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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
James Douglas Hall
  • Born 19 October 1988 Preston, Lancashire
  • Educated Laurelhill School, Lisburn
  • Occupation Commercial Manager
  • Debut 5 May 2008 v Northamptonshire at Northampton
  • Cap Number 666
  • Style Right hand batsman, right arm off break bowler
  • Teams Ireland U19, Waringstown, North, Northern Knights

James Hall, a very good right hand batsman - usually to be found opening the innings - and a distinctly useful off spinner has the distinction of being the only Irish International cricketer to share a birthplace with Andrew "Freddie" Flintoff. His father's business brought him to Belfast when he was still a boy, already bitten by the cricket bug. However his first attempt at finding a club, in the summer of 1999, proved to be unsuccessful. Together with his father, Steve, he turned up at Derriaghy, only to be turned away as it was a senior practice night. Though told to come back on a more suitable occasion, the Halls decided to try their luck elsewhere and were well received at The Lawn, where the then opening bat and summer holidays coach, Michael Scott immediately recognized talent when he saw it. Perhaps Derriaghy had committed a historic blunder of the type which decades previously had seen Lancashire turn away a young hopeful paceman called Frank Tyson, but nobody at The Lawn has ever complained!

James' potential was quickly more widely recognized and he became a "shoe - in" at both Youth Interprovincials and for Ireland's Age Group sides from U13 upwards Among his best interopro performances was a fine all round one for NCU U17s against the Southern XI in 2005. The Southerners, who had previously defeated the North West by 6 wickets batted first but were dismissed for 119 with James taking 4-19. He then made 49* as NCU raced to a 9 wickets victory.

In his first, 2002, International season, he took part in the U13 European Championships held in the Dublin area, distinguishing himself with a useful innings of 36, helping see Ireland to a 5 wickets victory over Scotland at Malahide. Contributing usefully to the U15 side in the 2004 tournament, by which time he had already made his senior debut for Waringstown, he made a telling impact for the U17s, the following summer in Denmark. Playing under the enthusiastic captaincy of Greg Thompson, he had a good all round game against The Netherlands, taking 3-20 in his 10 overs as the Dutch were dismissed for 105. He then made 24, but Ireland, in far from easy conditions, fell 26 runs short.

However he again reserved his best performance for the Scots. Coming in at No 6, he made 67 from 75 balls, hitting 5 fours, then with an economical 1-29 from his 10 overs he helped bowl the opposition lout for 155. These performances helped gain him a place in a strong U19 side, led by Eoin Morgan and including eight future Irish internationals, both for the 2005 European tournament and for the U19 World Cup in Sri Lanka early in 2006.

In the opening match, against Zimbabwe - which by common consent Ireland lost by batting badly, he had the distinction of dismissing the opposition's best batsman, Gary Ballance, before top scoring In Ireland's reply. Unfortunately his score was only 17 as Ireland crumbled for 97. It was to be the end of the tournament before he was really to be prominent again. This was in the 13th place play off final, against Namibia. Barry Chambers in the Irish Cricket Annual reported that James "proceeded to decimate the weak Namibian batting line up." They were bowled out for 115, James finishing with figures of 9.1-3-29-4, which gained him the Man of the Match award. His spinning - and Waringstown colleague Gary Kidd had 3-26, Ireland went on to win by 5 wickets.

The 2006 season saw him captain the U17 side as well as continuing to play for the U19s. Both sides won their European tournaments, as did the younger teams. James made two worthwhile contributions to the "17s" victories in the Netherlands. Against the hosts, at Deventer, he contributed 34 towards an Irish total of 264-5 (Paul Stirling 61) then chipped in with 2-36 as Ireland outclassed their opponents to win by 68 runs. He was also in fine form against Scotland making 52* at 3, after taking 4-19. Ireland won by 7 wickets. The U19 tournament, held in the NCU area, was a two innings 2 day one. James made a spirited 50 against Denmark at Osborne Park, two other batsmen also registered half centuries and Stirling hit a century. James also had 2 second innings wickets as Ireland recorded a fine 231 runs victory.

Ireland again made a clean sweep of all competition in 2007, with the U19 matches - this time 50 over affairs - again played in the NCU . James had 4- 22 against Denmark at Osborne Park as the visitors, chasing a score of 301-8 (Chris Dougherty 131) could only total 127. He was in good all round form against The Netherlands at Upritchard Park, in a match which Ireland won by 8 wickets. His off spin worried the Danish batsmen as he returned Ireland's best analysis of 3-21. He then contributed 41* to the victory target.

