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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
William Kyle McCallan MBE
  • Born 27 August 1975, Carrickfergus, Co Antrim
  • Educated Ballyclare High School, Co Antrim; University of Ulster
  • Occupation Schoolteacher
  • Debut 2 June 1996 v Wales at Rathmines
  • Cap Number 603
  • Style Right hand bat; right arm off break bowler.
  • Teams Cliftonville, Surrey 2nd XI, Derbyshire 2nd XI, Waringstown

Kyle McCallan, Ireland's most capped cricketer, is not only one of the leading all rounders ever to have represented the country, but also, perhaps, the most versatile and adaptable. He came into the Irish side as an opening batsman, good enough to score a century in only his second match, and a bowler of occasional off spin. As his career developed, he moved down the order, sometimes coming in as low as No 9, but developed his bowling to become a key member of the attack, particularly in limited overs matches, where his accuracy and variation are such that he was able to put the brakes on the most fluent of innings.

As a batsman at international level, he cut out strokes which were not guaranteed to bring him runs, making full use of those that did. He was thus capable of batting effectively and scoring quickly against most attacks. "An intelligent situation batsman, " in the words of another highly regarded all rounder Paul McCrum who further describes Kyle as, "A top class off spinner with a variety of flight and pace." Latterly, having retired from the international scene, Kyle has shone in both disciplines for Waringstown thus fulfilling the dictum of the great England all rounder Trevor Bailey really to be classed as an all rounder a cricketer must be fully worth his place as both a batsman and a bowler. Few watchers at The Lawn, or anywhere else from Cork to Eglinton, would deny Kyle that description.

An outstanding sportsman at Ballyclare High School - an institution which also numbers Hollywood star Stephen Boyd, cheating charioteer and evil Roman officer in "Ben Hur" among its alumni - and also excelling at Rugby a game he still greatly enjoys coaching, Kyle was good enough to be chosen for Ireland U21 in 1992, having been playing representative cricket at age group level since he was 13, and by no means let the side down.

The following year found him a prominent player in both the Ulster and Irish Schools XIs. For Ulster against Southern Schools at Muckamore, batting third wicket down, he had useful score of 30 in the first innings, helping Darren McCann (66) stem a mid order collapse. Promoted to 3 in the second innings, he was on 15 when rain arrived to spoil the prospect of a good finish. He was in the Irish Schools side which took on the ICU President's XI at Castle Avenue three weeks later. The closely fought match ended in a draw, with Kyle among the batting successes for the Schools, topscoring in each innings with 37 and 49*.

His good form continued on the Ulster School tour of the North of England, topscoring in four of the five matches including two fifties. His bowling, which had been somewhat ignored in the earlier matches, was also seen to more advantage with a 2-17 in the 5 wicket win over Cumbria Schools when also made his highest score of 68*. Back in Ireland in this crowded summer he took part in the Youth Interprovincials in Dublin. These were dominated by Leinster, particularly Greg Molins and Ronan O'Reilly, but Kyle had an outstanding match in the NCU's victory over Munster, scoring 77 and then taking 5-30.

His batting came in for praise from Des McCall in Irish Cricket Annual the following year when the Irish Schools' XI played Wales and England away. Against Wales at Pontarddulais, he made 81, with eleven 4s, out of Ireland's first innings 302, putting on 118 for the second wicket with the left handed Paul Arnold. The match finished in a draw as did the England game at Wolverhampton in which Kyle made 31 and, as an opener in the second innings, 62 with ten 4s in 135 minutes. His batting, together with that of O'Reilly and the bowling of Owen Butler, averted any possibility of defeat against a side, several of whose members went on to higher things. Kyle's first innings had been ended by the medium pace of Robin Martin-Jenkins, who would eventually, after a successful county career, emulate Kyle by opting for teaching.

At the University of Ulster, where he read first Sports' Studies and then completed a PGCE, Kyle was naturally a member of the Irish Universities XI . However he also helped Ulster win the Irish Universities Championship in 1995 with a superb 101 in the Final against Queen's. Aided by 53 from Andy Patterson, he helped his side to a formidable 250-6, before the Belfast side were bowled out for 197. The two teams faced each other again in the following season's Final with Kyle taking 7-49 as Queen's totalled 168. Unfortunately, Ulster could only reach 105 in reply.

