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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
Alfred William Madison Cooper
  • Born 12 June 1932, Dublin
  • Educated High School, Dublin, Dublin University, Queen's University, Belfast
  • Occupation Research Biochemist
  • Debut 25 May 1954 v Lancashire at Ormeau
  • Cap Number 483
  • Style Right-hand bat, right-arm medium fast
  • Teams Clontarf, Dublin University, NICC, Del Monte CC, North California CA, United States

Alfie Cooper was a good all round cricketer, who would almost certainly have added many more to his two Irish Caps had he not joined the "brain drain", and having completed a doctorate at Queen's University, taken an academic appointment in San Francisco. There he became one of America's leading cricketers and captained the USA, not only in their annual match with Canada, the oldest international cricket fixture, but also on their tour of England in 1968.

At High School, Cooper was a fine all round sportsman. He captained the XI and played for both Leinster Schools and the Schools of Ireland, as the national side was then called, its matches being limited to one v the Leprechauns. He made his debut for Clontarf while still at school and played in the Cup winning side of 1950. Entering Dublin University in 1951, he quickly proved himself not only an exceptional natural scientist, but also an essential part of the University's attack.

He was four years in the XI, gaining Interprovincial and International recognition. He lacked real pace but bowled an impeccable line and length. Writing about his American cricket, historian John Marder highlighted another aspect of Alfie's bowling. "He can keep one end going all day if necessary." This was never better exemplified than in the Cup Final of 1954 v Pembroke. This was the age of no overs or time restrictions. The University had won the Cup in 1952, against Clontarf, which must have been a mixed pleasure for Cooper. However they came up against the Sydney Parade side's strong batting. In a total of 442-7 declared there were 5 fifties. Cooper was the most successful bowler. He operated in long spells to take 3-132.Ironically his team's reply of 253 would have won most finals. After completing his degree he moved to Queen's to carry out further research, playing for NICC for two seasons as middle order batsman, besides sharing the new ball with Stanley Hewitt. One of his best performances for North came against Woodvale in a second round cup match in 1956. North had been bowled out for 123, falling to George Wilson's off spin. However Alfie then took 7-10 dismissing his opponents for 64. The Ormeau side went on to win the Cup, Alfie contributing two useful innings in the Final.

His two caps had come in 1954. Against Lancashire at Ormeau in May, he opened the bowling with his DUCC colleague PM Webb. One unkind pressman described their bowling as "puerile." Alfie had 0-70 in 15 overs, but only the inevitable Jimmy Boucher with 5-78 inspired any respect from the County batsmen. Webb and Alfie had been pitted against the great Cyril Washbrook and former Test man Winston Place, who began with 101 for the first wicket. As a batsman Cooper failed, in company with most of his colleagues. Leg spinning Australian all rounder Ken Grieves got him in the first innings and England off spinner Roy Tattersall in the second.

Against MCC in September at College Park, Cooper had a good match. For once in that rain swept summer, the sun shone and Ireland won a tense match by 2 runs. Hence Alfie's contributions were vital. This writer was present on the first day and can recall Cooper (19) and Gerry Duffy (44) setting about the MCC bowling after cheap early wickets. When MCC batted Alfie took 2-31, reducing the visitors to 36-3. He removed two former England captains George Mann and Bob Wyatt. The latter, never the most generous of opponents stopped on his way to the pavilion, "That was the worst ball I have ever faced," he said. It had bounced twice but was, after all, too good for Wyatt! His second innings 31, the second highest score, was vital as it gave Scott Huey (8-48) a sufficient base on which to bowl Ireland to victory.

Lured to San Francisco Cooper played for Del Monte CC and for the North Californian Cricket Association. He appeared 4 times for USA v Canada between 1965 and 1970, being captain in 1968. His best match was the first. He made a first innings 29 at number 7, then returned figures of 24-2 27-4. He took a further two in the second innings: the match, a two-day one, was drawn. The following year he again past 20 and took 4-27 in the first innings. The Canadians collapsed in their second knock to allow a US win by 58.

In 1968, Alfie captained the USA on their tour of England. This was a trip much enjoyed by the players, though they found the going hard. The captain, whose team mates included Philip Holloick (Instonians and Ireland) headed the bowling averages but did not have a good tour with the bat. His best match was the first, v the Duke of Norfolk's XI at Arundel. The match ended in a draw, but he top scored with 44, then took 4-17, including, to complete a clutch of England captains, David Sheppard for 50. His last match v Canada was in 1970, when he failed to take a wicket, though he was hardly bowled. The captaincy had now passed to cricket's most famous Walter Mitt, "the incredible Donald Weeks." Cooper's final entrance on the International Cricket stage was as an umpire in the match v Canada in 1974.

I am indebted to Clarence Hiles' History of the NCU Challenge Cup, published October 2011.