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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
Samuel Hellyer Crawford
  • Born 13 January 1880, Dublin
  • Died 9 February 1941, Dublin
  • Educated Wesley College, Dublin; Dublin University
  • Occupation Solititor
  • Debut 5 June 1903 v London County at The Mardyke
  • Cap Number 248
  • Style Right hand bat, slow right arm.
  • Teams Dublin University, Clontarf

Sam Crawford was a good bowler and, while he was never a major batsman, sometimes made useful runs in the lower order. Learning his cricket at Wesley College, he entered Dublin University in 1898, making his First XI debut in 1900 and then winning his colours every season until 1905. In all he took 286 wickets for the club at 17.42, heading the averages in 1902 (34 wickets at 10.07) and in 1904, his best season, when his 61 wickets cost him 17.50. He took over 50 wickets in 1903 and 1906 also. His batting which when he began suggested a prototype of the Devon Malcolm or Monty Panessar school of willow wielding - an average of 1.60 in his first season - steadily improved - so that by his last season, he was averaging 20.60, with 335 runs and a highest score of 89.

He was captain in 1904. He appeared for Clontarf during the University long vacation and subsequently, but, though he is one of those featured in the All Time Clontarf XI to play Mars in the club's 1976 Centenary Brochure, little record of him survives at Castle Avenue. He seems to have been chosen for the All Timers to share spinning duties with John Hill on the ground that he - Sam not John who contrary to rumour did not go back that far - had played against WG Grace. Sam was also Clontarf's first international, beating JG Aston that honour by six years.

Sam played in most of the University's matches against first class opposition between 1900 and 1905, though he missed out on the Past and Present v Australia match in the latter year. He also played regularly in the annual game with Cork County at The Mardyke. In 1900, he shared the attack with John Crozier as they bundled their hosts out for 53 and 64 to win by an innings, Sam having match figures of 9-46. The University managed only 150, relying greatly on a remarkable innings from Robin Gwynn of 110*. Crozier, whose brother William had played for the University in its 1895 first class matches but was killed in the First World War, lost a hand in that conflict, but became a Church of Ireland bishop.

Sam's first major match for the club was against Gloucestershire at the County Ground in Bristol that summer. He did most of the bowling as the County, having disposed of their opposition's batsmen quickly, ran up a massive 507-8 declared. Sam returned figures of 31.3 - 1 - 137 - 3, somewhat of a baptism of fire for a 20 year old. He and most of his team-mates - failed twice as the hosts won by an innings and 193. Another innings defeat came the following year against the South Africans. This tour was rather controversial; many both in Britain and South Africa felt that the players should be at home fighting the Boers. SACU claimed that the tour was a private venture and that half the side would not have had a chance of making a full side. However they were far too strong for their hosts in College Park. Sam was at least undefeated in both innings (7 and 1) as his team's wickets tumbled and he again picked up three wickets while the tourists reached 302. He had removed top order players at Ashley Down and now did same on his home turf. He dismissed the best batsman, and future captain, Louis Tancred, as well as all rounders Robert Graham and CB Llewellyn, both Test players.

Llewellyn, who later played for Hampshire has a special place in cricket history. Despite some controversy over the matter, it has recently been established beyond doubt that he has the distinction of having been the first coloured man to play for South Africa, predating Omar Henry by over 80 years. His father was a British soldier, his mother a St Helenan of mixed race. When the South Africans returned to College Park in 1904 again to win by an innings, Sam was still the most effective bowler, though a somewhat expensive one. He had 4-146 in 48 overs, taking the prized wicket of Tancred once more, but not before Louis had made 148!

That same season of 1901, saw both Oxford and Cambridge come to College Park. The Light Blues were not quite at full strength but still had a powerful side and a very good match ensued with Cambridge holding on for a draw at the end. The hosts' good performance was largely due to the batting of Henry Etlinger, who played one 12 a side match for Ireland v I Zingari in 1906 but was killed in action in 1915, and Jack Gwynn, and the bowling of Sam, who, in the first innings had analysis of 28 - 8 - 73 - 5, to bowl the visitors out for 208.

