- Born 20 April 1965, Banbridge, Co Down
- Educated Banbridge Academy; Queen's University, Belfast
- Occupation Specialist In Rotational Moulding
- Debut 21 August 1990 v Gloucestershire at Bristol
- Cap Number 573
- Style Left hand bat; right arm medium fast
- Teams Waringstown
Alvin Spence, tall and strongly built, was a first rate all round cricketer. As a left hand batsman, generally in the upper middle order for Waringstown, he was at his best attacking, as several spectacular innings reveal. As a bowler, delivering the ball at what he described as "medium pace perhaps a bit faster", his height could make him an awkward proposition. He was equally at home with the new ball or as a first or second change.
Well known in schools' cricket and as an up and coming Waringstown player, Alvin used the Interprovincial U19 Tournament to display his talents on a wider stage. Thus in 1983 against North Leinster at Cabra, he made 81 in a closely fought draw. The hosts batted first and totalled 201-9 to which Ulster Country replied with 190-9. Alvin, topscoring with 81, was probably the difference between a creditworthy draw and defeat. The main threat from the attack had been Willie Dwyer, younger brother of Matt, who had 3-29. The following summer, Alvin was one of the batting successes of the competition. Against South Leinster at Claremont Road h hit a brilliant 105 as the visitors made 223, but the rain came when SL were 83-2 with Angus Dunlop on 30. With an innings of 46 in the "Local Derby" against Ulster Town, Alvin finished third in the overall averages at 44.00, just shading Dunlop and Alan Rutherford.
While studying Mechanical Engineering at Queen's University, he first appeared in major representative cricket, for the Irish Universities in the annual British Universities tournaments of 1985 and 1986. Here it would be true to say that he performed consistently though he was not outstanding. For example, in the former year, he topscored with 28 against English Universities Roses, but this was not enough to prevent an Irish defeat by 76 runs. The following season he played an important role in an 8 wickets victory over the Welsh Universities, who, batting first, could only manage 104-9 off their 50 overs. Opening the attack, Alvin led the way in accuracy, finishing with the figures of 10-2-25-2.
However his best match came in late August of that year when they played against Irish Universities 1982, a strong and experienced looking side. Alvin came in at No 6 when, his side - batting first - were 115-4. Together with Marshal Kilgore he then put on 152 for the 5th wicket in 66 minutes. Alvin, facing 53 balls and hitting eleven 4s, made 71, while the slightly more circumspect Kilgore reached an impressive 76. Facing a total of 283-4, the "Old Boys" got off to a good start with Philip Moynan and David Pigot (The Third!) each making 61. However Alvin ensured that their run chase would fail by dismissing the captain, the dangerous John Prior, for 6. They finished on 228-6.
Alvin's best cricket was always played for Waringstown, where, having come up through age group sides he had established his place by the mid 1980s and was to be a key member of the famous "Dream Team" which won the Treble in 1992. He scored 5602 runs for the Villagers in senior cricket at an average of 28.73, besides taking 268 wickets at 19.33 and holding a little matter of 70 catches.
He hit four centuries at this level, the highest being 114 against relegation bound RUC at The Lawn in 1995, a powerful and spectacular knock, including seventeen 4s and one 6. That summer he also made an undefeated 104 against Lisburn at Wallace Park hitting ten 4s and four 6s. However if his three figure scores were to be judged by sixes hit, his outstanding innings would have been his first senior hundred which came against Ballymena in 1987 at Eaton Park including no less than six boundary clearing shots, as well as eight 4s. His other three figure knock came in the Treble year of 1992, a superb 103 against Railway Union in the Irish Senior Cup, helping the Villagers on the way towards the Final with a superb 103, including ten 4s and five 6s. The match was won by 142 runs.
He also played a useful role in the Final where the opposition was provided by Sion Mills. Unfortunately the battle of the Two Villages was fought out at Observatory Lane, Rathmines, something of a foreign field for both teams and their supporters. Waringstown batted first and owed much to Alvin (35) and Brian Sturgeon (41) who enabled them to reach a far from convincing 171-5. However the Co Tyrone men found this beyond their means, Brian taking 3-24 to be Man of the Match.
