Arthur McIntyre © Getty Images
Arthur McIntyre © Getty Images

It was his lack of inches that prompted his friends to advise Arthur John William McIntyre that he would not have much of a career as a bowler even though he had had the benefit of some coaching from the great ‘Tich’ Freeman himself one winter at Maidstone on the art of bowling wrist-spin. He even had 4 First-Class wickets to show for it. Fortunately for himself and for Surrey, he heeded the advice of his well-wishers. Grundy: First to be given out handling the ball in FC cricket

The son of a brick-layer from Aberdeen, Scotland, and a mother from Aberystwyth, Wales, McIntyre was born May 14, 1918, within a quarter of a mile of The Oval, and grew up in Princes (now Cleaver) Square in Kennington. ‘Mac’ (as he was popular known) was educated at Kennington Road School.

He kept wickets for London Elementary Schools in a 1-day match against CF Tufnell’s XI at Lord’s in 1932, and sharing a 100-run first wicket partnership with his skipper, Denis Compton, from the other side of the Thames. As expected under the given circumstances, the stand ended with ‘Mac’ being run out for 44, Compton going on to score 114. This is his own version of the dismissal: “He (Compton) hit the ball straight at cover point and ran me out.”

A Surrey fan from the core of his heart, ‘Mac’ would make it a point to watch his favourite team play whenever possible, particularly when Jack Hobbs was in action. This became easier for him when, at the age of 18, he was appointed on the Surrey staff, and placed in charge of the bicycle shed at The Oval. When Percy Fender took 6 for 1 from 11 balls

McIntyre had a 25-year First-Class career (1938 to 1963), and played 390 matches (376 of them for Surrey), scoring 11,145 runs. His highest individual score was 143 not out, and he had an average of 22.83. He had 7 centuries and 51 fifties, held 637 catches (most of them from behind the stumps), and made 158 stumpings. Early in his career, he had also picked up 4 wickets for 180.

McIntyre also played 33 games for Surrey Second XI between 1934 and 1938, a fairly long apprenticeship for the tyro, before making his First-Class debut, primarily as a bowler, with the senior Surrey team against Sussex at The Oval in 1938, scoring 3 not out in the only Surrey innings of 547. He also picked up a wicket in the Sussex first innings in a drawn game.

He played 10 more First-Class matches till the first week of July 1939, picking up 1 more wicket, also against Sussex in June 1939, before World War II put all First-Class cricket on hold till 1946. Thomas Arthur Fison hits all-run 246 before rushing to catch a train!

The War years were to play a very crucial role in the cricket career of Arthur McIntyre.

The Telegraph of December 30, 2009 gives us a very graphic account of these events: “Called up for the Second World War, McIntyre served in North Africa, and was wounded in the Anzio landings in Italy. Convalescing at Bari, on the Adriatic, he helped organise cricket there. The huge field was of plain earth, very flat and true once a bulldozer and heavy roller had done their work, while the wicket was concrete covered with a mat. McIntyre enjoyed the unique distinction of hitting a century for Western Italy against Eastern Italy.”

During this time, he met the Bedser twins, who were with the RAF in Italy around the end of hostilities. By now McIntyre was a Sergeant with the Army Physical Training Corps, and was keeping wickets regularly for the Central Mediterranean Force. At this time, he had still not given up hopes of making a career for himself as a leg-spin and googly bowler. Sammy Woods hits stumps 8 times in a row, gets only 3 wickets

However, the Bedsers, by now very fast friends, dissuaded him from the idea, explaining that his lack of inches (he was all of 5’5”) would prove to be a handicap in the long run (not everyone being a genius like his mentor Freeman), and advising him to pursue his alternative skill of wicketkeeping. They persuaded him to write to the Surrey Committee to ask whether on his return from the war, they would consider his name for wicketkeeping portfolio.

Interestingly, it is said that, arising from his close proximity with the Bedser twins, he was able to pick out Eric quite easily from the pair on account of a small scar under the chin. Keith Miller had once said that he could pick out Alec easily because, in Miller’s opinion, one had only to look at the face of a player to pick out a fast-medium bowler.

After the war ended and county cricket got under way again in 1946, McIntyre did not fill in the wicketkeeper’s slot straight away, Surrey preferring to go with the tried and trusted Gerald Mobey for the season, though the latter was 42 by then.

