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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
Patrick Alban Thornton
  • Born 4 May 1904 Cape Town, South Africa
  • Died 1 February 1961 East London, South Africa
  • Educated St Andrew's College, Grahamstown, South Africa; Dublin University.
  • Occupation Doctor
  • Debut 8 August 1927 v MCC at Lord's
  • Cap Number 358
  • Style Right hand bat, right arm medium
  • Teams Dublin University; Merrion; Border

Patrick Thornton was a fine batting all rounder. A forcing batsman, who could bat anywhere in the order, he could swing the ball both ways at medium pace, besides being a brilliant field. Of just above average height, dark haired and broad shouldered, he came form a sound cricket and medical background. His father Dr George Thornton played for Yorkshire and Middlesex before emigrating to South Africa, where he played one Test v Australia in the 1902-03 season, Joe Darling's side stopping off to play three matches on their way home from an Ashes winning tour of England. George took the wicket of Warwick Armstrong in a drawn game. A left hand bat and slow left arm bowler, he had a career batting average of 22.65, besides taking 32 first class wickets.

Patrick entered Dublin University in 1927 to complete his medical studies and was three years in the XI forming a good opening bowling partnership with Tom Dixon. In all matches for the University, he took 99 wickets at 14.87, with 48 in his first season his best return. He only played about half the matches in his third season or he would easily have passed the three figure mark. In the League he had two "5 fors" in 1927 and one the following season. Together with Dixon, he took at least half the opposition wickets on twelve occasions. As batsman he hit an all match total of 1169 runs at 32.47, with 645 at 46 in 1928 his best season. His tally in competitive matches that season was 442 runs at 63.14 which won him the Marchant Cup. His truncated season of 1929 probably prevented him reaching around 1300 runs. He hit three hundreds and seven fifties in the League, with 131 v Civil Service in 1928 his highest. In that season he also made 106 v Pembroke, rounding off with 102* against Clontarf in 1929. Of his seven fifties three were hit in each of his first two seasons. He also played a handful of matches for Merrion.

It has to be said that his performances for Ireland with the bat were somewhat disappointing: 120 runs at 13.33. However he suffered from some inconsistent captaincy, occupying several places in the order between 2 and 10. He was more successful with the ball taking 14 wickets at 15.50. Here too, however, he was strangely used on occasions, varying between bowling a few overs when all else had failed or opening the attack with Dixon.

Two of his six matches stand out as worthy of mention, both in 1928 at College Park. At the end of May the West Indies arrived to play a three day first class match. Though they had played in Ireland before, this was the first meeting at International level. This was also their first Test tour, they lost the series 3 - 0, and won only five of their first class matches, but, when they came to Dublin, they were unbeaten. Though Ireland gained a first innings lead, this looked like remaining the case until Ireland were rallied by a second innings 7th wicket stand of 81 between George McVeagh and Jacko Heaslip. However when the latter was out, and Patrick came in at 9, the situation was still dangerous. Having been yorked for 6 by paceman Herman Griffith in the first innings - no disgrace here Griffith's subsequent Test wickets were to include Bradman twice for 4 and 0 - Patrick proceeded to bat really well for 37 adding a crucial 106 for the 8th wicket with McVeagh who went on to a brilliant and famous hundred. Then as the Windies, needing 352, had passed 100 with all their wickets intact, the combination struck again. The brilliant opener Clifford Roach, who was to make a Test double century against England just under two years later, had made 73 and was tearing the Irish attack to threads. Suddenly he struck Patrick's delivery high towards the legside boundary, There were few safer catchers in the side than McVeagh and he made no mistake. He later held another, though not off Patrick, to ensure a famous victory.

When MCC came to Dublin later in the season, Ireland were somewhat easily defeated, but Patrick had one of his best matches. Finding himself opening the batting, he made a sound 32 before being bowled by Cambridge Blue ED Blundell for 32, adding 83 for the third wicket with McVeagh. Blundell was a New Zealander, later to be knighted and to be his country's Governor General. Ireland were all out for 209, then when MCC batted Patrick was the most successful bowler with 4-64, to restrict MCC's lead. However Ireland then collapsed for 114, though Patrick with 21 batted well and was top scorer. The visitors needed only 31, but lost three wickets in getting them - all taken by Patrick, though, in truth, this was more due to great catching by McVeagh (again) and Louis Bookman. The remainder of Patrick's matches for Ireland were rather undistinguished. Had he not left Ireland in 1929, he might well have been discarded anyhow.

Back in South Africa, he made two first class appearances for Border - not Western Province as has sometimes been stated - but these against Eastern Province and Natal were also far below what he was capable of. In three innings he managed only 2 runs, and failed to take a wicket in the few overs allowed him.

However Patrick Alban Thornton played a significant part in what remains Ireland's only first class victory over a Test playing nation. For that he will always remembered.