- Born 6 August 1889, Dublin
- Died 29 March 1972, Wandsworth Common, London
- Educated Mountjoy School, Dublin; Dublin University
- Occupation School teacher
- Debut 29 August 1912 v Scotland at Rathmines
- Cap Number 267
- Style Right-hand bat, left arm fast medium
- Teams Dublin University, Leinster
Basil Ward was a very good opening bowler, arguably the best fastish left armer seen in Irish Cricket with the notable exception of Alec O'Riordan. Patrick Hone, a shrewd observer of a player, if not always a fully accurate historian, described him as having, "A lovely rhythmic action, shortest run up and delivery all in one piece." His main ball was an inswinger which, after pitching cut away towards the slips, compelling a shot and often finding either the off stump or an edge. He varied this with one which held its line, and, if pitched short, would rear nastily into the batsman's body.
A slim fair-haired man, who was undoubtedly the best cricketer ever produced by Mountjoy School, which, though now defunct, formed the nucleus of Dublin's Mount Temple Comprehensive, Ward entered Dublin University in 1908, but did not play regularly for the XI until 1912, though he did appear in senior cricket for the Leinster Club. In 1912 he joined one of the strongest teams in the University's history under the captaincy of Dickie Lloyd. To bat there were Lloyd and his swashbuckling partner Harry Read backed up by the dour Westralian Pat Quinlan. Basil had a fellow future International pace bowler in WL Sproule, to share the new ball, while they were backed up by the Quinlan brothers - Pat at medium pace and the leg breaks of his elder brother, Bernard.
Basil took 94 wickets in 17 matches, including two hat tricks in the same innings against County Meath. The opposition the Club played was variable, including several military sides. As readers of these biographies will be aware, some of these teams were very weak, but others were of, at least, minor county standard. Not surprisingly, he won the first of his four Irish caps at the end of the summer: his Irish career, all of which was against Scotland is considered below. The following season saw him take a further 72 wickets. He played for Leinster in 1914 but was one of several former First XI players to return for the University season in 1919. However four of Basil's team mates of the 1913 side had made the supreme sacrifice.
He now formed a penetrating opening attack with the very accurate medium pacer "Wenty" Allen. This was the first season of the Leinster Senior League, mostly played over 2 innings. Basil, who took 112 wickets at 8.33 in all matches to give him a total in three seasons of 278, had 3 "5 fors" in the League while Allen did likewise. Though they were formidable away from home, it is possible that their success owed something to the College Park wicket. The ground had been requisitioned for OTC training during the War and, in Easter 1916, cavalrymen brought in to suppress the Rising, used it to graze their horses. The Club won 15 of their matches, drew three and finished third in the League. Otherwise their opposition continued to be much as it had been before the War. The following year, with the captaincy having passed from the autocratic machine gun officer AP Kelly to the more placid Old Clongowian, RW Power, the team remained strong but dropped two places in the League. Allen had four "5 fors," but the feat eluded Basil. However he showed outstanding form in other matches.
Derbyshire, by some distance the worst side in the County Championship that season, were defeated by 6 wickets. Allen took 8 in the first innings, but in the second, Basil and James Wills, another fast medium man, possibly the best bowler to hail from Co Mayo, hustled the visitors out for 68, leaving their batsmen a fairly simple task. There was, despite a somewhat similar result, a much closer fought encounter with Cambridge, who brought nine of the side which had drawn a rain ruined "Varsity Match" with Oxford, and filled one of the gaps with the Middlesex and Ireland Old Blue El Kidd. This powerful team was bowled out on a dry College Park wicket for 140, with Basil bowling magnificently to take 6-54. Alas, Cambridge also possessed a magnificent, Dublin educated, bowler. Leg spinner CS Marriott, a Lancastrian who had been sent to Armagh Royal School and St Columbas College for his health, and who 12 years later, at the age of 38 took 11 wickets in his only Test Match, snared 11-80 in helpful conditions. Only Kelly could cope with him. The Cambridge opener JCW Mac Bryan, who lived to become, at the time, England's oldest living Test Cricketer, made 99 and the visitors recorded a 6 wicket win.
Ward was also to record outstanding figures when the University played the Military of Ireland, for the last time. He having the remarkable match return of 18-94, with innings analysis of 9-54 and 9-40.
The War, and his decision to leave Ireland, meant that he only played four times for his country. It must be said that many less talented pacemen have played on many more occasions. His debut match at Rathmines is chiefly remembered for the remarkable leg break bowling of his fellow debutant WR Gregory, later to win posthumous fame as WB Yeats "Irish Airman." Gregory took 8-80 in Scotland's first innings. This, and an exciting finish which saw the visitors win by 3 runs, rather overshadowed Basil's performance. He was accurate but wicketless in the first innings, but had 3-17 in the second, cutting into the top order. In 1913 and 1914, Scotland were the only opposition Ireland faced. The 1913 match at Raeburn Place should have been won, a draw possibly resulting from a delayed declaration by Pat Hone. Basil, however, had a good match. He returned his best bowling figures for Ireland taking 4-46, including numbers 2, 3 and 4 in the order on a fast first-innings wicket. However he managed only two as the Scots batted out time in the second. 1914 saw another narrow Scots win with Basil again worrying the batsmen to take a brace of wickets in each innings. His last match, in 1920, was to prove wicketless, though his bowling was economical as usual.
After that season, he was seen no more in major matches in Ireland. One can only regret this and echo Hone's words, "It is a pity we did not see more of him in Irish Cricket."
As it was he took up a teaching appointment in London. One of his pupils was a boy called Geoffrey Whitelock, who many years later was to be one of those responsible for producing the massive Bibliography of Cricket, besides producing esoteric but fascinating pamphlets on topics such as 'Cricket in the writings of James Joyce,' of which there is as surprising amount! In a letter to the present writer in 1980, Whitelock recalled Ward as, "A kindly man who stimulated and encouraged our interest in cricket by example and by anecdotes." A historian or biographer of Irish cricket and its players can only regret that Ward never wrote these down. However his place in Irish Cricket history is assured, and in the history of Dublin University Cricket Club, on whose website Gerard Siggins has, deservedly, included him in their Best Ever XI.
Edward Liddle, November 2007