For the Universities XI against Ireland U 21 at College Park in 1995, he had an excellent all round match, after a century by Gerry Brophy appeared to have ensured a comfortable win for the U21s. In the Universities second innings, Kyle made a 136 minute 87 off 111 balls, hitting eleven 4s, putting on 103 for the 3rd wicket with Peter Davy. Set 155 to win the U21s collapsed in the face of some fine off spin from Kyle who finished with figures of 14 - 4 - 36 6. However his opponents just held out at 98-8. He was also to perform well in the British Universities tournament of the same year. He made 69 and took 2-16 in a victory over Wales and was to the fore with the ball in the win over Scottish Universities, taking 4-30 after a fine 132* from Davy had set the opposition a stiff task. He also did well in the defeat by English Universities North topscoring with 51 from 72 balls with eight 4s.

Kyle's senior cricket career at club level was played with Cliftonville from his teens - when he gained much from the coaching of John Solanky - until the 2005 season, when he moved to Waringstown, much to the advantage of cricket at The Lawn. His career aggregate and haul of wickets may not seem as large as might be expected, but it must be remembered that he was ever present in the Irish side from 1996 to the end of the 2009 season and that this, plus other representative calls meant that he did not play a full season for either of his clubs during all this time. Against this background his achievements are remarkable.

Arguably his best all round season with Cliftonville was 1997 when he scored 688 run at 39.20 and took 33 wickets at 19.39. Among his many fine performances for the club in the Senior League we may mention two outstanding all round matches against Bangor in 2003. Early in the season, the seasiders may have felt safe after posting a distinctly challenging 248-9, though Kyle, economical as usual had taken 3-39. However when Cliftonville batted the result was never in doubt. With Kyle leading the way with a commanding 103, they won by 7 wickets.

Later in the summer, in a rain affected match, Cliftonville totalled a respectable 198-8 owing much to Kyle's 59. Chasing a reduced target of 149, Bangor finished on 69-7, their challenge destroyed by Kyle's 5-11. He also had several memorable Cup matches for Cliftonville in the NCU Challenge and Irish Cup. Thus in an NCU Second Round against Dunmurry in 1996, he had 7-13 to bowl the opposition out for 64, a great way to celebrate his first Irish cap which was won the following day.

Another Second Round game two years later against North Down saw him take 3-19 from his 10 overs, restricting the Comber side to 162, then lead the way to victory with a memorable 79 One of his best performances came in a Semi Final v CIYMS in 2003. Put into bat Cliftonville reached 247-3 off their 50 overs, owing much to a 2nd wicket stand of 189 between Kyle and Jonny Bushe (86). Kyle went to three figures off the last ball of the innings, having scored at exactly a run a ball.

In 2004 he played a leading role in an Irish Senior Cup win over Drummond. Taking 1-24 in his 10 overs he helped restrict the North Westerners to 174, then destroyed any hopes they may have had of victory by storming to an undefeated 98 as Cliftonville won by 9 wickets.

His move to Waringstown in 2005 brought not only personal success but also helped in high achievements for the Club. His best seasons have been the last two, 2010 and 2011 when he has, significantly, been free of representative commitments. Thus in 2010 he hit 930 runs at 71.54 and took 34 wickets at 16.35, while last (2011) season saw him aggregate 928 runs at 38.66 and took 38 wickets at 17. 02. He began the 2010 season by scoring over 600 runs without being dismissed, starting with a brilliant undefeated 146 in the League against North Down at Comber, after the hosts had reached 286-9, with Kyle, economical as ever bowling his 10 overs for 30 runs. Then, assisted by Keith Morrison in a match winning 5th wicket partnership of 136, he put The Green's attack to the sword with a dazzling display of stroke play. Ballymena and Downpatrick were the recipients of his all round skills in the League. Ballymena were savaged for an undefeated 131 at The Lawn as they went down by 4 runs while when the Villagers came to Eaton Park they suffered from Kyle's accurate and testing off spin. After making 36 out of a useful 216-4 he proceeded to run through the batting order with figures of 9.5 - 2 - 17 - 7, besides holding a catch!

At The Meadow he took 4-18 in his allocated overs then led the chase with 50* as Waringstown cruised home by 8 wickets. Back at The Lawn in the return match he made 100*. Into the bargain he hit a superb 145* against Old Belvedere at Cabra in the second round of the Bob Kerr Irish Cup, though the opposition were only a shadow of a once formidable side, hardly deserving to be the heirs of Alec O'Riordan et al.

Captaincy of Waringstown in 2011 hardly affected his form! For example in the Bob Kerr Irish Cup he hit yet another dominating hundred against the strong North County side reaching 111 off 153 balls in 192 minutes with ten 4s and two 6s., while in the Ulster Cup against Coleraine he made 152* out of 317-5 then held three catches in a win by 199 runs. Finally, if such a word can be used, there was his hundred against Instonians in the Challenge Cup semi final. His personal form and inspiring leadership had a very great deal to do with the Club's tremendous success. Even those denizens of The Lawn whose loyalties are firmly rooted with the great teams of the 70s would surely admit that this team is - at least - their equal. Kyle described wining the Bob Kerr Cup as his proudest moment as a club cricketer.

