Ireland's Greatest Cricketers 5: Ivan Anderson
Ivan Anderson was, unquestionably, the finest Irish batsman of his generation. Few would deny him a place in the top half dozen best Irish bats of all time: "Arguably the most complete Irish cricketer in history" (Siggins and Fitzgerald), he was a stylish upper order player, capable of dominating the best attacks, brilliant cover fielder, and a very good off spinner, who gave little away.
As a 15 year old he played for Armagh, while still at the City's Royal School, where he broke records, was captain of the XI, and also led the Ulster and Irish Schools XIs. After finishing his degree at Queen's, he returned to Armagh, but in 1969 joined Waringstown and was a key, if not the key, figure in the Village's glory years. He became not only the leading player, but also an important administrator, as club secretary and NCU executive committee member.
During his years in the XI,Waringstown won the Senior Cup 15 times in 15 appearances. On 11 of these Ivan made a telling contribution with either bat or ball. For example, he scored 76 in the first innings v Ballymena in 1976, to help set up an 8-wicket victory. Even more vital was his second innings 53 v Downpatrick three years later, when the Villagers got home by one run. Another seventy odd came in 1983, when he and David Dennison (137) were responsible for batting Lurgan out of the game reaching a total of 336-5.
He also had several useful 30s and 40s, including a 34 v NICC, coming as late as 1992. His off spin brought a clutch of telling 4 wicket hauls and 22 overs for 30 in the 1993 Final. He also helped them to 13 League titles and four shared ones. For most of this time Waringstown relied on their own strength, scorning the professionals used by their rivals. He also captained them to win the second ever Irish Senior Cup in 1983.
He was also a force in the Guinness Cup. Between its inception in 1966 and his retirement from representative cricket in 1985, he scored 2094 runs at 38.77, first for Ulster Town and then for Ulster Country. his highest score was 101*. His aggregate has only been surpassed by "Ginger" O'Brien, father of Kevin and Niall, whose career was longer and average lower. Ivan also took 80 wickets at 18.01, which ranks him high amongst the tournaments all rounders. He was in six Cup winning sides.
He made his Irish debut against Middlesex in 1966, and top scored in both innings against the full county attack. He scored 7 centuries for Ireland including the then Irish record of 198* v Canada, at Toronto, on tour in 1973. "A brilliant chanceless innings," according to eye witness Derek Scott in Wisden. Ossie Colhoun and Dougie Goodwin stayed with him for long periods to help him towards Ireland's first 200, but alas, John Elder at number 11 was unable to do so, falling lbw in the last over of the day. The match was drawn as Ireland failed to enforce the follow on.
The 7 remains a record at the time of writing though closely pursued by Jeremy Bray. Ivan also became the first, and so far only, Irish batsman to hit two hundreds in a match v Scotland at Hamilton Crescent, Glasgow in 1976. His first innings 147 was part of a 222 run 4th wicket partnership with Alec O'Riordan (117). This is still the sixth highest Irish partnership of all time, though it has been surpassed twice for the fourth wicket most recently by Eoin Morgan and William Porterfield in the Intercontinental Cup in March 2007. His second innings 103* was the fourth century of the match as JR Laing of Scotland made 125, ensuring a draw.
Anderson hit 4 other hundreds for Ireland, the first: a 2 hour 110 v Combined Services at Shane Park in 1968; it was the first Irish hundred for six years.; he followed with 75 in the second innings, He generally batted well at Lord's, never better than in a drawn match in 1977, when a first innings 105* was followed by 81 in the second, as Ireland fell short by 3 runs in a run chase. Many observers consider his sixth hundred to have been his best: 110 v Sri Lanka, then on the verge of Test status, in 1979. The ICU Year Book 1980 called it, "a brilliant innings, with 20 fours in 184 minutes." He narrowly missed an eighth ton, with 99 in the Scots match of 1981, only the second time the " nearest miss" had been recorded for Ireland.
His off spin brought him 48 wickets at 26.60. In 1974 Ivan 5-21 and Dermott Monteith 5-29, bowled Ireland to an improbable victory over Scotland on the last afternoon. It also kept him in the Irish side. Strange as it seems, the selectors had decided to drop him, so it was as an off spinner that the master batsman kept his place for the next match. He was appointed captain in 1968 and seemed to be just into his stride when Goodwin replaced him the following year. He could take comfort from the fact that he was far from the only Irish captain to be strangely treated by the selectors.
When he retired from International cricket, some thought he had lost some of his enthusiasm for the "big time." Be that as it may his club career continued into the next decade, and his coaching and administrative skills are still much in evidence. He was elected President of the NCU from 2006-2007.
In his History of Senior Cricket in Ulster, Clarence Hiles has a section entitled "Ivan the Great." None would disagree with that verdict unless they wished to challenge it as an understatement. He is profiled in Siggins and Fitzgerald Ireland's 100 Cricket Greats.