The 2008 U19 World Cup in Malaysia was, as Barry Chambers report in the 2008 Irish Cricket Annual makes clear, not an altogether happy affair either on or off the field. This is not the place to go into details, readers seeking more should consult Barry's article. However James was among the players whom Barry thought worthy of praise. He had " a very mature outlook on the game and a cool head." Though he had some fitness problems, he was, along with Andy Britton, Greg Thompson and Paul Stirling, the success stories of Ireland's tournament. He was seen to advantage in the match against Bermuda, a game which Ireland, who went down by 20 runs, should never have lost. James took 3-44 and made a useful 25 but could not avert a 20 runs defeat. Against the West Indies he contributed a fighting 45 - in the 9 place play off Quarter Final - before being run out. Ireland reserved their best performances until the end. In the 13th place playoff semi final against Bermuda, he made a fine 75 from 82 balls with 6 fours, adding 137 for the 3rd wicket with Stirling (59). He then took 1-43 as Bermuda failed by 64 runs to reach their target, Thompson having a 5 wicket haul. The Final against Zimbabwe saw Ireland win by 6 wickets. James took 2-11 as Zimbabwe, their upper order routed by Andy Britton, were all out for 99. James then top scored with a brisk 29 balls 32, as Ireland, without too many alarms, won an excellent victory.

He had, meanwhile become an established Waringstown player, having made his debut in an Irish Senior Cup match against Pembroke in 2003, when just turned 15. Waringstown, despite losing fewer wickets lost a tight match by 2 runs but the debutant impressed with the ball. removing the four top order batsmen to finish with the notable figures of 10-1-27-4. Though his bowling has, as we shall see remained a most useful adjunct to his cricket, it is, of course as a batsman that he has shone for the Villagers. At the end of the 2016 season he had, in all competitive matches - including those in the Irish Senior Cup - totalled 8556 runs with 13 centuries, a club record, and 48 fifties, his average being 37.20. His "century count", incidentally, is just one more than that of the evergreen Kyle McCallan.

He hit his first senior fifty in 2004, 77 against Lurgan at The Lawn in late August, seeing his side to a three wicket victory, having made his runs out of 118 added while he was at the wicket. However it was probably the 2006 season which convinced cricket followers beyond The Lawn that he really "had something." A 138 balls 108* against Cliftonville showed his talent in no uncertain terms, but it was in the Challenge Cup that he came in to his own in spectacular fashion. Scores of 49 in the Quarter Final and 65 in the Semi were impressive but did not prepare the cricket public for what was to follow. The Final, at The Meadow, was against CIYMS, the first Section 2 side to reach the Final for 25 years. They batted first but could only manage 194-5 from their 50 overs, James taking 2 wickets, including the key one of Derek Heasley (68). Then, in the words of Clarence Hiles "Seventeen year old Waringstown opener James Hall played the innings of his short but blossoming cricket career 130 off 129 balls." He reached three figures from 108 balls and, all told, hit 11 fours and 1 six. With McCallan making an equally devastating 92*, CI had little chance of recovery, they lost by 9 wickets, James being undefeated at the end on 22*. James also became the youngest player to hit a Challenge Cup Final hundred.

Few, if any, followers of the Game in the NCU area will need to be reminded that 2015 was James' most successful to date (March 2017). Though he missed some cricket due to hamstring problems, he made a staggering 1140 runs at 81.43, including 5 centuries, three of which would have fulfilled Graham Gooch's criteria of a "Daddy hundred" as well containing enough evidence of belligerence to satisfy his fellow Prestonian. He began with an amazing 206* against Academy in the Cup in early May, hitting 14 fours and no fewer than 17 sixes .The opposition batting, unsurprisingly, collapsed in reply. He was at it again against Carrickfergus a month later, hitting 200 out of 369 with 14 fours and 12 sixes, being out 6 overs from the closure. Carrick, unlike Academy, made a spirited reply, but James had already done the damage. "It's Hall too much for Carrick," pronounced The Carrick Times. In the Premiership Ballymena also felt the full weight of his powerful hitting as he made his top score in the competition, 172, made out of the 252 scored while he was batting. The Co Antrim side collapsed for 95, the Villagers having posted 385-5. He also reached his personal best in the ISC, though he contented himself with a "mere" 125 against Co Galway, striking 7 fours and 7 sixes from the 99 balls he faced. Waringstown finished on 358-5. The Westerners batted consistently in their innings but lost by 115 runs. James, highest Ulster Cup score had come the previous season, a typically destructive 132* as he batted through the 40 overs to see his side to a total of 241-4 against Fox Lodge before the opposition were spun out for 53 by McCallan and Gary Kidd.

