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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
Alexander Kennedy Kirkpatrick
  • Born 25 July 1938 Woodvale, Belfast
  • Educated Grosvenor High School, Belfast
  • Occupation Insurance Broker
  • Debut 23 June 1962 v Combined Services at Ormeau
  • Cap Number 495
  • Style Left hand batsman; right arm off spin
  • Teams Woodvale

Ken Kirkpatrick was a useful lower middle order batsman and a high class off break bowler, who, like several of his contemporaries of similar style, was discarded from the Irish side having scarcely been given the chance to prove himself. As a schoolboy he had been a pace bowler, taking a clutch of wickets for Woodvale Boys' teams in 1951 and 1952. However, he switched to off spin, allegedly because, "it was easier than bowling fast." Be that as it may, the retirements of George Wilson and Harry Armstrong left a yawning gap in the Ballygomartin Road attack, which from 1958 Ken was to help fill for more than two decades. In that first season he took 21 wickets, including a match winning 5-7 in eight overs against Waringstown.

It was, however, his performance in the NCU Cup Final of 1961 that first brought him into prominence before a wider audience. Woodvale lost this match v Lisburn by 8 wickets, but Ken turned in a remarkable all round feat in an effort to prevent the trophy going to Wallace Park. Woodvale began with 179, a left arm spinner, just out of school, by name Dermott Monteith, taking 5-52. Ken topscored with a highly praised 62. Then flighting the ball and spinning it sharply, he had the remarkable figures of 8-43, to give Woodvale a 29 run lead. Thereafter, however, the Wallace Park side took control of the game. Monteith had another "5 for" as did his mentor, Jack Bowden and then Herbie Martin, making light of the difficult conditions, was undefeated on 56, his second half century of the match, to see his side home.

Early the following summer, he had match figures of 8-55 in the North v South match at Cregagh. Six of these came in the second innings after the North had declared behind once the follow on target had been reached. THe South were bowled out for 138 in their second innings with Ken having the excellent figures of 17-8-30-6. Well supported by fellow "offie" Given Lyness (4-41) he ensured that the South could not pile up a potentially winning score. His wickets included first innings centurion Pat Dineen as well as Donald Pratt and Ian Lewis.

He thus gaining selection for Ireland in the three day match v Combined Services at Ormeau in late June.

The match was blighted by bad weather. The first day, a Saturday, was blustery and cold, so poor was it on day two, gale force winds howling up from Belfast Lough, that no spectators at all were present when play started. Like this one, who at this stage in his life would usually have travelled miles in all weather to watch cricket, they had opted, June or no June, for an arm chair, a fire and Wimbledon. These were no conditions for an off spinner to impress on debut, Ken's task being made more difficult by the fact that Ireland's acting captain, Stan Bergin, standing in for an examination bound Alec O'Riordan, did not give him a bowl in the first innings. On that dreadfully unseasonable second day, Ken came into his own - as a batsman. With Ireland somewhat struggling, he and Noel Ferguson who finished on 32*, put on 58 for the 8th wicket, Noel, back in the side after an 11 year absence, hitting six 4s while Ken, making 30, hit four He was eventually caught at the wicket, by the Services captain and future Kent Secretary MD Fenner off Sussex medium pacer Tony Buss who took his next wicket in the same way next ball. Ken did get a bowl in the second innings, having figures 0-46 as the Services chased runs for a declaration.

Though he was hardly fairly tested, he was discarded for the next match v Scotland, as was the other debutant from the Services match - Pat Dineen. He was recalled to the side for the two day match against Pakistan in College Park. This game was also rain affected, though Ireland gave a good account of themselves. Ken was unable to reproduce his Ormeau batting form, being dismissed for 3 and 0. At least he could take comfort in later years from the fact that his first innings was terminated by two legends of Pakistan cricket.

AK Kirkpatrick c Fazal Mahmood b Intikhab Alam 3

His second innings duck came when he was bowled by the left armer Nasim- ul- Ghani, who, aged 21, had hit a brilliant 101 in the Lord's Test that year, prolonging the match in partnership with his captain Javed Burki. In Pakistan's second innings, Ken took his first, and only, two wickets for Ireland, as the tourists made little real attempt to chase a tough target. He bowled middle order batsman Wallis Mathias, then had reserve wicket keeper Ijaz Butt, later a leading BCCP administrator, caught by a spectacular catch on the square leg boundary. The fielder ran some distance under the trees on the Nassau Street side of the ground and just held on to the ball, both arms outstretched. The wicket was thus recorded as c sub b Kirkpatrick, but the fieldsman, later to be so well known in his own right, was Ginger O'Brien.

Ken was not to play for Ireland again and thus joins Given Lyness, Joey O'Meara and, some years later, Ray Moan, as off spinners summarily discarded by Ireland's selectors. There was some suggestion of a recall in the early 1970s but Mike Halliday, who, fortunately, was persevered with after an inauspicious start, was now in possession and Ken also suffered a wrist injury at a crucial time. As it was he continued to play for Woodvale for more than 20 years, captaining the club, and, also, Ulster Town, for whom he had a long lasting career. If the Guinness Cup hardly ever saw him in devastating form, he always bowled consistently and with great accuracy, often picking up three wickets in an innings.

In his very first match in the competition, he had 3-16 v the fancied North West side at Woodvale which helped set up the eventual victory. Right at the end of his representative career, he was still flighting and spinning the ball with much of his old skill. Thus in 1972, his 3-35 wrapped up the Munster tail and prepared the ground for an emphatic 8 wicket win. His best performance in these matches was against North West at Beechgrove in 1971. His 5-38 bowled the hosts out for 133. He then made 13 himself, a most valuable knock in a 3 wicket victory. His highest score in the Guinness Cup was 28*v Ulster Country in 1971, which allowed his side to hold on for a draw, facing an impressive 247-9, which might well have been considerably more, had he not bowled Deryck Harrison for 0.

A personal recollection sees him bowling in College Park for Stuart Pollock's XI against Dublin University in 1963. For once in this match, the weather was kind and the University batsmen wracked up a score of 235-4 in their first innings, Ken had three of the top four, whereas fastman Stanley Hewitt and former Middlesex captain and onetime England possible leg spinner, Ian Bedford, who was to collapse and die three years later while batting in a London club match, failed to take a wicket between them. Ken's three were all well set: stylish opener Charles Halliday, who aged 15 had won a schools' match at Lord's with a masterly innings, for 50, University skipper Graeme Guthrie (32), who went on to play for Railway Union for more than 30 years and Algy Rice (34), who could hit with devastating power, and was doing so that May afternoon. The University went on to win the two dayer comfortably, a win which would have been even more convincing without Ken's contribution.

Alexander Kennedy Kirkpatrick was poorly treated by the Irish selectors. It is somewhat ironic therefore that he was later himself a member of the panel, following this term by being one of the NCU representatives on the Irish Cricket Union executive.