- Born 8 December 1964 Belfast
- Educated Lurgan College
- Occupation Fitness Instructor, Press Assistant, Cricketer
- Debut 16 June 1990 v MCC at Coleraine
- Cap Number 578
- Style Right-hand bat, right arm medium pace
- Teams Lurgan, Waringstown, Gloucestershire U 25, North Down Strabane, Glendermott, Laurelvale, Coleraine, Millpark, Donaghcloney, Victoria
Charlie McCrum - like his elder brother Paul a man of many clubs - was, when at the top of his game, among the best all rounders in Ireland. Batting was his strongest suit, a free scoring upper order player, he was probably at his best taking first strike, though he was rarely seen in this role for Ireland. As a bowler, he was a most effective medium pacer, capable of destructive spells, but also an excellent break bowler who could be relied on for 10 to 12 tight overs in limited overs contests.
Already a senior cricketer, he first came to a wider notice for the Irish Schools against their Welsh counterparts at Pontarddulas in 1983, having had a relatively quiet debut at Park Avenue the previous year. Now playing at home Wales totalled 377-6, with two batsmen reaching the nineties and future Glamorgan all rounder Mike Cann making 84. Ireland replied with 253, Charlie, at 3, hitting a hard earned 38. Eventually, the visitors chased an improbable target of 379 to win against an attack including future Test man Stewart Watkin. Consistent batting all the way down the order saw them reach their task with 8 overs to spare, Charlie striking a typically aggressive 65 before being caught off Cann's off spin. He also did well in two other age group encounters that year. After several useful knocks for Ulster Country in the U19 Esso Cup, he finished at Downpatrick with 91 in a high scoring draw against South Leinster.
Charlie was thus a member of the Irish squad which played in Bermuda in that year's Youth Tournament. In a side led by Alan Lewis, Charlie totalled 148 runs at 24.66, with important contributions in three matches. Against Denmark, in a match lost by 3 wickets, Charlie and Michael Rea added 88 for the first wicket, Charlie making exactly 50, but Ireland mustered only 180. Against the Netherlands, Ireland won by 9 wickets, with Rea and Davy Dennison, a player whom Charlie was always greatly to admire, the batting heroes. Charlie, however, had helped the Bangor man blunt the attack, contributing 29 to a first wicket stand of 58. Ireland's most impressive victory was their 6 wicket win over England North. Again bearing the brunt of the pace attack, Charlie was third out at 74,having made 38. Dennison again rose to the occasion with a magnificent 84*.
One other age limit match should be noted, though Charlie, through no fault of his own, was given little chance to reveal his talents. In 1985, he played for Gloucestershire U 25 in the 40 over Warwick Pool competition against a Worcestershire side including four who later played for England. Gloucestershire could manage only 151-4 from their allocation, the left arm spin of Richard Illingworth tying them down. Charlie, who might have had something to say about that with his bat, was down at 9 in the order so never got in. Worcestershire then romped home with Graeme Hick, aged 18 years and 2 days, making 65. Charlie was more economical than most, finishing with 4-1-20-0.
His club career was or - as he was still playing last (2010) season - is distinguished by both by its longevity and the amount of teams he has represented. Fully to describe his deeds from The Lawn to The Rectory Field by way of Comber, Cyprus and Goa, would take a whole book. Thus we must concentrate on a few highlights, even if this means, for example, making only passing reference to his seasons with Glendermott, where - on his first association with the Club - he scored 404 runs in the month of June 2001 alone, with an average of over 200, and a big hundred to his credit. He returned there in 2009, making an undefeated 99 in a relegation saving knock against Coleraine and setting up a nail biting 8 run victory. Nor can we more than pass by his seasons with Strabane, when he scored heavily, besides being a key member of the side which won the Schweppes Irish Senior Cup in 1998. We should also remember his return towards his roots to captain Laurelvale in 2007 and 2008, scoring a brilliant 92 in an Ulster Shield match against Creevedonnell as his side just failed to chase down a target of 278.
He played in five NCU Cup Finals, four with North Down and one with Waringstown, collecting two winners. medals and taking part in one epic tie. He scored 406 runs in these matches with five 50s, besides taking 17 wickets at 20.29. He also appeared in five Irish Senior Cup Finals being on the winning side on each occasion.
