- Born 30 October 1838, Patna, Bahar, India
- Died 14 May 1916, Westminster
- Educated Eton College
- Occupation Army Officer
- Debut 11 September 1867 v I Zingari at Vice Regal Ground, Phoenix Park
- Cap Number 90
- Style Right-hand bat, Slow Right Arm Round Arm
- Teams Gentlemen of Kent, Gentlemen of the MCC, Knickerbockers, Sandymount, Gentlemen of England, 85th Regiment
Christopher Oldfield came from an old English family entitled to its own Coat of Arms. He was a very accurate and effective round arm bowler but an almost negligible batsman, who was only not to be seen at number 11 in a 12-a-side match. He was in his twenties before he played in any match of note, when, in 1861, he turned out for the Knickerbockers, a strong amateur wandering side. The South Wales Club, their opponents, were also a good team and often ignored geography to reinforce their ranks. On this occasion they were, as was often the case, assisted by EM Grace. Oldfield actually managed to make 10 in the first innings of this 12-a-side match. Promoted to 10 in the second innings he redeemed his reputation by falling to EM for a duck! However his side won by 2 wickets, in no small way due to his taking 5-23 in the second innings.
Between 1864 and 1873, he played in 4 first class matches scoring 24 runs at 4.80 and taking 9 wickets for 137. His accuracy was astonishing, his strike rate less so. His best bowling came in the first of these matches, when he represented the Gentlemen of Kent v The Gentlemen of the MCC in the Canterbury Festival of 1864. The match was 12-a-side but has always been seen as first class. He collected a pair in each innings but with fellow Army man and future Irish player, Thomas Harris, he bowled his side to victory. Harris had 6-61 in the first innings, Oldfield 4-45 in the second. His most renowned wicket though was his single first innings one, that of CF Buller, who was a dominant force in English Cricket, and on I Zingari tours of Ireland, until his private life, which would cover the tabloids today, drove him from the game. Oldfield was also able to show his true batting form in this match, returning a pair.
The following year he played for the Gentlemen of England v a similarly amateur combination from Middlesex at the long disappeared Cattle Market Ground at Islington. Here his team won by 3 wickets. Opening the bowling with EM Grace, he had the remarkable figures of 34-19-37-3. Even allowing for the 4 ball over, this was a remarkable feat of accuracy. Further he took the wickets of the first three in the order. His remaining two first class matches would not be particularly noteworthy, were it not for the fact that in his last first class outing, he made what was, by far, his highest first class score. Changing sides, he played for the Gentlemen of MCC v their Kent counterparts at Canterbury. Mirabile dictu, coming in at number 12, he made no less than 19 runs! Alas his team won by 9 wickets, so he had no further chance to exhibit his new found shills.
Meanwhile, qualifying as part of the military garrison, he had made three appearances for Ireland, though as the first of these was in a 12-a-side match - with I Zingari in 1866 - it does not feature in his statistics on this site. He made an impressive start - with the ball - in this match however. It was played on the Vice Regal Ground in appalling conditions. Play was disrupted by frequent heavy showers, blown in by gale force winds. The wicket was a weed infested sea of mud. Bowling in tandem with the flamboyant academic JP Mahaffy, who took 13 wickets in the match, Oldfield helped Ireland to a 151 run victory. His match figures were 6-33, including a second innings return of 5-14. Nor did his batting disappoint its admirers. At 12, he made 0 and 1.
The following year IZ were much stronger, the wicket was impeccable, and the crowd considerable. The constant factors were Oldfield's batting. He made 2 and 4, falling each time to the artfully slow lobs of WM Rose and the weather, with sleet replacing the previous year's rain. Rose, who played Minor County Cricket for Buckinghamshire and bowled in a style that the Irish team was unfamiliar with, destroyed them in both innings. A further contribution which Oldfield made to his success was to hold a catch off him when fielding as substitute in the IZ first innings. Further, he caught WS Ashton, one of the best bats in the Irish side. Neither Oldfield nor Mahaffy were able to repeat their successes of the previous season, though Oldfield showed signs of what he might have dine when the visitors batted a second time wanting only 13 to win. He took 2-4 as IZ, who lost one other wicket, struggled to make the runs needed.
His final match was v MCC at College Park in 1871. This match was supposed to be a fund raiser to develop professional cricket in Ireland, and was part of a week's cricket. Though attended by the Prince of Wales, it attracted too few spectators. Ireland were outplayed, because MCC, though relying on 6 Irish based amateurs, three of whom had played or would play for Ireland, had sent over five professional bowlers who were too strong for Ireland. The best known was the great Alfred Shaw, later to bowl the first ball in Test Cricket and FH Farrands, later to become a well known umpire. They shot Ireland out for 58 (Oldfield 0*) and 24 (Oldfield 0). In the MCC innings, he took 2-38, removing two of the Irish based amateurs F Watson and Rowley Miller.
He was not to appear again in Irish Cricket. His military career also failed to develop after a promising start. He retired with the rank of captain.
Edward Liddle, September 2007