Arthur McIntyre: England cricketer who kept wicket throughout Surrey's run of seven consecutive 1950s county titles

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Arthur McIntyre was the wicketkeeper in the great Surrey side that won the County Championship in seven consecutive summers from 1952 to 1958. He was the consummate professional, the best "day in, day out" keeper on the county circuit, standing up to the stumps not only to the Surrey spin twins Jim Laker and Tony Lock but also to the awkward medium pace of Alec Bedser, all of them bowling on lively, uncovered pitches.

Unfortunately he played in the same years as the more spectacular Godfrey Evans, and he won only three Test caps. Evans was a showman, lacking the dedication necessary for the six-day-a-week routine, but he could turn on the style on the big occasions.

McIntyre grew up in Princes (now Cleaver) Square in Kennington, a quarter of a mile from The Oval. His father was a Scottish bricklayer, often out of work, but he managed to buy his five-year-old boy a cricket bat, shaving off the bottom. In the middle of the square were disused allotments and in the games played there the boy who had the only bat was soon making progress.

His schoolmasters at Kennington Road encouraged him, he watched his idol Jack Hobbs whenever he could, and in June 1932, aged 14, he opened the batting at Lord's for the London Elementary Schools. His partner was Denis Compton: they put on 100 together, then, "he hit the ball straight at cover point and ran me out."

He joined the Oval groundstaff, where he supervised members' bicycles, turned out for the Young Players of Surrey and was sent one winter to Maidstone to develop his leg-breaks under the tutelage of the great "Tich" Freeman. McIntyre, a "tich" himself at 5ft 5in, was seen as a leg-spinner who also batted, and he progressed into the first team for a few games in 1938 and 1939.

Then came the war. He was posted to North Africa and then to Italy, where a large piece of shrapnel had to be extracted from his hip. It was there that he met up with the Bedser twins, who were in the RAF police, and he experienced the rare joys of "clean sheets, lovely ham sandwiches and cricket talk." The pre-war Surrey keeper, George Mobey, was in his forties, and the Bedsers suggested to McIntyre that keeping might be his best route into the side. So "Mac" turned himself into a keeper.

In fact he played the summer of 1946 as a specialist batsman, scoring 791 runs, including a century, and winning his county cap. He was working with the great pre-First World War England keeper Herbert Strudwick to improve his glovework, and the following summer the position became his.

Alec Bedser liked his keepers standing up, and the slow left-armer Tony Lock became a testing bowler to keep to, particularly with his faster ball. But it was the off-spin of Jim Laker that McIntyre found hardest. On a dusty track at Chelmsford in 1947 Laker's deliveries bounced over his left shoulder and he conceded 33 byes.

With the England fast bowler Peter Loader emerging in the early 1950s, it was arguably the best county bowling side of all time – and by then Mac was taking them all with a calm unobtrusiveness. "He was never acrobatic," Peter May wrote. "There was no need, as he was always in the correct position on his two feet."

He was a wristy, attractive batsman, keen to get on with it. Though he did not make the runs he might have done as a specialist batsman, he scored seven centuries and completed 1,000 runs in a summer three times. He played the lap shot well and what we now call the slog-sweep, but his running between the wickets was not popular with one or two of the older, heavier players, notably Jack Parker, whom Mac described as "like an old ship going down the wicket."

McIntyre was chosen as reserve England keeper for the 1950-51 tour of Australia, captained by Freddie Brown. On the way out he scored a century in Ceylon and was picked as a batsman for the first Test at Brisbane, taking part in the most extraordinary day's cricket.

On the Saturday Australia made 228. Then came two days of rain, followed by a tropical sun that made the drying pitch an unplayable sticky dog. England struggled to 68 for 7 then declared. Australia reached 32 for 7 and also declared, setting England 193 for victory. Survival till morning, and a calmer pitch, was paramount, and Hutton and Compton were held back.

It all went horribly wrong, and at 23 for 5 Mac joined Evans at the wicket. It was the greatest opportunity of his life, and he immediately hit the mystery spinner Iverson for a leg-side four. The next ball lived forever in his memory: "I hit Iverson down to square leg, a fair way. A chap named Johnson chased it. We'd run three easy runs. And we went for the fourth. This chap threw the ball in. It missed the stumps by quite a bit. Don Tallon, their keeper, backed away from the wicket, took the ball, threw it at the stumps and it hit them. And I was out. Run out, going for a fourth.

"Christ, if I could have walked off the ground the other way and not had to face Freddie Brown, I would have done. It was such a vital time. If I could have stayed there ... To have got run out, of all things ... Crikey, did I get some stick."

Hutton batted superbly the next morning, but they lost by 70 runs.

McIntyre returned to Surrey and to the seven championship titles, his last season coinciding with the last of them. He then did 18 years as county coach, upholding cricket's traditional values – discipline, smart appearance, fair play – and proving a shrewd judge of youngsters. He worked closely with the local schools, and 10 of his recruits, among them Bob Willis and the New Zealand captain Geoff Howarth, went on to play Test cricket.

In 1963, five years after retirement, he played one last time. The Surrey keeper had appendicitis, and McIntyre did not want to expose the young deputy to the intimidating atmosphere of Bramall Lane, Sheffield. He scored an unbeaten 50 and took three catches, the last of them the young Geoff Boycott.

He and his wife Dorothy retired to Lymington, enjoying 57 years of marriage before her death. He lived another six years, always happy to share his love of cricket with visitors. Nobody had ever batted better than his idol Jack Hobbs, nobody bowled better than Shane Warne. And nobody had ever run a run more disastrous than his at Brisbane.

At the time of his death he was England's oldest Test cricketer. That mantle now passes to his old friend, Sir Alec Bedser.

Stephen Chalke



Arthur John William McIntyre, cricketer and coach: born Kennington, London 14 May 1918; played for Surrey, 1938-63, and three Tests for England, 1950-55; married 1946 Dorothy (died 2003; one stepson, deceased); died Lymington 26 December 2009.

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