James (Jim) Harrison

Born3 May 1941 Lurgan, Co Armagh
EducatedLurgan College, Co Armagh.
OccupationMechanical Fitter
Debut14 July 1969 v Scotland at Castle Avenue
Cap Number512
StyleRight hand bat.
HistoryJim Harrison, the second of the four brothers who played for Ireland, two more shining for Waringstown for many years, was an elegant, strong wristed, right hand batsman, especially strong in front of square on the off side, but with a strong defence. He was reputed not to be happy against short pitched fast bowling, but, in those helmetless days, who was? He was also a shrewd reader of the game, but was a not always keen fielder, who, in the words of his brother Roy, "always tried to hide in the field because he liked to sleep." Even when captain of his club, he was inclined to show Dexter like qualities of drifting off at key moments. This same trait, when exhibited for Ireland, used, according to Roy, "to drive Alec O'Riordan mad."

Jim was a key member of the great Waringstown side of the 1960s and 1970s. He played a number of crucial innings, both on their paths to the Finals, and in the big matches themselves. He also captained the club when they beat Woodvale by 8 wickets at Downpatrick in 1978. In all Finals, he scored four fifties and one century. The latter was in the 1975 game, the last such match to be played at Ormeau for 25 years. Batting first Waringstown was restricted to 192-4 off their allotted overs by a keen North Down attack. Jim's share of this was a superb 104. The Comber side were then shot out for 56. The villagers again found batting difficult, but Jim, with a hard earned 37, ensured that the target set was too difficult. Two other innings stand out. In 1965, the first year of Waringstown's great run, they were pitted against Sion Mills on a spin friendly wicket. Veteran left armer, John Flood, surely the greatest "one cap wonder" to play for Ireland, was at his best taking 5-61 in Waringstown's first innings, only Roy Harrison defying him for long. However good bowling by captain Eddie McMullan ensured a useful lead, then Jim batted 5 hours for 88, to put the match beyond Sion's reach, Waringstown winning by 157 runs. Left arm spin, in the shape of Dermot Monteith and Jack Bowden, had again to be overcome in the 1970 Final v Lisburn. Monty" took 6-39 in the first innings, as Waringstown totalled 140, made possible by an excellent 57 from Jim, which left his own spinners, brother Ian and Ivan Anderson something to bowl with. More Harrison runs - this time from Deryck - in the second innings, despite another "5 for" from JDM left too stiff a target for the Co Antrim side, with Ian and Ivan again on song.

Jim played 37 Guinness Cup matches for Ulster Country between 1968 and 1977. He aggregated 904 runs at 31.17 with one century and two fifties. He also appeared for the NCU XI v the touring Pakistan Airlines side at Shane Park in 1969. The visitors were far too strong, being stacked with current or future Test players. Jim, batting at 5 in company with the rest of his team-mates, found runs hard to come by, but with 11 in the first innings and 16 in the second, did reach double figures twice, more than could be said for all the home batsmen. He was caught at the wicket by Wasim Bari in each innings, Test pacemen Asif Masood and Salim Altaf accounting for him.

Jim's Irish debut, discounting the non cap matches against the International Cavaliers in which, while he failed he could at least claim to have fallen to two Test men, Ian Thomson of Sussex in the first match at Ormeau, and none other than Fred Trueman himself, at Sydney Parade, came against Scotland at Castle Avenue in July but it was not until his fifth game, also v Scotland that he made the first of his four fifties, 65 at North Inch, Pert in 1970. Ireland batted for a long time on a hot first day, with Michael Reith and David Pigot putting on 133 for the first wicket and Pigot helping Jim add 78 for the second. All three had a century in their grasp when they were dismissed. In the end Ireland were lucky to escape with a draw, collapsing against pace in their second innings. A third day thunder storm and Alec O'Riordan saved the match. Jim made 20 in his second knock looking comfortable until he was dismissed by veteran medium pacer Dougie Barr in the last of his sixteen seasons for Scotland. Jim continued his good run of form with 31 and 52 v The Netherlands at The Hague. His 52 was easily Ireland's second innings top score allowing O'Riordan and Dougie Goodwin to run through the hosts.

1973 was a prolific year for him, though he went into the first match badly out of form. He began it with 111* v Wales at Rathmines, at number 3, - his first century in any form of cricket. "A gritty innings," wrote Derek Scott in Wisden. As we have seen it was to inspire him to make others. Ireland won the match by 93 runs, Jim not having to bat again. He followed this with a half century v Denmark and a useful knock at Lord's. These innings ensured him a place on the plane for North America for the late summer tour. His form stayed with him. He made a good 40 v Canada, though this was lost in the deserved acclamation for Ivan Anderson's record breaking 198*. Then against the United States, Jim made another half ton, making him one of the few Irish batsmen to emerge with credit from a match that should never have been lost. He aggregated 370 runs in all matches that year at 46.25.

He showed his ability to make runs at the highest level in the matches with the West Indies in 1976 and the Australians the following year. This was the famous West Indies side that crushed England after Tony Grieg's ill advised comment that he intended "to make them grovel." When they came to Dublin some of the shock troops were resting but Vanburn Holder, now a pacific looking highly respected umpire on the County circuit, but then a fearsome sight as he tore into bowl, even if he was not quite in the Holding or Roberts class, ripped through the Irish batting, Jim, far from alone in being unable to handle him, had however belied his reputation by taking three catches in the visitors first innings. When Ireland batted again, Vanburn lolled contentedly in the outfield, and the crowd were treated to the rare sight for that tour of Windies spinners in operation. Jim hit freely to make 37, but could not prevent a visitors' victory by 204 runs. Against Greg Chappell's Australians at Rathmines he had a first innings 21 adding 54 for the second wicket with Ireland's batting hero of the day, Jack Short, but his main contribution came in the second innings. Ireland having played extremely well, suddenly faced the prospect of defeat, chasing 188, when the openers fell quickly in the second innings. It was Waringstown to the rescue as Jim and Ivan Anderson saved the day. Jim remained undefeated on 37, Ivan was out jut before the end for the same score. !977 was, in fact to prove Jim's last season. He decided to retire from international cricket, because of pressure of work and, because, he wanted to give brother Deryck the chance of a cap, which he believed, correctly as it happened, would be more easily achieved if he was not in the reckoning. He still had time for one more memorable innings, ironically in a match in which the Irish batting touched rock bottom. Against Scotland, at Castle Avenue, he batted in great pain, with, as it transpired a broken toe. Hitting one 6 and seven 4s, he made 100*, giving Ireland a 58 run lead. The only other score of note was Simon Corlett's 60, he and Jim put on 89 for the fifth wicket. Scotland were then bowled out for 171, leaving Ireland a mere 114 to win. They were 9 for 5 and 39 all out, only Anderson made double figures, Jim's contribution was 3. He continued to play for Waringstown for almost a further decade and also derived much pleasure from the career of his son Shane, a fine batsman who, however, just missed selection for Ireland. Shane was to emigrate to Australia, and, eventually Jim and his wife did so to, motivated by a desire to see more of their grand children. Later Shane's family returned to live in London. Jim and his wife also followed to London but have since moved to Spain.

James Harrison is rightly profiled in Siggins and Fitzgerald "Ireland's 100 Cricket Greats."

Edward Liddle, May 2008

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