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From the Archives: Ireland at Lord’s

Posted: 23 July 2019

With the England v Ireland Test match almost upon us we look back at previous performances by Ireland teams at the Home of Cricket. 

A representative team known as ‘All Ireland’ appeared for the first time at Lord’s on 17th May 1858, with the trip to Lord’s proving the highlight of what was the first tour by any Irish team overseas.

Details of the match were originally recorded in a series of volumes of MCC matches and matches at Lord’s, which start from 1791 and are retained in the Club’s archive. The scorebook entry reveals that in the match, played with 4 balls per over, Ireland won by an innings and 10 runs, in a very low-scoring match – indeed, the highest innings by any player was J McCormick’s 34.

Ireland’s victory was largely thanks to the outstanding performance of Charles Lawrence, who took 8-32 in MCC’s first innings as they collapsed to 53 all out. He then captured another 4 wickets in the second innings as Ireland won the match within two days.

Ten years later, Lawrence would go on to captain and coach the historic Aboriginal tour of 1868 – the first visit by an Australian team to England.

1958 Ireland v MCC match programme

Two of Lawrence’s teammates from Ireland’s victory would prove to be among the most influential in MCC’s history; Spencer Ponsonby and R A Fitzgerald. Ponsonby, who later became the Honorable Spencer Ponsonby-Fane, was a Treasurer of MCC from 1879 to his death, as well as a Committee member and Trustee. Ponsonby-Fane was responsible for compiling the first catalogue of the Club’s collections, and as Treasurer was able to secure funds for further additions to the MCC Collection.

Fitzgerald, meanwhile, was MCC’s fourth Secretary between 1863 and 1876 and was arguably the driving force behind making MCC a more ‘professional’ organisation. With help from a loan by a Committee member, William Nicholson, he encouraged MCC to purchase the freehold of Lord’s in 1866, ensuring that the ground was owned by the Club and thus safeguarding the future of Lord’s and MCC.

R A Fitzgerald - MCC’s fourth Secretary between 1863 and 1876

Then he formed a Lord’s Grand Stand Company with a consortium of MCC members in 1867, which resulted in the Club’s first Grand Stand being built that same year, and encouraged W.G. Grace to become a member of the Club in 1869. 

The match in 1858 was the first of 47 occasions where either an Ireland or Ireland ‘A’ team has played against MCC at Lord’s.

In 1959 Ireland faced an MCC team which included Len Hutton and Keith Miller, the former scoring 80 in MCC’s first innings as they won by 3 wickets.

Len Hutton batting for MCC vs. Ireland, 1959

Thirty years later, Ireland came up against an MCC team that included Martin Crowe and Mushtaq Mohammad, and came away with a draw.

The last time any Ireland side played MCC at Lord’s in 2015, an Ireland ‘A’ team defeated MCC by 5 wickets, and one player from that team, Stuart Thompson, played in Ireland’s inaugural Test match against Pakistan at Malahide three years later, while another, Peter Chase, played for Ireland at Lord’s against England in 2017.

Ireland have played Middlesex three times at Lord’s too thanks to being invited to play in English domestic cup competitions; first in the Gillette Cup in 1980 when their opponents went on to win the title, then the Benson and Hedges Cup in 1998 and finally the Cheltenham and Gloucester Trophy in 2006.

In the last of those matches, Ireland had unusual support from Shahid Afridi and Saqlain Mushtaq, both of whom had signed for Ireland specifically to play in the competition. Sadly their assistance was not enough to stop Middlesex from winning the match by 9 wickets.

Ireland play England in an ODI at Lord's in 2017

In May 2017, Ireland finally played at Lord’s in a One-Day International, against an England side containing seven members of the team who would win the World Cup Final at Lord’s two years later. England won the match by 85 runs, Joe Root winning the Man of the Match award for scoring 73 and taking 3 wickets, despite Will Porterfield top scoring for the visitors with 82.

This was not the first time that Porterfield, who will be Ireland’s captain for the Test match, had made a big score at Lord’s; in 2006 he helped Ireland defeat an MCC team including Mike Gatting by 97 runs, by making 110 not out, while he also made 62 not out in a County Championship match for Warwickshire in 2014.

All of us at Lord’s are looking forward to finding out whether he or his teammates can become the first player representing Ireland to make it onto the Honours Board.

Visitors to the MCC Museum during the Test match will be able to view a special display of Irish cricket material on the upper floor of the museum, including items donated by Ed Joyce and Niall O’Brien from Ireland’s inaugural Test match against Pakistan in 2018.

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