Ireland's Greatest Cricketers 11: Garfield Harrison
Garfield Harrison was a fine all round cricketer, who fully justified - indeed exceeded - the weighty expectations into which he was born. The son of an average club cricketer, and named Garfield after the great Bajan, he was very much the youngest of six cricketing brothers, three of whom played for Ireland while a fourth, Ian, might very well have done so, and the fifth, Barry, was a highly capable club cricketer.
In addition his sister Joan married one Irish wicket keeper and gave birth to another. Lesser mortals, faced with such a heritage, might very well have opted for Tennis!
Not so Garfield, who, blessed with more natural ability than any one his siblings, and his fair share of the family characteristics of determination and single mindedness, became the best cricketer in the family. As a batsman, free scoring in the middle order, he was at least as good as his brother Jim - otherwise the best bat amongst the brothers - while as a bowler he had two distinct careers. Capped as a seamer, he later returned to his first love of off spin, and was a better purveyor of this art than Ian, who was considered - even beyond the confines of The Lawn - unlucky not to have an Irish cap to hang in his wardrobe.
Garfield first caught the eye on a wider stage with his performances for Ulster Country in the U19 Interprovincial Tournament, then the Esso Cup. After first appearing in 1978, he captained "Country" in the next two seasons, winning the Cup on each occasion. In 1979, the Tournament was dominated by the future Irish batsman Mark Cohen of South Leinster, but Garfield was one of the most successful Ulster Country players. His best score was 68*, in the 5 wicket defeat of Ulster Town at Ballymena.
The following year he was singled out for his "excellent all round play." Now bowling at some pace he took 4-18 to bring about a heavy defeat of North West, again at Ballymena, and made 51* when North Leinster were defeated by 6 wickets. 1980 was also the year in which he established himself as a real force in the Waringstown side, something he was to remain for more than twenty years.
Previously he had been seen as a promising- if inconsistent -middle order bat and an occasional - optimistic - slow bowler. Switching to fast medium, to fill a gap in the club's attack, he took over 60 wickets, and, finishing third in the NCU averages was their young player of the year.
Space does not permit a minute description of Garfield's many stirring deeds for "The Village", so some highlights must suffice. In the 1986 Cup Final v NICC at Downpatrick, he gave a fine example of his batting ability. Waringstown trailed North by 58 on the first innings, usually more than enough of a lead to ensure victory for the team holding it. The lead would have been greater had not Davy Dennison hit a priceless 65.
In their second innings Waringstown were 32-3 with overs leaking away, when Garfield joined Davy. They added 125 in quick time, Dennison finishing on 67. Garfield was finally stumped for a memorable 78 having just hit a huge 6 over the Strangford Road Pavilion. He was Man of the Match. He gained that individual award again two years later, when his team won the League/ cup double.
In a low scoring Final, Downpatrick were defeated by 97 runs with Garfield top scoring in both innings, 32 and 49, as well as having the best bowling figures each knock also, 3-10 and 4-22. In 1992, when he was the NCU all rounder of the year and Waringstown the team of the Year, he led them to the Treble: NCU League and Cup and Irish Senior Cup.
He followed this with another match winning performance v North Down in the Cup Final of 1994. This was another low scoring match, with his second figures analysis of 10.3-4-13-5, causing the Comber side to collapse and leave a seemingly simple target of 84. However Waringstown were soon 42-3 and all things were possible. Enter Garfield to score 25* and see his side home. He was to continue to dominate matches well it the new century.
In Interprovincial matches he scored 1264 runs at 28.72, with a highest score of 28.72. Rather surprisingly he did not take 100 wickets in the Tournament, finishing with 90 at 22.44. He had many useful achievements with bat and ball, though the ICU Yearbook of 1990, might be said to have been mildly critical of his captaincy of Ulster Country, seemingly suggesting a safety first policy. Be that as it may, he always played a prominent role in his team's successes. Thus in 1988, he topped the Tournament bowling averages with 10 wickets at 10.00 and averaged 61.00 with the bat, scoring 122 runs.
