- Born 3 November 1842 Dublin
- Died 11 October 1928 Cobh, Co Cork
- Educated Cheltenham College, Dublin University
- Occupation Assistant Land Commissioner for Ireland
- Debut 4 June 1868 v MCC at Lord's
- Cap Number 104
- Style Right-hand batsman, slow right round arm
- Teams Cork City CC, Cork County, Na Shuler
William Hunt had a most unusual career. A very good slow round arm bowler, he was not in the XI at either Cheltenham College or Dublin University, though the former can be easily explained. A force in Cork cricket for almost thirty years, he played only once for Ireland, taking 7/17 at Lord's v MCC in 1868, but, though he was selected for the following match, he was unavailable, and, thereafter, never played again. The son of John Hunt, a Dublin barrister, he entered Cheltenham College, the family having some connections in the area, in the autumn of 1854, shortly after his elder brother John.
Their father died shortly afterwards, but the two boys remained at the College until 1858. John, who was to survive his brother by one year, became an Army officer. At this time the College XI only played matches against Marlborough, William not appearing in any played during his years at school. However, as he was only just sixteen when he left, this is not altogether surprising. It is, however possible, that he was able to benefit from the coaching provided at Cheltenham at the time, several members of the Lillywhite clan, all well versed in the art of bowling, being employed at the College around about this time.
Back in Dublin, where his mother Sarah still lived, William entered the University in 1860, but, as has already been pointed out, never appeared for the XI.
In Cork, he played first for the Cork City Club, where his team-mates included one John Joyce, whose younger son James was also a cricket enthusiast, but was better with a pen in his hands than a bat! William was also one of the founders of the famous Cork County club in 1874, though he had already begun playing against Cork sides, annually, for Na Shuler in their late summer tours. He sometimes chose to mask his identity under the not very difficult to penetrate alias of W Stopford. Most of his successes in Cork cricket were with the ball, but he had at least one spectacular innings as a batsman. In 1866 he hit the County's first recorded century 103 v XX11 Sergeants of the Garrison. It is to be assumed that the bowling was not very strong. Perhaps a better measure of William as a batsman was in 1869, when, playing for the "Shulers" v XVI of Cork County, he struck a brisk 74* at 10, having a substantial 9th wicket stand with WF Maitland (110), before the latter was run out. Maitland was a Cricket and Athletics Oxford Blue, a noted high and long jumper. He was later MP for Breconshire for twenty years. In this match, which the visitors won by an innings and 124 runs he took 15 wickets with his right arm slows, which often lured unwary batsmen to their doom, by being pitched so wide that no stroke was offered until too late, perhaps "Gatting balls" of the Victorian era.
William had 6 wickets in the match, but had many other more impressive performances. Thus on the Na Shuler tour of 1875, he took 13 wickets in odds matches against Lord Bernard's XIV and Lord Bandon's XV. He was rarely without a good haul in such matches, also chipping in with the bat on occasions to produce a valuable all round performance. Thus against Cork County at The Mardyke in 1877, in a match in which rain prevented what might well have been an interesting finish, allowing the hosts only one innings, batting at 7, he helped former Oxford Blue William Blacker, rescue the Shuler innings with a hard hit 35, Blacker finished on 46*. Then, with some assistance form Leland Hone - who seems to have both bowled and kept wicket in the match - the two men shared the County wickets, to take a first innings lead of 41. Both failed in the second innings as rain intervened with the hosts requiring 141 to win.
His one match for Ireland v MCC at Lord's in June 1868, was a curious affair. Ireland went into the match with seven debutants, one of whom, Viscount Massereene, appears never to have turned up at the ground! Six of them, in company with two other members of the side, never appeared for Ireland again. After rain had curtailed the first day's play, Ireland were put out for 100, before William, on a hard wicket in hot weather, had the remarkable figures of 23-15-17-7, a feat of outstanding accuracy even when it is noted that 4 ball overs were in use. This gained a lead of 21 and, though Ireland collapsed again, MCC were then bowled out for 54, batting one short. William, unchanged this time, had only one wicket but his figures of 19-12-22-1, speak volumes for his accuracy. William Hone Snr and AJ McNeile took the bowling honours, but William was certainly man of the match, had such an award been presented.
Why he never played again remains one of Irish Cricket's unsolved mysteries. He was selected for the next two matches, for XXII of All Ireland v the All England XI in June, and against I Zingari towards the end of the summer. Unfortunately, he was not available for either. He was still playing two day cricket in Cork twenty years later, and his non appearance for the national side must remain a matter of regret and, for students of the Irish game, speculation.
I am indebted to Jill Barlow, Archivist of Cheltenham College, for valuable and much appreciated assistance.
Edward Liddle, August 2008