His first final saw his team, Waringstown record comfortable win over Lurgan with Charlie making 59 in the second innings. A close encounter between Waringstown and Lurgan in 1987 saw the villagers emerge victorious by 27 runs, Charlie was one of the batting successes of the match but had, by this time, joined Lurgan, together with brother Paul who was captain. Charlie made 61 and 35 but fine batting by Davy Dennison and a startling Lurgan second innings collapse saw his team condemned to the runners up spot. In 1990 the brothers joined North Down, a move widely welcomed at The Green, but viewed in a slightly less friendly light elsewhere. The following season saw Charlie play a leading role in the so called "Professionals Final" at The Meadow where the deeds of New Zealander Michael Clarke, for North Down and Pakistani Akram Raza for Woodvale, added to glorious weather made for a memorable match. However Charlie, among the local players was outstanding, his scores of 60 and 65 being essential in North Down's ultimately match winning totals.
After suffering defeat at the hands of Waringstown - Paul was back briefly at the village - in 1993, North Down and Charlie, now reinforced once more by big brother, were back in the Final in 1994, when they and Lisburn fought out one of the greatest matches in the competition's long history. The brothers batted well in the Comber side's first innings, with Charlie making 58 and, eventually, were able to set Lisburn 206 to win. There was all to play for when Charlie began the last over. With a no ball a wicket and a run out in an over as dramatic as any ever seen in a Gillette or Nat West final at Lord's, the match ended in a tie, the only one ever recorded in the Final since the tournament's inception.
Charlie also won five Irish Senior Cup Medals beginning with Waringstown in 1983, followed by Lurgan's commanding win over North Down five years later. With the Comber side, he had a key role in two triumphs. Against Brigade at Rathmines in 1993, the match being what Peter O'Reilly in The Irish Times called " a drab affair", he was man of the match, his 87 seeing North Down to a comfortable 7 wicket victory. He was closely involved again at The Green two years later when a 100 by Paul enabled North Down to set Bready a target of 228. Memories of the 1993 NCU Cup Final returned as Charlie, who had earlier run himself out for 9, began the last over to Alan Rutherford. Two were needed off the last ball but -as Ian Callender recorded, "Charlie McCrum's last ball was unerringly straight under great pressure." Victory by 1 run and Paul was man of the match too complete family rejoicing. He was also, as already mentioned on the winning side when Mark Gillespie lifted the Cup for Strabane in 1998. However Charlie's part had been slight, having retired hurt at 17, he was unable to bowl. His main contribution to their success had come in the 3rd Round against Glendermott, when his 109 and 3-18 had brought about a convincing victory.
His other deeds for North Down, where he stayed for seven seasons, should be briefly mentioned. He headed the batting from 1991 to 1995 apart for 1992 when he gave way to Robin Haire. He also headed the bowling in1990, 1992 and 1993, before Paul took over for two seasons. The Jack Bowden Cup for the leading all rounder in the NCU area was his form 1991 to 93. In the last named year, he was, according to the Irish Cricket Annual, "Arguably the best all rounder in Ireland." As though his league and cup commitments were not enough, he has always inconstant demands for tours, the sub continent having been the scene of a typical McCrum hundred.
In an interprovincial career which, spread over 18 seasons, saw him play for three teams, Charlie scored almost 1250 runs at an average of just under 30 and also had several notable bowling performances, including 4-19 against Munster at Ormeau in 1990 and 5-45 against Ulster Country at The Green in 1992, which was a remarkable year for him in the competition.
His first big innings came in June 1985 when he made 91 putting on almost with Davy Dennison (88) for the first wicket. against Ulster Town at The Green. John Elder eventually removed them both but was unable to save his side from a 50 run defeat. Charlie also had a good all round game against North Leinster at New Forge. The visitors raced to 300-6 with the imperious Alf Masood making 178, mastering all the bowlers save Charlie who took 3-36. Then Country forced a draw with Dennison and Charlie again posting a three figure first wicket partnership. Davy made 112 and Charlie had reached 68 before he was caught off Matt Dwyer. However his golden season with the bat came in 1992 by which time he was playing for Ulster Town. In three successive days in the North West he scored 64 against South Leinster - putting on 146 for the first wicket with Stephen Warke (98) - then 108 against North Leinster in an innings of 235-8 declared.