James has also met with not inconsiderable success as an off spinner though the presence of McCallan and Kidd in the side has rather limited his opportunities. Nevertheless, he has taken 241 wickets at 18.16 with 3 five wicket hauls, his best season being 2011 when he took 42 at 13.11, including 6-43 against Instonians. His best analysis 8.1-1-42-6, including the important scalp of Mark Hutchinson for 73 came against Bangor at Upritchard Park in the League in 2008. James had already made a 96 balls 50. Before moving on from his Waringstown career, we should mention that James was, all too briefly, joined in the Village ranks by his younger brother Josh, a highly promising paceman. However family responsibilities soon caused Josh to give up the game.

At first sight it may seem strange that James as not been a regular member of the Northern Knights squad since the inception of the modern Interprovincial tournament in 2013, particularly as he appeared for the North v South in one of the two matches played in 2012. He has played once for the Knights in a 50 over match v Leinster Lightning in 2013. Batting at 6, he made 24 from 31 balls with 4 fours, before being bowled by Max Sorensen. He has not played since and severed his connection with the Knights later in that year. He felt, as he explained to The Newsletter that both his work and holiday time would be badly affected if he played on a regular basis, citing one regular Knight who had had only two days other holiday that year, having to give all the rest of his leisure time to cricket. Further James feels that the Knights were too many overseas players, to the detriment of home grown talent.

Making his debut in the U23 European Championships, James played 23 matches for teams variously designated Ireland U23, Ireland A and An Ireland XI, scoring 624 runs at 31.20 with 3 fifties. The first of these came for Ireland A against Yorkshire 2nd XI at Weetwood College, Leeds in 2009, in a match which Yorkshire, having enforced the follow on, eventually had to rely on a century from Billy Root, whose brother can also bat a bit, to record a 3 wickets victory.. James, having made 30 at 3 in the first innings, opened in the second and made a fine 64 from 91 balls before being lbw, paving the way for 99 from captain Nigel Jones and 100* from Andy Balbirnie which enabled Ireland to declare on 399-7. His second half century came against Italy in Jersey in June 2010. Chasing a target of only 162, Ireland A had little difficulty in reaching it, losing only 3 wickets in the process. James top scored, batting through the innings for an undefeated 61 from 92 balls with 7 fours and 1 six. Any lingering hope the Italians may have had was ended by a second wicket stand of 72 between the two Jameses, Hall and Shannon, the latter contributing 27. James Hall's final score of over fifty came against Hampshire 2nd XI at The Rosebowl, as it then was, in 2010. The county declared 10 runs behind in their first innings, to which Ireland replied with 238-9 before declaring. James playing a fine innings with 13 fours and 1 six from 154 balls. He was on 97 when Balbirnie, seeking a result, closed the innings. Perhaps he should have batted slightly longer as the hosts emerged victorious by 3 wickets.

His debut for the full Ireland side had come in 2008, as Barry Chambers had forecast during the U19 World Cup. In all he was to play 8 times, but totalled only 98 runs at 12.25. He is, as himself has said, a far better player now than he was at the time. He was also at the time deeply upset by the death of his father to whom he had been very close. It is also true that the early season green wickets encountered in the Friends Provident Trophy, tracks tailor made for the county seamers met in away matches, were not the easiest for a teenager learning his trade to bat on. Taking these circumstances into account, James, two innings in the Northamptonshire matches are worthy of high praise. In the first one, at Wantage Road, Ireland were restricted to 203-9 from their 50 overs, owing much to a "classy 70" (Wisden) from Paul Stirling, even younger than James. However James, who opened with William Porterfield, made a gritty 20 being second top scorer to Stirling. The hosts, however, stormed past the Irish score with little trouble, salt being rubbed into their wounds by the batting of Niall O'Brien who put on 179 for the first wicket with Stephen Peters. In the return match at Castle Avenue Ireland were able to dismiss the county for 203 but found themselves dismissed for a disappointing 105. The only worthwhile stand of the innings was 30 for the first between James and Porterfield (11). James went on to make 24, easily top scorer, as no one else reached double figures. Derek Scott, still holding his watching brief, reported of James that, "he looked a competent player." . Praise indeed for James from one never given to overstatement who was a fine judge of a player and who had, at that stage, seen almost every match played by Ireland since 1939!

James Douglas Hall was not to play for Ireland again after 2009. His form in recent seasons suggests that this is certainly unfortunate and that Ireland would indeed have been strengthened by his presence.