Otherwise some of Alvin's best performances were seen in the NCU Challenge Cup. Pride of place should go to his Man of the Match game in the 1995 Final against Lurgan at The Meadow. He began by dismissing the Lurgan openers, reducing their side to 7-2. He later claimed the wicket of Alan Johnston (46) who had led the recovery as Lurgan managed 142-7. However Waringstown gained a first innings lead of 34, then, opening the attack once more "Spence surged through the early batsmen." (Clarence Hiles). He had the excellent analysis of 7.1-3-12-4, though Lurgan were able to post 154, thanks to a typically resilient innings from Ross McCollum. The Villagers won by 8 wickets and few argued with Alvin's award.
Among several other notable performances was a good all round one against Laurelvale in the Second Round in 1989. Laurelvale had batted first, Alvin taking 3-34 as they were dismissed for 173. Any hopes they may have had of winning were ended by Alvin with 69, well supported by a half century from the ageless Ivan Anderson. Unfortunately, Waringstown went out at the Quarter Final stage, as they did the following year after Alvin had propelled them to a 7 wickets Second Round win over Ballymena, taking 4-16 and then making 20* as the Villagers knocked off the 76 runs required.
One of Alvin's best performance in senior interprovincial matches was achieved against South Leinster, appropriately at The Lawn, in 1990. The visitors won the toss and made a useful 224, Alvin coming on first change, bowled with accuracy and penetration to return the figures of 21-3-47-5, including Alan Lewis, Mark Nulty and Johnny Byrne in his haul. It was, in fact, very much a home match for the hosts' attack. Apart from Alvin, the bowlers used were Paul McCrum, the Nelson brothers and Garfield Harrison. In the Waringstown run chase Alvin came to the wicket at 142-4, the game still in the balance. With an undefeated 43, he saw his side to a 4 wickets victory.
His Irish debut came in 1989, preceded by a match for the ICU President's XI against Mashonaland at Phoenix. In an encounter which was closely fought until the visitors' second innings when they had little difficulty in recording a 7 wickets victory, Alvin had two useful knocks. Batting at 5 in the first, he made 27, though the batting honours belonged to Michael Rea and Ivan McMichael who both passed 70. The Zimbabweans gained a first innings of 14, then as Ireland sought quick runs for a declaration, Alvin made 33, second top score to Rea's 46 before a declaration at 173-9.
Alvin's four matches for Ireland did not bring him the success that many hoped. However he was sometimes placed low in the order and it could be argued that his bowling was under used. His debut against Gloucestershire at Bristol during Ireland's late summer tour, saw him not used until the end of the county's first innings when he speedily removed fastman David "Syd " Lawrence to finish with 1-27 from 4 overs. In his only innings in the match he was bowled by "Syd" for 6 as the big paceman, defied by a superb 82* from Alan Lewis, tore through the Irish second innings batting to give the hosts a comfortable win.
Against MCC at Lord's he came in at 7 when Ireland were 146-5 in reply to MCC's 238-6 of which Martin Crowe had contributed a stylish 68. Ireland had faltered after a good start but Alvin with 18* helped Garfield Harrison add an unbroken 42 to allow a challenging declaration. When MCC batted again he had the wickets of openers Martin Robinson and Andy Goldsmith after a big stand. It was a useful duo, both having considerable county 2nd XI experience. Ireland had to hold out for a draw in their second innings, Alvin's contribution being 11 before he was stumped by future Test umpire George Sharp off off-spinner Mark Allbrook a Cambridge Blue who also played a number of matches for Nottinghamshire, taking 76 first class wickets.
Discarded for the Welsh match at the end of the tour Alvin reappeared in the second of two one day games against Worcestershire at Castle Avenue the following season. After the county had posted 304 from 50 overs, Alan Nelson taking 4-81, Alvin at 7 was second top scorer in the Irish reply. He made 22, adding 58 for the 6th wicket with Stephen Smyth before being caught off slow left armer Richard Stemp who played for three counties during his career taking 385 first class wickets. Alvin's scorecard entry, c sub concealed the fact that the fielder was John Hoey, brother of Conor, and helping the visitors out when they had two men off the field.
Alvin did not play for Ireland again. it might well be argued that, while he had not exactly cemented his place, he had surely done enough to merit a further chance with more responsibility. AS we have seen he still had some of his best years ahead of him.
Having developed an interest in rotational moulding while at university, Alvin eventually made the decision to pursue his career in the United States. This choice was understood but widely regretted. He has been very successful, now being Vice President of Engineering for Centro Inc based in Iowa. A considerable amount of cricket is to be found in "the land of opportunity" but none played, since his arrival there, has included Alvin George Spence. However cricket followers at The Lawn and beyond have their memories to sustain them.
Edward Liddle, December 2010, updated February 2012