However the opposition more than replied in kind, winning by 8 wickets with the prolific Brian Gilmore also reaching 108 but "getting a star." On the third day Town faced Munster at Eglinton. The South Easterners stormed to 269 all out with Ted Williamson making a superb 121. Charlie led the reply striking 87 and being well supported by Robin Haire with 85. They recorded a 3 wicket win. They were at it again against the North West at Ballygomartin Road a few weeks later. Town reached 288/6 with Charlie making 66 playing second fiddle to Robin's 91. They still lost by 5 wickets despite Charlie being the best bowler with 2-72.
Charlie's Irish career has been seen as somewhat brief for a player of his talent. He, himself, regards its termination as one of the three worst moments of his cricket career. "I was statistically the top medium pace all rounder and number one in the fitness tests when he (Mike Hendrick) left me out of the squad" (Profile on CricketEurope 3 December 2008). Charlie's second match - against Scotland at Forthill, Broughty Ferry in 1992, was one of his best. Batting first the hosts made an impressive 390-6 declared. Charlie, sharing the new ball with Paul, was most impressive returning analysis of 18-1-57-3. He removed Nos 3, 4 and 7 in the order. When Ireland batted 5 wickets had fallen for 164 when Charlie joined Michael Rea. The latter fell for a classical 89 when they had added 51, then Charlie became the dominant force in the innings. Making 70 in 102 minutes, he hit twelve 4s.
In the second innings, as Ireland chased an unlikely 314, he reached 39 off 68 balls in 73 minutes before he was stumped off former Northants off spinner Jim Govan, having put on 80 for the 6th with Alan Lewis. Ireland forced a draw on 276-8, Lewis undefeated with 122 to his name. Later in the summer Charlie had two good innings in one day matches v the England Amateur XI. On the first of two successive days, he made 38 as Ireland chased 213, Charlie having disposed of former Kent wicket keeper/batsman Stewart Watertton. They were, however, dismissed for 182, the main damage being done by leg spinner Mel Hussein, brother of Nasser.
The following summer saw what Charlie regarded as one of his best innings for Ireland against Yorkshire in a Nat West First Round tie at Headingley. Batting first the County totalled 272-4. Ireland were never in the hunt but batted out their overs to finish on 187-5.Charlie, a late replacement for Neil Doak "proved that his recall was more than justified" coming in at 96-4 and helped Stephen Warke (64) stave off a possible collapse, adding 75 for the 5th wicket. Facing an attack including Peter Jarvis, Darren Gough and Craig White as well as two very useful county bowlers in Peter Hartley and Mark Robinson he finished with 39*. A good match as he was also " the pick of the Irish bowlers in his 12 overs of accurate medium pace."
He was again to the fore against Test bowlers when facing Barbados at The Green a week later. Coming in at 2-1, he hit a most impressive 49 off 79 balls in 92 minutes, including six boundaries, before he was leg before to the ageing but still formidable Joel Garner. His bowling was again seen to good advantage in the Triple Crown Match with England Amateurs at Edgbaston later in the season. Ireland had made an eminently gettable 194/5 off their allocated overs with Charlie contributing 17. England were cruising home on 175-6 when Charlie, previously removed from the attack after an inaccurate fourth over was brought back by Warke who had nowhere else to go. Echoing the feat of Ian Botham at the same ground 12 years earlier, he took 4 wickets for 1 run in 7 balls leaving Ireland were victorious by 13 runs.
Charlie's last appearances for Ireland came in the ICC Trophy in Nairobi the following February, a competition in which Ireland finished 7th thus failing to qualify for the World Cup. Thus against Gibraltar, his bowling was seen to great effect as, in a rain interrupted spell, he took 4-16 in 8 overs ensuring that Ireland were set a simple task which Lewis ensured they accomplished. Charlie was Man of the Match. He also batted well in the defeat by Bermuda though the result ensured that Ireland would not be seen on the wider stage. Charlie came in at 76-5 and was 8th out at 199 having made a commanding 54 off 79 balls. Unfortunately the final score 202 was never going to be enough to contain Bermuda.
Edward Liddle, October 2010