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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
George Edward Given Lyness
  • Born 16 December 1937 Dunmurry, Belfast
  • Educated Wallace High School, Lisburn
  • Occupation Insurance Broker
  • Debut 12 August 1961 v MCC at College Park
  • Cap Number 491
  • Style Right-hand bat; right arm off spin bowler.
  • Teams North of Ireland CC, Lisburn

Given Lyness was a tall off spinner with a high action, who, on a wicket which gave him any help whatsoever, could turn the ball really sharply, because of the powerful "tweak" he gave it. Some questioned his accuracy, but his figures for Ireland - in his brief career - and in club cricket, speak for themselves.

In Guinness Cup matches, his appearances in the competition coming after his international career was over, and, sometimes, found him in the same side as fellow off spinner Ken Kirkpatrick. In the NICC side from 1959, Given was a member of the cup winning side the following season, giving valuable support to Sonny Hool in the Final when Lurgan were defeated by 8 wickets with Hool having match figures of 10-72. Given came into his own in the Final nine years later when his second innings 6-34 sent Queen's University to a 64 run defeat. Hool had 3-36, offering splendid support.

The last three matches of the 1961 season found Given in the Irish side, as the selectors, having somewhat mysteriously, discarded Frank Fee, continued their search for a long term off spinning replacement for Jimmy Boucher. Given got his chance in mid August v MCC in College Park and seized it with both hands. On a wicket described by Derek Scott as, "an off spinner's paradise", he had three first innings wickets, including former England batsman and future MCC President Hubert Doggart and Mike Bushby, like Doggart a Cambridge Blue, whom the perceptive Australian journalist - and former Test opener - Jack Fingleton had regarded as one of the best openers in English cricket in 1953.

MCC needed 145 in the second innings but Given, aided by his leg trap where four catches were held, returned figures of 16.1 5 - 39 - 6, to see Ireland home by 35 runs. It was their first win since 1957 and first over MCC since the two run thriller at College Park in 1954. Only JR Bernard, a Cambridge educated doctor, and great nephew of WG, looked in any way comfortable against him, making 42 before Given dismissed him. Years later, meeting Dr Bernard at a Cricket Society Quiz competition, this writer found him full of praise for Given's bowling. Given also had Bushby and Doggart again as well as another doctor, Oxford and Lancashire all rounder Ian Gibson, who, less than two years later, tragically added his name to the disturbingly long list of cricket's suicides.

Given retained his place for the matches against Richie Benaud's Australians, both two day ones. The Ormeau game was severely weather affected a hurricane being the main cause. Both sides did their best to play, Given gaining the second innings wicket of great all rounder Alan Davidson, whose batting had been vital in the Ashes winning Test at Old Trafford. At College Park the sun shone and the visitors dominated the match. However in their second innings, as they went for the hosts' bowling prior to a declaration, he had figures of 4-46.

It was, however a far cry from his spell on the same ground a month previously, as he bowled only 6.5 overs. Nevertheless, he was the most successful Irish bowler having Davidson again, stumped by one cap wicket keeper Joe Hopkins, and, besides the wicket of tail ender Ian Quick, a slow leftarmer but negligible batsman, dismissing high quality batsman Brian Booth, who had been one of the main discoveries of the tour, and wicket keeper/ batsman Wally Grout.

As we have seen Given was not to play for Ireland again, though his club career continue into the next decade, an eventual move to Lisburn, establishing a formidable spinning partnership with Dermott Monteith. This writer recalls two matches on the Lyness happy hunting ground of College Park, when all his skills were on display and he looked as good an off spinner as any in Ireland. These were the annual match between Dublin University and JS Pollock's XI, one of the highlights of the University season in the early 1960s, the former Irish captain bringing a side which invariably included the cream of Ulster cricket, and a few surprise packets as well.

In the 1964 match, on a rain affected wicket, Given, at times almost unplayable, had match figures of 11-64, including the wickets of - twice - Howard Markham - the hosts' captain and a fine batsman who played much Minor County cricket for Devon, and Adrian Naughten, who, as an all rounder, was to become one of the best cricketers in the British Army, besides playing many good innings for teams such as Free Foresters and MCC. In the second innings Given added Gerry Murphy, later a dominant bat in Leinster cricket, to his haul. Despite Given's performance, the visitors were lucky to escape defeat though a rain enforced first innings declaration, did not help their cause.

The following year, however, Given was able to play a leading part in his side's victory. Rain again intervened, reducing the match to a single innings contest on the second day. In hot sunshine the visitors were bowled out for a useful 169, but the University batting then crumbled to a combination of pace and spin with Stanley Hewitt and Given each taking four wickets. Given had 4-19, turning the ball sharply and making it lift unexpectedly. Only the hosts' captain, Bev Labbett, a very good batsman who had spent his schooldays keeping wicket to John Snow, played him with any confidence, scoring 42, before being caught behind by Carson Rose.

Given made spasmodic appearances in the Guinness Cup, for Ulster Town, between 1966 and 1973.