|Born||4 May 1927 Lisburn, Co Antrim|
|Died||15 February 2014, Brisbane, Australia|
|Educated||Friends' School, Lisburn; RBAI; Queen's University, Belfast|
|Debut||23 July 1949 v Scotland at Ormeau|
|History||Herbie Martin, younger brother of the tragically short-lived paceman Tommy, was a tall, dark haired and strongly built batsman. He made his name as a middle order stroke maker, who sometimes opened, but subsequently, after academic research had taken him to Canada for two years, gained a reputation as a grafter, at the top of the order. Nevertheless he was more like Len Hutton and Vijay Merchant than Ken Barrington or Geoffrey Boycott. His elegance remained even in obdurate defence. He could still, when the occasion demanded, turn on all the old power and style. He was also a fine fieldsman, with one of the safest pair of hands in Irish cricket.|
First playing for Lisburn, the same year as his great friend Tom McCloy made his debut, he was, until emmigrating to Brisbane in 1972, rarely out of the side apart from the two seasons spent in Canada. Captain in 1953 and 1954, he helped Lisburn win 5 NCU Challenge Cups, besides one shared because of rain and also was in six League winning sides, again one title being shared. He was on the winning side in four NCU Challenge Cup Finals, taking a leading role in the 1961 defeat of Woodvale, though an 18 year-old spinner called Dermot Monteith also had a hand with match figures of 10-91. Winning the toss Woodvale, on a turning wicket struggled against "Monty" and Jack Bowden to reach 179 but Lisburn did no better being bowled out for 148 by off spinner Ken Kirkpatrick (8-43), Batting again Woodvale found the two left armers even harder work but were able to set the Wallace Park men 138 to win. They got them with 8 wickets to spare, thanks largely to Herbie's undefeated 52. In his review of the season's Irish Cricket in Wisden 1962, Derek Scott wrote that Martin was, "by far the outstanding batsman in Ireland.
Herbie scored three centuries in the competition, the highest of which 123 against Lurgan came in a first round match in 1965, when he and Tom McCloy (112) destroyed the Lurgan attack, enabling Lisburn to post a massive 389 before Monteith and Lawrence Hunter bowled them to victory by 274 runs. In 1961 he set his side on the path to the Final with an impressive knock of exactly 100 against Collegians. Together with Jack Bowden (50) he saw the Wallace Park side to an impressive 335 before Ray Hunter bowled his medium pacers effectively to take 5-12 routing the opposition for the unlucky number of 111. His other ton was in the Semi Final victory over Instonians in 1962, a high scoring contest if ever there was one. Batting first Lisburn reached a formidable looking 389, Hebie with 122 and Tom McCloy with 89 both being in top form. However the Old Boys rallied well Bobby Matier (104) and Dixon Rose (91) putting on 183 for the first wicket before Rose was run out. They finished, however, on 312 only John Hewitt providing much resistance after the openers had gone.
He made his international debut in 1949, and, altogether was to play 39 times scoring 1282 runs at 18.58. Some felt that more might have been forthcoming, but in a fairly lean time for Irish batting his figures stand up against his contemporaries, being, for example better than those of McCloy and Larry Warke and not far behind Stuart Pollock.
In only his third match for Ireland he top scored with a first innings 61 at number 6 against Nottinghamshire in a drawn match in College Park. He fell victim to the right arm all sorts of opening bat and humorist Charlie Harris, who, though he did not bowl regularly was to retire with 196 first class wickets to his credit. Herbie also top scored for Ireland v MCC on the occasion of his Lord's debut in 1955, with a second innings 32. Ireland collapsed against the three prong spin attack of Ian Bedford, once thought to be England's next great leg spinner, and the two off break bowlers "Jumbo " Jowett, who played fifty first class matches but was never on the winning side and AWH Mallett, perhaps better known as father of Rugby coach Nick. Herbie also took part in Ireland's two best partnerships in that match - a second innings, first wicket 33 with Warke and a third wicket 29 with Joe Caprani.
His highest score for Ireland came in the Scots match at Raeburn Place in 1956. The Edinburgh wicket was a batsman's paradise and the hosts passed 400, before declaring. Opening with Stan Bergin, Herbie had the lion's share of an opening stand of 148 before being run out for 88. When batting with the Pembroke man it was always wise to remember that no one in Irish cricket at the time, with the possible exception of Louis Jacobson, was better at counting to six! The match was drawn with Bergin and footballing legend Noel Cantwell playing out time.
Herbie also featured with Bergin in the Leicestershire match at Grace Road in 1959. Ireland were outclassed, with only Cambridge Blue Mike Stevenson achieving dominance with 80. Herbie, in the first innings however, made another 61 at 3, adding 91 for the second with Bergin who, in this match gave a fairly good imitation of immobility, batting for almost seven hours for a match aggregate of 54. In the second innings, they put on 26, of which Herbie's share was 21!
Three other matches may be referred to here. In 1962 Ireland had an evenly contested, but rain ruined two day draw with Pakistan. The visitors were hardly a power in the Test Match world at the time but then Jamaica was a long way off as well! Thus Herbie's innings, again at 3, of 54, out of 167, and 39 out of 112-8 declared, both top scores, were notable knocks against attack including the great medium pacer Fazal Mahmood, said to be on a par with Alec Bedser as a bowler of his kind, and high class leg spinner Intikhab Alam, a future Pakistan captain. Herbie, however fell to the paceman Antao De Souza, one of four Christians to have played for Pakistan, in the first innings and was run out in the second. Incidentally a further member of the visitors attack was the off spinner Javed Akthar, later to become a somewhat controversial Test umpire! Derek Scott, in his report on the Irish season for Wisden, commented that, "H Martin again distinguished himself with the bat." Again, because Herbie had come to College Park fresh from a second innings half century against the Scots at Greenock. He had been run out for 0 in the first knock; this website does not offer a prize for readers who can identify his partner. However in that second innings, Wisden was able to comment that, "A painstaking second wicket partnership between Bergin and Martin gave Ireland a sound start when they batted a second time." Scotland still won, but, hopefully, friendly relations between Wallace Park and Sydney Parade were restored.
The following season the mighty West Indian side came to Ireland for two one day matches. No Irish batsman got in at Ormeau where rain intervened to save the Irish attack from utter rout, but on a rough and green College Park wicket, Charlie Griffith ripped Ireland apart, but the Windies also fared badly against the home attack, leaving Ireland to bat out time, Wickets fell again, but this writers abiding memory of the day is not of the fearsome pace of Griffith, or Ian Lewis taking 41 off Valentine, but of Herbie, in watery sunshine, on a far from warm June evening, batting serenely, against less than threatening bowling, it must be said, but clearly showing his class.
Away from cricket, Herbie was a talented sportsman in other fields. A good hockey player in his youth, he kept goal for the Irish Schools but later turned his attention to rugby. A back row forward he played for Instonians and represented Ulster. He played in one Irish Trial, but like Larry Warke, a cap eluded him.
In the world of work, Herbie wasis one of the very few Irish international cricketers to have been awarded a PhD. A physicist, his primary and research degrees were from Queen's University but his expertise took him elsewhere. His sojourn in Canada has already been mentioned as has his departure to Australia in 1972, This was to take up an academic appointment at the University of Queensland. Though retired, Dr Herbert Martin continued to live in Australia.
He is, deservedly, profiled in Siggins and Fitzgerald, "Ireland's 100 Cricket Greats."
Edward Liddle, March 2008 - updated February 2014
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