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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
William Cranstoun Alexander
  • Born 5 November 1851
  • Died 26 November 1934 Greystones, Co Wicklow
  • Educated Uppingham School, Leicestershire
  • Occupation Solicitor
  • Debut 20 August 1877 v I Zingari at Phoenix CC Phoenix Park
  • Cap Number 157
  • Style Right-hand bat, bowling style and pace unknown
  • Teams Carlow, Phoenix

Willie Alexander came from a well known Carlow landowning family, several of whose members were prominent in the Carlow Club. Willie narrowly missed benefiting from the coaching reign of the legendary HH Stephenson at Uppingham, but still became the School's first international cricketer, though it must be confessed that some of his successors, such as double Ashes winning captain Percy Chapman and BBC Cricket Correspondent Jonathan Agnew have won a more lasting fame.

From about 1870 Willie was, for a decade prominent in the Carlow side, being its best and most consistent batsman. He scored a memorable hundred against Phoenix in that year, and in a bowler dominated draw with Na Shuler in 1880, top scoring in both innings with 13 and 27 as Carlow collapsed twice before rain prevented a probable Shuler victory. By the early 1880s, however, Willie was in Dublin and - mostly - lost to Irish cricket. This was lamented in a piece of doggerel, which hardly merits the name poem, but includes the line "Great Willie Alexander has gone."

He had gone to Phoenix, for whom he continued to score freely for several seasons; though he had a double failure against a strong I Zingari side in 1883. Having been run out for 8 in the first innings, he was caught by RAH Mitchell off CT Studd for a duck in the second. Studd was probably second to WG as England's leading cricketer at the time. Mitchell might well have gone far in the game, but spent his adult life teaching at Eton, which limited his own cricket, but greatly benefited that of those whom he taught. Willie played five times for Ireland, though one of these matches, a twelve a side game v MCC in 1879 does not appear in his statistics on this site as more that eleven players a side were involved.

His debut came v I Zingari in 1877 at Phoenix in a match which is best remembered for the fast underarmer Tom Hanna performing the hat trick, the first for Ireland, and for an excellent knock by Leland Hone in the first innings. However Ireland's victory would not have been assured without a remarkably patient second innings by Willie. At No 3, he failed in the first innings falling to the fast roundarmer CK Francis for 5. Francis had been a brilliant schoolboy cricketer, taking all 10 for Rugby v Marlborough in 1867, but, despite taking 12 wickets in the 1870 University Match, he had only limited success in the first class game. Willie had to come in at 1-1 in the second innings, and stood firm while wickets fell around him. He batted for 120 minutes scoring 28, while his team-mates could make little of Francis and the lob bowler Arthur Ridley. When the latter finally got Willie caught, the score was 67-7. Ireland were dismissed for 72, but won eventually by 23 runs.

His highest score for Ireland came against the same opponents the following year. The visitors were routed in their first innings for 35 thanks to a devastating spell of fast bowling by another Carlow man, Horace Hamilton. Ireland responded with 222, of which Willie, now opening, made a solid 37. He failed in the second innings but Ireland won with some ease.

His only other score of note was in the 12 a side MCC match in 1879. He had been a member of the Irish XI which had beaten MCC at Lord's earlier in the season, but now a completely different Marylebone line up came to Dublin. At No 5, Willie topscored with a painstaking 27 before being 9th out at 112. Accounts speak of him having batted "very well, as usual", but he eventually played on to Army officer Frank Raikes, who was later to be killed on the 1897 Tochi Expedition on the North West Frontier. Willie, who made rather a habit of helping the ball on to his stumps, failed in the second innings and few other batsmen provided protracted resistance.

William Cranstoun Alexander was not available for Ireland after 1884 but he had done enough to show that he was a batsman of some class. It should also be noted that a W Alexander played for the All England XI v XXII of Dublin University in College Park in 1877. This player has been identified by Cricket Archive as being Willie. There was certainly no other cricketer of this name who played for All England so it is possible that the identification is correct. For the record the hosts won by an innings, thanks largely to some fine spin bowling from Arthur Exham. W Alexander, dismissed by Exham in both innings, made 16 in the first.