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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
Alfred Edgar Marks
  • Born 15 May 1924 Belfast
  • Died 14 February 1996 Belfast
  • Educated Methodist College, Belfast
  • Occupation Draughtsman at Harland and Wolf Shipbuilders
  • Debut 23 May 1953 v Glamorgan at Margam
  • Cap Number 457
  • Style Right-hand bat, wicket keeper
  • Teams NICC, North Down

Eddie Marks was a good wicket keeper and sound upper order batsman, best known as an opening partner for George Morrison at the top of the NICC order in the 1950s. Both roles demanded, and got, tremendous powers of concentration. There were those who thought that, as a batsman, he made defence of his wicket too great a priority - at the expense of keeping the scoreboard moving - but such comments were not often heard among the denizens of Ormeau or The Green.

He was a fine schoolboy cricketer at "Methody" in the war years, though hostilities inevitably restricted his opportunities. After the War, he soon found a place in the NICC 1st XI, though at first his batting was held at little account. Thus in 1946, in the first of the four NCU Challenge Cup Finals in which he appeared, he was at No 11, in a side that lost to Lisburn by 66 runs. However by the time of the 1951 Final, one of the most remarkable matches in the long history of the competition, he was going in first with Morrison and scoring 17 in the first innings.

It was in the second, however, that he came into his own. North had gained a distinctly useful lead of 99 on the first innings and now Eddie and Morrison (62) set them on their way to what seems an impregnable position, with a first wicket stand of well over a hundred. Donald Shearer weighed in with a typically stylish 70, but it was Eddie, holding the innings together with a resolute 81, who enabled the hosts to pass 300 and set the Wallace Park side a seemingly impossible task. Needing 403, they lost wickets steadily at one end, while Jack Bowden, already their bowling hero, blazed his way to an astonishing 146*. Lisburn fell short by 61 runs. Eddie, with two stumpings off Sonny Hool to add to his decisive innings, could claim to have had a major impact on the result.

This writer recalls seeing him keep wicket in the 1960 Final, which - incidentally - was also televised on BBC Northern Ireland, Malcolm Kellard being the commentator. The opposition were Lurgan, who had been defeated in the 1956 Final also. This time the ball turned form the start and Hool and Given Lyness were somewhat too much for the visiting batsmen. They were dismissed for 87, with Hool taking 6-38. The ball turned and lifted off a wicket made worse by several rain delays. Eddie made two stumpings, removing the only batsmen who looked like offering a challenge to the left armer's dominance. The mind's eye, after almost 50 years, still sees impeccable glovework in what must have been most taxing conditions. When North batted they reached 150-9 in their allotted overs. Here too, they owed much to Eddie. Now at No 8, he made a solid 20, the only other double figure score to go with Stuart Pollock's masterly 70. He did not have to bat again as his side won by 8 wickets.

He played three times for the North against the South, replacing Vic Craig as wicket keeper on the first occasion. He proved his worth in both aspects of his play. In 1954 at Ormeau he was pushed up the order to open in the second innings, responding with 39*. The following year at Rathmines the North batted first Eddie and Les Spearman beginning with a stand of 96 before the Armagh man was out. Eddie was then joined by Herbie Martin in a partnership of 106, Eddie reaching 110 before being forced to retire hurt, having batted 186 minutes, hitting 13 fours. Poor Wallace Boyce fell straight away for a duck and with Herbie going soon for a typically elegant 55, the remainder of the North batsmen were unable to capitalise on te start the top three had given them. Happily Eddie was able to keep wicket when the south batted but the match ended in a draw.

So did the one at Phoenix in 1957 when the North were chasing an improbable 253 to win. A solid undefeated 38 from Eddie ensured that there would be victory for the hosts. His Irish career encompasses only six matches in which were never sure of his place. He had two major disadvantages. First his debut game, as a substitute for the North West's Victor Craig was played on a terrible wicket at Margam in South Wales, on which batting and wicket keeping were worse than a lottery. Second, he was chosen, at least on some occasions, because of his superior batting ability to his challengers. He sometimes found himself low in the order, and, even when placed higher, if he did not make the runs expected, was soon dropped. His wicket keeping skills, which were, in the view of many, at least the equal of Walter Fawcett and others, were then overlooked.

After the Glamorgan match, in which achieved the considerable feat of allowing no byes in the county's second innings of 81-6 declared - the wicket being at its worst - he was dropped until the Lancashire match at Ormeau the following season. The County, at almost full strength, were far too strong, but Eddie with two stumping off Jimmy Boucher, the first of which disposed of former Test batsman Winston Place thus breaking a first wicket stand of 103, made more of a mark on the match than many of his team-mates.

He played against Scotland in the 1954 and 1955 matches, making two stumpings in the former year as the Scots ran up a formidable looking 489, and was then out of the side until the West Indies visit for two matches in 1957, when he clearly was brought back to stiffen the batting. The first game, a two day encounter at Ormeau was ruined by rain, though not before Eddie had been caught at slip by the great Clyde Walcott off Alf Valentine for 1. At College Park, for a one day match, the weather was again imperfect and the visitors, winning the toss and batting, were restricted to 140-7. Eddie then opened the bating but, in the words of Derek Scott's report, "concentrated entirely on defence so we had no hope of getting the runs."

Nevertheless he made 19, second top score to Pollock's 21, but was dropped for the next match and never played for Ireland again. Derek's - and the selectors' strictures, were, in reality, not that unfair. The Windies used three bowlers, Sobers, then an orthodox slow left armer who took only 5 wickets in that summer's Test series, Nyron Asgarali, an opening batsman - who, the day before had thrilled this writer and a group of other schoolboys by standing in the rain at Ormeau and answering all manner of questions for almost an hour, but was a very ordinary leg spinner, and the tragic Collie Smith, fresh from his magnificent match saving 161 in the Trent Bridge Test, who was a potentially great batsman but a no more than average off spinner. He eventually bowled Eddie, but it is arguable that the gloveman should have attempted to force the pace against a somewhat makeshift attack.