McIntyre played most of the 1946 season purely as a batsman, scoring 791 runs from his 38 innings with 127 against Kent in July. Surrey awarded him his cap in 1946. In the meantime, he spent much of his time under the tutelage of the great Herbert Strudwick in honing his glovework behind the stumps. He could hardly have come under the benign influence of a better man for the purpose.

He took up his rightful position behind the stumps for Surrey in 1947 after Mobey had called it a day at the end of 1946. The Telegraph reports that “His batting steadily improved, and in each of the three seasons from 1948 to 1950, he made more than 1,000 runs. The year 1949 was his best, with 1,200 runs (including a career-best 143 not out against Kent at Blackheath and another century against Warwickshire at Edgbaston), along with 94 victims behind the stumps.”

It was McIntyre’s close-to-the-wickets glovework to the bowling of Alec, in particular, that was to define his excellence as a wicketkeeper. In their wisdom, Wisden had this to say about McIntyre: “In a first-class career spanning 25 years, he built up a reputation as one of the best — maybe the best — day-in, day-out wicketkeeper of his generation,” — high praise from such an austere quarter.

McIntyre was Surrey wicketkeeper in their seven consecutive years of glory at the top of the Championship table (1952 to 1958) under the brilliant and innovative captaincy of Stuart Surridge. His handling of the bowling of Alec Bedser, Peter Loader, and Tony Lock was nothing short of brilliant.

However, McIntyre did have his awkward moments with Jim Laker, particularly in the Essex second innings at Chelmsford in 1947 when Laker’s deliveries often jumped from an uncertain surface over his left shoulder. He conceded 25 byes, having also conceded 8 more in the Essex first innings.

Let us now turn our collective attention to his very short Test career.

McIntyre made his Test debut against the touring West Indies team of 1950, playing his first Test at his home ground, The Oval, in August 1950. He was one of three debutants for the match, the others being David Sheppard (later to be known as The Right Reverend Lord David Sheppard), and left-arm spinner Malcolm Hilton. McIntyre made a very modest start to his Test career, scoring 4 and 0 but taking 3 catches in the only West Indies total of 503. England lost the match by an innings and 56 runs.

The wise men of the English Selection Committee then chose McIntyre as the second wicketkeeper for the Ashes tour of 1950-51 under Freddie Brown. Here McIntyre was at a definite disadvantage when compared with the flamboyance and general brilliance of the first-choice gloveman Godfrey Evans, McIntyre always preferring to keep a much lower and more unobtrusive profileon the field. That is not to say in any way, however, that ‘Mac’ lacked the necessary skills for the job. On the way to Australia, there was a game in the tropical heat of Colombo against Ceylon, where ‘Mac’ scored a brilliant century.

The opportunity of playing an Ashes Test came in the first Test at The Gabba, where, for some unknown reason, McIntyre was selected as a batsman ahead of Gilbert Parkhouse. In an extraordinary game, Australia won the toss, batted first and scored 228, Neil Harvey top-scoring with 74. Opening bowling, Trevor Bailey (3 for 28) and Alec Bedser (4 for 45) accounted for 7 of the wickets. Day One ended with Australia being bowled out, and a light appeal from the new opening pair for England, Cyril Washbrook and Reg Simpson.

A typical Brisbane thunderstorm ruled out any play on Day Two. Then relentless rain continued on Sunday, the rest day. The sun came out on Day Three, quickly turning the drying wicket into a sticky mess. Play could only commence about half an hour before lunch on Day Three, the Monday. England went to lunch on 28 for no loss. The next two sessions of play saw only 102 runs being scored for the loss of 20 wickets.

With the pitch deteriorating by the minute, England declared on 68 for 7, Washbrook top-scoring with 19. Bill Johnston took 5 for 35.

When it was time for Australia to bat a second time, conditions were no better, and Lindsay Hassett, the Australian skipper, decided to declare the second innings closed on 32 for 7, still 36 behind, Harvey again top-scoring with only 12 — the only double-digit individual score of the innings. Bailey (4 for 22) and Bedser (3 for 9) took all the wickets. England were then caught on a typical Brisbane ‘sticky’.

It soon turned into a nightmare for England as McIntyre joined Evans at the wicket with the total reading 23 for 5 and England still needing 170 runs for an improbable victory. ‘Mac’ immediately hit the mystery spinner Jack Iverson for four off the first ball he faced in the innings.