Kyle was a regular at interprovincial level from 1994 - 2004, scoring 783 runs at 27.96, playing for both the Development XI and for the NCU. One of his best bowling spells came for the Development side against Munster in 1996 when he took 4-15 as the youngsters won by 95 runs. On a helpful wicket the Munster batsmen had no answer to him. Earlier in the season he had taken 3-9 in a 6 wicket win over Leinster in a match reduced to 10 overs a side. The highest of his 3 fifties came for the NCU against the Southern Ireland XI in 2002. This was a two day match and NCU were forced to follow on after collapsing for 81 in face of a score of 260-8, Kyle having taken 3-55 as Jason Molins made 107. In the follow on NCU ensured a draw with 249-6, Kyle who had topscored in the first innings with 22, doing so again with 83.

Apart from his 226 Irish caps, Kyle was also a member of the Northern Ireland team in the 1998 Commonwealth Games and in that and the following year played in the Second XI County Championship. Unfortunately he had little success in the latter playing for both Surrey - alongside Andy Patterson - and Derbyshire. In the Games Northern Ireland were, not unnaturally, mostly heavily outclassed, but recorded a memorable win over Bangladesh. Here Kyle played a leading part topscoring with 59 as NI made 177 before Gordon Cooke bowled the Bangladeshis out for 63.

His 226 Irish appearances realised 3616 runs at 23.33 with two hundreds and eleven fifties. His off spin brought him 256 wickets at 30.11 with two "5 fors." As we have seen he underwent at least two changes of role in the side. He would undoubtedly have scored more runs had he continued to bat at he top of the order, while he would probably have gained more wickets had his role not become primarily run saving in the many one day matches.

His two hundreds came early in his international career, the first, against MCC at Malahide, in only his second match July 1996. This was a match of three hundreds, Kyle's coming in Ireland's first innings after they had won the toss. He batted soundly in good conditions as wickets fell at the other end to reduce Ireland to 127-5 before Derek Heasley joined him in a stand of 108 which enabled Ireland eventually to reach 243. Kyle made exactly 100 before being caught off medium pace Cambridge Blue and Warwickshire man David Thorne. The catcher, Trevor Smith, a prominent Minor County player was to become Kyle's first wicket when MCC batted. Despite god bowling from Paul McCrum and a second innings hundred from Angus Dunlop MCC were victorious by three wickets with a commanding 129 from England "one cap wonder" Paul Parker.

Many thought that had Kyle bowled more than six overs in the second innings, Ireland would have won. His other century came against Wales at Whitehaugh, Paisley in the 1998 Triple Crown tournament. He had an "excellent all round season" excelling with bat and ball in this match, though Ireland's victory was not enough to let them win the tournament, England doing so on run rate. Led by Stephen Smyth, as Dunlop had an ankle injury, Ireland made 224 off their 50 overs, Ian Callender describing Kyle's batting as "brilliant." He put on 79 for the first wicket with Ed Joyce and the same total for the second with Smyth, facing 139 balls and hit seven 4s. Faltering rather in the 80s, he reached the magic number with a 2 through the covers but was out next ball, as had happened at Malahide.

Some of his other most important innings were not big scores, rather they came rather low in the order as he pushed Ireland towards a defendable total or a target in a run chase. I, personally, witnessed such an innings in the memorable win over Worcestershire at New Road in May 2009. Captaining the side, he lost the toss and Ireland were soon foundering in helpful seam bowling conditions against the county's veteran seamer Matt Mason, himself once asked about his availability for Ireland. Kyle joined Trent Johnston at 75-6 and took part in a 7th wicket stand of 57 before Trent was out for 39. The tail then crumpled but Kyle made a robust 40, shattering the peace of the quarter full ground with the loudness of his calls. He hit four boundaries in his 60 balls 75 minutes stay, before being caught off the part time medium pace of opening bat Daryl Mitchell. Ireland reached 154 and then came Peter Connell. However without Kyle and Trent even the inept Worcestershire batting would have got to safety.

We should, however, note some other memorable batting against strong opposition. Pride of place might belong to the Australian match at Eglinton in August 1997. After an upset in the First Test, the Australians had swatted England aside, rather in the manner they themselves were swatted in 2010/11. Now they overcame the early loss of Michael Slater to make 303-7 off 50 overs with Ricky Ponting, watched by his Irish great aunts, racing to 117*. Ireland collapsed to 86-7, before Kyle at 7 took charge. Fresh from two fine innings against Scotland he made an undefeated 64 as Ireland, helped by some less taxing bowling, doubled their score. He also made 65 against the full Zimbabwe Test side, stronger then than now, at Castle Avenue in 2000. The bowling with Heath Streak and the Strang brothers was formidable. Zimbabwe also found batting difficult on their way to a five wicket win, Andy Flower being out for 0.

