CricketEurope Irish Cricket History logo
Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
Rodney Elliot Bernstein
  • Born 15 December 1937, Dublin
  • Educated Stratford College, Dublin
  • Debut 3 September 1960 v MCC at College Park
  • Cap Number 490
  • Style Right-hand bat, Right-arm fast medium
  • Teams Merrion, Leinster, Carlisle

Rodney Bernstein, about medium height and strong shouldered, approached, in short bursts, something near genuine pace. He was certainly, when in his prime, the fastest bowler in Ireland, capable of devastating spells. He took 271 wickets for Merrion at 11.83, still the club's best career figures. Several fine performances stand out. For example in the Leinster Senior Cup Final against Clontarf in 1960, he had 7-41 dismissing the Castle Avenue side, playing on their home ground for104 with only Louis Jacobson able to counter him. Simon Curley then saw the visitors home, despite some fine bowling by Ernie Bodell.

This writer recalls watching, from the safety of the scorers' table, a devestating performance against Dublin University in College Park in late April 1962. Merrion had been bowled out for 90, but Rodney then tore the hosts' fancied batting line up to shreds with figures of 8-22, including the hat trick. Against the same opposition in the Cup Final the following season, he took 6-56 but was unable to stave off a one wicket defeat. Merrion vigorously insist to this day that he had Chris Anderson, one of the University's key batsmen in this match, plumb lbw. Chris, incidentally, denies this just as vigorously! In all Leinster Senior Cricket Rodney took 547 wickets at 13.60. In his final season with Carlisle he still had a senior bowling average of 19, as well as playing in two other competitions."

His selection for Ireland in 1960 marked a change of policy, the selectors having been relying on a batsman such as Larry Warke or Ray Hunter to share the new ball with Alec O' Riordan. For the end of season MCC match at College Park however, they chose Bernstein. Some critics doubted the wisdom of this, thinking his pace would not be enough to trouble top batsmen and that he did not make the ball move much through the air or off the wicket. These predictions proved unfounded as he took his Irish career best 4-23, and almost spoiled the party on the Saturday evening. Play had started late and Ireland, electing to bat on a drying wicket, were spun out for a paltry 105. There was just time for a few overs of the MCC innings before the close, and Rodney, rushing in from the Library End whistled two balls past Sir Leonard Hutton's off stump, missing by the proverbial coat of varnish. The maestro survived to make 89, but the fastman clean bowled his opening partner, a good left hander DE Blake, gave short shrift to an Old Etonian "fancy cap", in a manner which would have won the plaudits of FS Trueman himself, and finished with the best figures of the innings.

He never quite approached this standard again, but his 3-29 against Australia in 1961 included the great Neil Harvey caught by Stan Bergin for 1 and fine wicket keeper batsman Wally Grout clean bowled for 2. The only other occasion that he took 3 or more wickets in an innings was against Combined Services at Ormeau in 1962. This was a first class match, and his victims, all in the top 5, included GG Tordoff, a Cambridge blue and captain of Somerset in 1955 regarded as the best bat in the Royal Navy, and John Baskervyle-Glegg, later to become a distinguished Major-General, who died in 2007. In all it could be claimed that Bernstein did not quite match expectations, but for those who saw him "on song", tearing in to "castle" an apprehensive batsman, he will always be a special cricket memory.