This is how Stephen Chalke described the next ball in the Independent of February 8, 2010: “The next ball lived forever in his memory: “I hit Iverson down to square leg, a fair way. A chap named (Ian) Johnson chased it. We’d run three easy runs. And we went for the fourth. This chap threw the ball in. It missed the stumps by quite a bit. Don Tallon, their ’keeper, backed away from the wicket, took the ball, threw it at the stumps (from about 15 yards away) and it hit them. And I was out. Run out, going for a fourth. Christ, if I could have walked off the ground the other way and not had to face Freddie Brown, I would have done. It was such a vital time. If I could have stayed there … To have got run out, of all things … Crikey, did I get some stick.”

England ended Day Four on 30 for 6, with Evans not out without opening his account.

Len Hutton played a masterly knock on the last day, remaining on 62 not out, but his was a lone hand. Compton was dismissed for a Golden duck, Brown contributed 17 from #10, but the innings folded up for 122, yielding victory to Australia by 70 runs.

McIntyre did get to wear the big gloves in a Test, his third and last, the fourth Test against South Africa at Headingley in July 1955. Jackie McGlew batted first, the team being dismissed for 171, with identical scores of 41 from Roy McLean and Russell Endean. Brian Statham (3 for 35) and Peter Loader (4 for 52) did most of the damage for England. McIntyre took 2 catches.

England replied with 191, Compton (61) and skipper Peter May (47) doing most of the scoring. Neil Adcock had to retire from the attack with a broken bone in his left foot after bowling only 4 overs. The burden of the bowling, however, was borne manfully by Peter Heine (4 for 70) and Hugh Tayfield (4 for 70), both finishing with identical figures. McIntyre contributed 3 runs.

South Africa produced a muscular 500 in the second innings, with centuries from McGlew (133, at the top of the order) and Endean (116 not out in the middle order). The enigmatic left-arm spinner from Yorkshire, Johnny Wardle, took 4 for 100. McIntyre took 2 more catches in the South Africa second innings, making it 4 in the match.

England were dismissed for 256 in their second innings, skipper May scoring a beautiful 97 (210 minutes, 13 fours). Doug Insole (47) was the only other significant scorer. Trevor Goddard (5 for 69) and Tayfield (5 for 94) shared the wickets. South Africa won by the large margin of 224 runs.

Having been on the losing side of all 3 Tests he, McIntyre reverted back to the more familiar ambience of the county games. Wisden chose him as one of the five Players of the Year in 1958.

He retired effectively, perhaps somewhat prematurely, at the end of 1958 to allow Roy Swetman, who was being groomed as a future England wicketkeeper, to claim a regular county slot.

He made a very brief comeback against Yorkshire at Bramall Lane in July 1963 in the absence of Andrew Long. The Yorkshire side included a young Geoff Boycott, who turned out to be McIntyre’s 795th and last First-Class victim. ‘Mac’ scored an unbeaten 50 in the Surrey first innings against an attack that included three England bowlers, Don Wilson, Ray Illingworth and Brian Close. It was to be his very last in First-Class cricket. He took a total of 3 catches in the game.

McIntyre coached the county team for 18 years, taking over from Andrew Sandham and holding the post till 1976, and upholding cricket’s traditional values — discipline, smart appearance, fair play — and proving a shrewd judge of youngsters. He worked closely with the local schools, and 10 of his recruits, among them Bob Willis and Geoff Howarth, went on to play Test cricket. He was a quiet and unfussy man with a no-nonsense approach to cricket, preferring to keep his own counsel most of the time. However, as Micky Stewart, a Surrey compatriot, remarked, “If something needed saying, he’d be the first to say it.”

A grateful Surrey Committee arranged a benefit for McIntyre in 1955 that raised £ 8,500, a handsome amount at the time, and an eloquent token of the love and respect that he commanded among the Surrey supporters.

‘Mac’ and his wife Dorothy retired to Lymington, enjoying 57 years of marriage before her death. He lived another six years, always happy to share his love of cricket with visitors. The highly regarded Surrey stalwart passed away on the Boxing Day of 2009, at the age of 91 and the mantle of the oldest England cricketer passed on to Sir Alec Bedser, 51 days his junior by age.

(Padip Dhole is a retired medical practitioner with a life-long interest in cricket history and statistics)