Bowling, Kyle had only two five wicket hauls. This was, of course, largely due to his role as a bowler in one day matches. Under Adi Birrell he was expected to bowl 10 overs in the middle of the innings for no more than 40 runs. HIs overall economy rate shows how he achieved his task. Even in the 2007 World Cup when he was pitted against the World's best he maintained it at 3.97. This did, however, sometimes come at the cost of wickets. Nevertheless he has some very impressive figures to his credit. We may examine two contrasting matches to show his skill.

In the European Championships held in Scotland in 2000, and now captaining the side he was Man of the Match against Italy at Ayr. Bowling in harness with left armer Matt Dwyer, he reduced the Italian batting to virtual impotence, finishing with figures of 10- 5 - 23 - 3, while Matt, even tighter, had 3-10 from his ten overs. Italy folded for 74, Ireland winning by 6 wickets. Another fine one day performance came against Bangladesh at The Lawn in June 1998. The visitors found themselves in somewhat alien conditions but reached 108-4 with plenty of overs to spare. Then the middle order tried to go on the offensive against Kyle with dire results. Though he went for nearly 5 an over he took 4 wickets, seeing the opposition fall for 229. He then completed a good all round performance with 22 out of a first wicket partnership of 74 with debutant Neil Carson. Ireland achieved a memorable victory by 4 wickets, Peter Gillespie finishing the job with an aggressive 94.

Moving on to a totally different type of match in different conditions we come to the Intercontinental Cup Final against Canada at Grace Road, Leicester in 2007. Canada began by being bowled out for 92, Johnston doing most of the damage with Kyle bowling only one over. Ireland then made 352, though they declined from 202-0 and owed much to a big hundred from Jeremy Bray. Canada, despite a mid order rally, folded again this time in face of Kyle's off spin as he took 5-34 in 8.5 overs with "clever off spin." A four day match finished just after tea on the second.

He had, perhaps, bowled even more impressively in the Final against Kenya at Windhoek in 2005. Both sides had declared in their first innings with the Kenyans leading by 88. Then, despite rain interruptions, Ireland bowled their opponents out for 156. With Johnston off the field for part of the innings Kyle took over the captaincy and was, according to Roy Morgan, "inspired." Taking off Andrew White, who had been bowling well, he came on himself and, bowling on a wicket drying after inadequate covering wrapped the innings up, taking four quick wickets to finish with 4-34. Ireland then beat the clock to win by 6 wickets, Kyle and Andrew sharing the man of the match award, really sharing it as only one plaque had been provided!

Kyle captained Ireland in 54 matches having succeeded Angus Dunlop during the 2000 season. The selectors had clearly seen him as heir apparent for some time, he had led Ireland A and Ireland Provinces against Bangladesh two years earlier. His first spell in charge was not a completely happy one, including as it did the unsuccessful ICC Trophy campaign in Canada in 2001.

Several reasons contributed to Ireland's poor showing. Kyle admitted that some of them were his fault but he could not be criticised on grounds of lack of effort either as leader or player, he turned in a man of the match performance in the narrow defeat by The Netherlands. However he was not helped by some strange selections - not the only reason for there being criticism of coach Ken Rutherford - and by the attitude of some of the players. Soon after the tournament he was replaced as captain by Jason Molins. When he returned as leader in the absence of the regular leaders, he showed inspirational qualities. He won 19 matches of his 54 in charge, a 35% success rate, making him Ireland's fourth most successful captain.

His decision to retire from the international game at the end of the 2009 season was widely regretted but also appreciated. Family and career reasons had to take precedence . He is Head of Physical Education at Belfast's Grosvenor Grammar School where Andrew White is also on the staff and several prominent young cricketers are to be found in the student body. Honours also came his way on his retirement. The award of the MBE for services to cricket was seen as well deserved as was the University of Ulster's Distinguished Graduate Award, by receiving which he joined such notables as author and former hostage Brian Keenan and MP and former labour Minister Kate Hoey.

How should William Kyle McCallan MBE be remembered for his deeds on the cricket field? Perhaps no better accolade can be found than that paid by Paul McCrum, one well qualified to speak on a fellow cricketer's abilities:

"A top team man whether in the ranks or leading from the front, his longevity, work rate and skill were to be admired and aspired to by any young cricketer in Ireland or further afield."

He is profiled in Siggins and Fitzgerald "Ireland's 100 Cricket Greats"