- Born 3 May 1939 Portarlington, Co Leix
- Educated Wesley College, Dublin
- Occupation Businessman
- Debut 26 July 1958 v Scotland at Cambusdoon, Ayr
- Cap Number 485
- Style Right-hand bat, right arm off breaks.
- Teams Pembroke
Ken Hope was a determined cricketer, who had two distinct careers in the game. He began as a highly promising off spinner, who forced his way into the Irish side, aged only 19. Then when apparently on the threshold of a long and productive time in this mode, he "completely lost the ability to bowl" Nothing loath, he reinvented himself as a batsman, regained, albeit very briefly, his Irish place, and, became one of the most consistent performers in Dublin Cricket for almost two decades.
Gaining a Leinster Schools' cap at Wesley College, he made his senior debut for Pembroke in 1955, and, two years later, was runner up in the O'Grady Cup, awarded to the leading bowler in the Leinster Cricket Union area. In the North v South match at Ormeau in 1958 he brought about a collapse in the North first innings loomed, taking the last five wickets, as the hosts declined from 114-5 to 145 all out. Only Larry Warke with 41, his highest score in the series, stood firm against him, though he, too, fell to the young Pembroke man in the end. Ken finished with the remarkable figures of 11.3-4-16-5. In the end, however, the match, like so many others in the series, petered out into a draw. In all for Pembroke, he was to take 262 wickets at 13.52. Had his career as a bowler been able to run its course, and, had this standard been maintained, he would have finished on a par with revered off spinners John Hill and Mike Halliday. His performances gained him his first Irish cap in 1958, at a tender age for a slow man. He did not take a wicket until his second season, but, despite having to share off spinning duties with Frank Fee, Ireland playing three spinners including Scott Huey, he impressed many judges with his length and accuracy.
His first wicket came against Scotland the following season, when the "auld Enemy" ran up 335-4 declared on a "belter" at College Park. The only batsman to fail to pass 30 was all rounder Douglas Barr, stumped off Ken by Walter Fawcett for a duck. All told Ken bowled well going for only 45 off 27 overs, against batting which included not only the inevitable Reverend James Aitcheson (190*), but future Kent and England captain Mike Denness. The match was a high scoring draw. Later in the summer, an extraordinarily dry and hot one, Ireland entertained Yorkshire at Ormeau. The hosts just held out for a draw in a two day fixture, but Ken took six wickets in the match. He had a four wicket haul in the first innings, dismissing doughty left hander Vic Wilson, who had toured Australia with Len Hutton's famous side in 1954/55, then cleaning up the tail. His two in the second knock were Wilson again, and Phil Sharpe, who would become a reliable England batsman in the next decade. Against the season's eventual County Champions, it was a highly regarded performance.
Before the end of the season he had added two even better known wickets to his haul. Ireland travelled to Grace Road to play Leicestershire, and, after a reasonable fist innings were overwhelmed, despite pleasant stroke play from Mike Stevenson and 225 minutes of Ken's clubmate, Stan Bergin at his most obdurate. Ken took 1/44 in 19 overs, the wicket being that of the captain, elegant left hander Willie Watson, who scored almost 26000 first class runs, and was best known for an epic, match saving 109 v Australia at Lord's in 1953, without which England would never have survived to win the Ashes that August.
Ken remained in the side for the MCC match at Lord's. The hosts were captained by Hutton and also included the great Australian all rounder Keith Miller, past his best but still a formidable opponent, when the mood took him. In hot weather, with "an outfield like glass," (Derek Scott), MCC won by 3 wickets in the penultimate over. Ken had four in the match, including Miller twice, unaided. He clean bowled the "giant" for 11 in the first innings and held a return catch for 55 in the second, when he also bowled the Maharajah of Baroda, the manager of that year's Indian tourists, for 18, and, (a more difficult wicket to take!) had the Northant's and former Australian all rounder George Tribe, lbw for 0. This was one of the few innings in which his economy rate slipped, but, as Derek Scott reported captain Larry Warke had indulged in, "some ambitious field placing."
The following year, at Whithaugh, Paisley saw his best figures for Ireland. A second innings 6-59, on a not over helpful wicket meant Ireland needed 164 in 120 minutes. They lost interest after early wickets tumbled. Ken, however, whose wickets included Aitchison, and long serving opener RHE Chisholm, had clearly won the honours.
Another good performance followed v Leicestershire at Ormeau. Rain restricted play to the second day, but he took 3 wickets including that of wicket keeper Ray Julian, later to become a long serving and, reputedly "bowler friendly," umpire. Ken played his final matches for Ireland, as a bowler, the following season, 1961. Leicestershire were taken on in mid May, which was far too early for such opponents.
Ireland were destroyed by the batting of Sri Lankan Stanley Jayashinghe (89), when, after collapsing for 89, they had reduced the County to 92-4. Ken did not escape lightly, his 9 overs costing 46 runs, but, maintaining his supremacy over future umpires, he had opening bat "Dickie" Bird caught by Rodney Bernstein for 33. What proved to be Ken's final match was a very boring draw with Scotland at The Mardyke in July. Ken bowled only 10 overs in the two innings, the bulk of the spinning work being done but left armer Barclay Wilson, but took one wicket, finishing where he had started by dismissing Douglas Barr. He never bowled a ball for Ireland again as the "yips," dreaded by all bowlers, struck. As Ken himself explained to Irish Cricket Magazine in August 1986, "I lost control in my delivery stride and found I was bowling round arm. I never got it back." So he turned, with considerable success to batting, having previously batted at 8 or lower for club and country.
In a career which lasted until 1991, but which became increasingly spasmodic after the early 1980s, he aggregated 10398 runs at 24.40. He usually opened the batting but was equally at home lower down. His sole century was worth 105 and he also hit 57 fifties. When he reached the five figure mark, he was, at the time, only the sixth to have achieved the feat. He won the Marchant Cup, for the leading batsman in Dublin cricket, with 712 runs at 50.85 in 1974. Four seasons previously, he had set what was then a club record with a season's total of 712. He also made 35 appearances for South Leinster in the Guinness Cup from its inception in 1966. He scored 705 runs at 24.31, with one century (106*) and three fifties. His average is on a par with those of batsmen of the calibre of Aubrey Finlay, Gerry Duffy and Pat Dineen.
He could claim to have been unlucky over his Irish recall. This came at the season's end v MCC at Castle Avenue in 1966. MCC won by 36 runs on a wicket helpful to seamers. Jack Bailey, future MCC Secretary, and a very good medium pacer, took 13/57 in the match. Ken, batting as low as 7 in the first innings, was leg before to Bailey for 0. In the second knock, when Ireland, needing only 129, collapsed on the third morning, he was left high and dry on 0*. Had this not been the last match of the season, he might very well have had another chance. Instead he was discarded. He continued as the figures quoted show, to bat consistently for club and province, and was surely deserving of another chance.
Edward Liddle, April 2008