- Born 9 July 1935, Dublin
- Educated Sandford Park School; St Columba's College; Dublin University
- Occupation Solicitor
- Debut 6 July 1963 v Leicestershire at Sydney Parade.
- Cap Number 498
- Style Left-hand bat.
- Teams Dublin University, Phoenix
Donald Pratt, nephew of the great George McVeagh and son of an Irish Women's' Hockey International, was an outstanding all round games player. Besides cricket, he played squash for Ireland, being the country's No 1 for several years, was a tennis player of high quality, and was a member of 1st XI Hockey sides both for Dublin University, and, later, for the highly regarded Three Rock Rovers.
As a batsman, Donald was determinedly, and supremely, unorthodox. His technique was the despair of coaches, but he had a wonderful eye, strong wrists and was quick on his feet. These attributes, which made him such a good squash player, turned him into a formidable opponent at the crease. Strongly favouring the leg side, but possessing a devastating straight drive - a danger to umpire and non striker alike - he "hit every ball extremely hard," as Tom Pryal remembered in "The Phoenix Cricket Club 1830 - 1980."
He was also a brilliant field, but, "a danger to all who dared play against him," wrote Mike Halliday in "Dublin University Cricket Club: A Pictorial History." A fast mover over the outfield, his throw, from any part of the ground was low and fast, putting, "batsmen and fielders in danger as much as the stumps," (Pryal). He once brought a closely fought league match between the University and Malahide to a premature conclusion by knocking out the seasiders No 11, the non striker, with just such a return.
A successful schoolboy cricketer, Donald took some time to gain a regular place in the University XI and was only moderately successful thereafter, scoring just two competitive 50s. However, when he began to appear regularly for Phoenix, his fortunes changed. The decade was, at times, a somewhat drab one in Dublin cricket and a disastrous period for the once mighty Phoenix, who did not win a single senior trophy. Through all this Donald, in Tom Pryal's words, "stood out like a beacon."
Though his two years of club captaincy were no more successful than those of his team-mates, his batting made Phoenix matches exciting and enjoyable to watch. He aggregated 2880 runs at 32.00. His average was, at the time of his retirement, exceeded by only two other Phoenix players, both with considerable English first class experience, JWFA Crawford and EL Kidd. Only they, with 186 and 174 respectively, and Jim Pigot (194) had exceeded Donald's highest score of 149. It was thus no surprise, when 1963, found him, a late replacement in the Irish team v Leicestershire at Sydney Parade, under the captaincy of Alec O'Riordan. His international career was to prove, perhaps inevitably, brief spectacular and unpredictable.
His time in the Irish side was brief, lasting only until 1966, during which time he played 10 matches scoring 282 runs at 16.58, a rather poor return for one of his talent, but, considering the way he almost always played, perhaps not unsurprising. He did, however play three remarkable innings, two of which were spectacular and one which was unpredictable. As already mentioned, he came into the Irish side as a replacement against Leicestershire, with the full county side on show, for a two day match at Sydney Parade, in early July 1963. Rain restricted proceedings and both sides declared their first innings just past three figures, Donald's share having been 4. Ireland declared again on 161-5, having been faltering against the off spin of John Savage until Donald came in at 100-6. Derek Scott in Wisden 1964, described what happened, "DM Pratt... playing his first match for Ireland...scored 40 not out and hit JS Savage for three 6s and two 4s in one over; the unscored off ball hit the non striker a resounding thwack. " Ireland lost with 15 minutes left, having declared again. Donald's innings had set up the match which was drifting and ensured that, in Derek Scott's words, "this mach was god fun."
At the end of the month, Donald was at it again. Scotland were the opposition at Beechgrove, a new venue. The weather was superb, unfortunately the pitch was not. Donald made a first innings duck, one of the six wickets to fall to fast medium bowler Charlie Hogan who took a third of his total haul of first class wickets in this match. However 125 looked a good score when Ireland's opening bowlers O'Riordan and Noel Ferguson shot the visitors out for 65, with the aid of two runouts and a retired hurt. Batting again Ireland lost 4 for 43, before Donald arrived at the wicket and were 50-7, Hogan's opening partner, John Wilson, having taken four wickets in nine balls. The Phoenix man proceeded to play the deciding innings of the match. Recording the feat for posterity, Wisden reported, "Pratt adopted a policy of aggression and hit two sixes and six 4s." He made exactly 50, inspiring fellow uncomplicated left hander, Ferguson, to hit in a similar manner. Noel reached 37*, as the pair put on 83 for the 8th wicket. The match was out of Scotland's reach, a fact confirmed by Scott Huey, who, encouraged by local supporters, took 6-13 to see Ireland home by 131 runs.
The following season rain and fixture problems meant that Ireland only got onto the field for one match, an exciting draw with MCC at Castle Avenue. They did so under a new captain, Donald who, in a move by the selectors, which may have surprised even him, took over the leadership from O'Riordan, promoted over the heads of several more experienced players.
He was still in charge the following summer, 1965, when New Zealand, at the end of their English tour, came to Ormeau for a three-day match. This was not a particularly outstanding Kiwi side, they lost the Test series 3 - 0, but they were no longer the push over for England that they had once been. In helpful conditions their pace attack, headed by future leading administrator Fred Cameron, soon had Ireland in trouble. Until Donald came in at 32-4, it seemed that Tom McCloy's 15 would be the only double figure score. Donald played a splendid but uncharacteristic innings. There were a few leg side heaves, which the denizens of Phoenix Park would have hailed as vintage DMP, but he batted in a most responsible manner, showing a previously unrevealed defensive technique, which must have startled his critics.
Dougie Goodwin helped him add 55 for the 8th wicket. After he left, Donald fell in a more typical manner, stumped off leg spinner Graham Vivian for a 139 minute 58. For a while Ireland's pace attack of O'Riordan and Goodwin did well, reducing New Zealand to 138-8, but then the sun came out and the great Bert Sutcliffe, in the final innings of his first class career, ensured that spectators would have more than one left hander's innings to remember, making a superb 102. New Zealand won by 10 wickets, as Ireland collapsed again. Donald (13) was one of four to reach double figures, but this time there was to be no noteworthy performance to report. Later that season he saw his side humiliated by Scotland at Sydney Parade, but showed enterprising leadership in a well contested rain affected draw with Hampshire. In the first innings of this match, he hit a typically belligerent 22, falling in an attempt to dominate leg spinner Alan Wassel.
He remained captain until after the Middlesex match of 1966 when he was replaced by Scott Huey. For all his courageous and enterprising batting, he never presided over an Irish victory and the change was, unlike his appointment, not unexpected. At the end of the season he lost his place in the side, when he was no longer captain, his potential and periodic brilliance was no longer enough to justify selection. His critics no doubt felt justified. This writer remains grateful to have seen Donald Montague McVeagh Pratt at his best for Phoenix and Ireland. Had he been born in a different time, what a Twenty20 batsman he would have been!
Edward Liddle, April 2008