 8,68, taking 241 wickets at 27.74. In Tests he made 54 runs at 6,00 and took 36 wickets at 29.97.
Footnote In addition to the books mentioned in the text I am indebted to the two massive volumes Australian Cricket The Game And The Players by Jack Pollard and The Oxford Companion to Australian Cricket. I have also referred to Greg Crowden's biography of Jack Fingleton Jack Fingleton The Man Who Stood Up To Bradman. The Don himself has featured so much above that it seems fair to mention one of the many biographies about him. On his death it was said that the only Australian to have been the subject of more is Ned Kelly! At least 2 further Bradman books have appeared since then. However the best is undoubtedly Sir Donald Bradman by Irving Rosenwater. Published more than 40 years ago, it is still unchallenged.
Many thanks to Wikipedia for the use of photographs