1903 was a productive season for Sam in terms of concrete achievement. WG's London County side was due to visit Ireland for matches v The University in College Park and Ireland at The Mardyke. It was well known that this would be the Doctor's last visit to Ireland, for cricket purposes at least. He was rumoured to visit Lady Gregory's Coole Park also, not to discuss literature with WB Yeats, but, through a friendship with Dan Comyn and Robert Gregory, for some out of season shooting.

A trial match was arranged in College Park, Dublin University v The Gentlemen of Ireland to enable both teams prepare for the big match. It turned out to be somewhat of a farce with several withdrawals from the "Ireland" team, and form in the match being ignored by the selectors. Sam had an excellent match. When the "Irish" side batted Sep Lambert, only just out of University himself, hit a beautiful hundred, putting all the attack bar Sam to the sword Sam bowled him straight after he reached three figures. His side made 336, which would have been much more had Sam not taken 6-88 in 18 overs. He had a further contribution to make. The hosts' batting crumbled, with its stars Sommerville Caldwell, already a Worcestershire player and Jack Gwynn failing. Enter Sam at no 7 to strike 74*, easily top score, adding 112 for the 6th wicket with GJ Meldon, whose cultured 51 was one of only two other double figure scores. Sam was bowled by Bob Lambert for 0 in the second innings, but must have thought he had done enough to gain selection, if trials meant anything. He was not initially chosen, but a clutch of withdrawals brought him into the side. He had, meanwhile, played for the University against London County.

WG was greeted in College Park by a large crowd and fine weather. He won the toss - he usually did - and batted. He then took strike, complained about the position of the sight screen and smote his way o a quick 33 and then faced Sam, who came on first change, after the opening attack of Crozier and Tom Harvey, also destined to become a bishop. Tom had disposed of former Australian captain Billy Murdoch for 2, which was two more than he had made on his first visit to College Park twenty three years earlier.

Grace skied one of Sam's early deliveries to long leg, where future RAMC colonel, Edward Gibbon made no mistake with the catch. Sam went on to take four more wickets, finishing with figures of 27.4-1-117-5. He came in for some rough treatment from LOS Poidevin an Australian doctor who played with success for Lancashire before becoming a noted writer on the game. Sam's feat in dismissing the Champion was to be eclipsed by Harvey who caught and bowled Grace first ball in the second innings, but he had done enough to gain a call up to The Mardyke, when Tom Ross and Bill Harrington pulled out. The match in College Park was left drawn, an excellent hundred by GJ Meldon, well supported by Caldwell and Gwynn, holding the fort for the hosts.

At The Mardyke, on its normal impeccable wicket, Grace again won the toss and batted against an Irish side captained by his old rival Sir Tim O'Brien. This time Bob Lambert got rid off the Doctor for 1, but good batting by Poidevin and future England captain JWHT Douglas, who blazed a trail for Andrew Flintoff by losing an Ashes series 5 - 0 in 1920/21, enabled the visitors to reach 176-3 at lunch. Then O'Brien brought Sam into the attack he had both batsmen caught and induced a collapse which left the County 237 all out. Derek Scott's report comments, "Crawford was the best bowler with 4-36 in 10 overs. He might have been used more." He had two more wickets in the second innings, after contributing 11 to Ireland's 291 all out. This time he had Douglas stumped, a rarity as Douglas' obdurate methods caused Australian barrackers to decide that his initials stood for, "Johnny Won't Hit Today." Wicket keeper Frank Browning also caught Army batsman Major F Fleming off Sam. The match ended in a draw after a threatened Irish collapse.

Sam was not asked to play for Ireland again, which, in hindsight is not altogether surprising, despite his promising debut. Ireland had the off spin of Bob Lambert and Bill Harrington to call on as well as the highly regarded cutters of Tom Ross. There was really no room for him. However Samuel Hellyer Crawford had surely done enough to be well remembered amongst the best of those "one cap wonders", who for whatever reason had the briefest of careers for their country.