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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
Thomas Harris
  • Born 5 May 1845 Bellary, India
  • Died 28 March 1918, Bedford Park, Chiswick, Middlesex
  • Educated
  • Occupation Army Officer
  • Debut 28 August 1868 v I Zingari at Vice Regal Ground, Phoenix Park
  • Cap Number 122
  • Style Left-hand bat, right arm round arm medium pace
  • Teams Kent, Gentlemen of Kent, Pembroke, Leinster, 86th Regiment

Thomas Harris was a good all round cricketer. A forcing batsman, who went in down the order in English cricket, but was seen to better advantage in Ireland, he was also a very accurate bowler with the knack of taking wickets on the big occasion. This showed in his second first class match for the Gentlemen of Kent v Gentlemen of MCC in the 1864 Canterbury Festival. He had failed with the bat and been unimpressive with the ball in the first match Kent v England. He probably owed his selection to his family's long association with the County. His second cousin George, six years his junior, was to become famous, - though not always well liked - in the cricket world, as Lord Harris, captain of Kent and England as well as being autocratic master of English cricket for several decades. In this second -and last - first class match of his career, Thomas took 6-89 in the first innings including EM "The Coroner" Grace, RA Fitzgerald and Spencer Ponsonby. In the second innings he had 3-68, again removing Grace. His main bowling partner was CC Oldfield, also soon to appear for Ireland while stationed there.

As part of the Dublin Garrison, Captain Harris soon made a name for himself, his forthright batting and clever bowling attracting critical acclaim. His selection for Ireland v I Zingari in 1868, however while merited on form, appears to have been made in error. As Derek Scott related, in his match account also to be found on this site, I Zingri requested Irish captain and sole selector George Barry to pick an All Ireland side, apparently so that professionals might play. Barry misinterpreted this and asked Harris instead. He had an immediate effect and it we no fault of his that the match was drawn. Ireland spent all the first day scoring 254. This was for too slow for a 2 day match and was largely caused by a very slow 91 from William Hone, father of cricket historian Pat. Harris tried to make up for lost time at 4. His 24 took just 7 balls and included three 4s and one 6. He then clean bowled five IZ batsmen to enforce the follow on despite a fine innings from Captain CF Biller a marvellous batsman of dubious character, who is one of the several cricketers to find his way into the writings of James Joyce. Harris took 2-39 in the second innings but Ireland were denied by a superb 111* from Biller, who was soon to disappear from cricket and London Society. He died in 1906, Wisden, which called him," perhaps the handsomest man the cricket field has ever known," remarked caustically, "Into the scandals that marred Mr Biller's private life and caused his social eclipse this is obviously not the place to enter."

The following season, Harris appeared in one match for XXII of All Ireland v The United South of England XI. Batting high in the order at 4; he threw his wicket away, charging the slow round-arm of James Southerton and being caught by wicket keeper Ted Poole for 4. Both these players were in the touring party that played the First Test of all at Melbourne in 1877. Southerton at 49 years and 119 days remains the oldest Test cricketer on debut, his son was to become famous as the Editor of Wisden, who, by condemning bodyline forced the mandarins at Lord's to take action. Pooley, who eventually died in a workhouse, missed the match, in prison in New Zealand following a betting scam. Harris took 5-42, including the redoubtable Harry Jupp, but having again been dismissed cheaply, he was hardly bowled in the second innings when the United men lost five wickets, chasing 42 to win. As this match involved a team of more than 11 players it does not appear in Harris' statistics on this site.

Thus ended Thomas Harris' brief but not uneventful career in major cricket. Had he been able to remain in Ireland he might well have become one of the best players of his time; had he remained in England, he would have certainly found success in the County game. As it was the military claimed him.

By 1869, he was a Major in the Middlesex Regiment and found himself in Afghanistan. Here he was twice wounded but survived and was decorated. He was later promoted Lieutenant - Colonel and appointed to the somewhat less dangerous post of Military Secretary to the Governor of Bombay. By what may, at best, be termed a remarkable coincidence the newly arrived Governor was Cousin George, who seems to have seen the development of Indian cricket, provided the real Indians were kept firmly in their place, as the most important part of his governorship. Many of his appointees owed their posts to their cricketing prowess. It would seem highly likely that Thomas did also. Having seen him miss out on a likely highly successful career in County or Irish cricket, and survive the travails of the Afghan campaign, we should not begrudge it him.