In 1989, he again averaged over 60, besides playing a leading all round role. Thus in a dramatic 4 run win over Ulster Town, he struck a brilliant undefeated 103 out of 285-7, then took 4-93 to bowl "Town" out for 281.
His Irish debut came, as a late replacement for Roy Torrens, in the first of two one day matches with Worcestershire at Rathmines in 1983. Altogether, he was to play 118 times, a record at the time though it was soon to be eclipsed by Alan Lewis, whose 121 cap record has now been comfortably exceeded by Kyle McCallan.
Garfield scored 2765 runs at 28.08 and took 140 wickets at 34.03. This may seem a surprisingly high bowling average, however he might well point out that his famous West Indian namesake's 235 Test wickets cost 34.03!
Though Garfield began as an opening bowler, and, in that first season took 3-42 in a Nat West match v Sussex, including the wicket of former Test batsman Paul Parker, it was his batting which initially caught the eye. He has been described as a "bowling all rounder", but this facet of his game was decreasingly used during the 1980s until he switched to his boyhood off spin late in the decade, and, was able to take advantage of the retirement of Mike Halliday.
As a batsman he reached his pinnacle with a century v Scotland at Hamilton Crescent in 1994. This was a high scoring match in which 1045 runs were scored for 13 wickets. Ireland had led by 37 on the first innings, in which Garfield hit 42. After two declarations they batted again and were in some trouble at 57-3. Then Garfield and Alan Lewis (113*) added 224 for the 4th wicket, before Lewis declared. Garfield had struck two 6s and fourteen 4s in his 105*. This equalled the then record Irish partnership for any wicket, a first wicket stand by Stephen Warke and Michael Rea against Wales in College Park in 1992. Lewis declared in the belief that they had set a new record but a scoring error was later discovered.
Their 4th wicket record was eclipsed by 232 between William Porterfield and Kevin O'Brien v Kenya at Nairobi in 2007, while they are now 5th in the all time partnership lists, with Eoin Morgan and Andre Botha taking pride of place with their 360 v UAE at Abu Dhabi in the Intercontinental Cup in 2007.
Garfield's road to his century had included several near misses, after a promising first season in which he scored 322 runs at 35.77. These included a hard hit 36 in the second Worcestershire match, when only Ivan Anderson among the other batsmen could cope with the County bowling and, "Only Harrison's brisk 36 towards the end gave Ireland's reply a respectable air." (ICU Yearbook).
He also hit a brilliant 86 v Scotland in 92 minutes at Downpatrick. This enabled Ireland to total 282 and was a key reason for their 5 wicket win. That season he also hit a quick fire 64 against Wales. He had another good season with the bat in 1987, scoring 295 runs at 29.50, though bowling only 9 overs. Against a strong Gloucestershire attack at Downpatrick in June, he top scored with 62, adding 118 for the 5th with Dennison, though Ireland still lost by 93 runs. Another top score, of a somewhat different kind, followed in the Nat West match with Northamptonshire on the county ground at Wantage Road. Ireland did well to put their hosts out for 198, before collapsing with only Garfield and "Junior" McBrine reaching double figures.
In 1988, he completed his thousand runs in his 37th match and gave a magnificent display of hitting against Worcestershire at Beechgrove. The large crowd, which had turned up to se Graeme Hick, then still regarded as a Bradman like figure who, when available would be the saviour of English cricket, and were rewarded with a half century, were thrilled by Garfield's 76 in 111 minutes. The next highest scorer was Cohen with 19. The following season saw him fall just short of a coveted Lord's hundred. In a match in which Ireland set 251 were nowhere near the target, he made 95, being out in the penultimate over, striking out for three figures.
His bowling had two distinct phases. As we have seen, he began as an opener and did well against tough opposition in his first season. Thereafter, though he continued to pick up useful wickets, he was increasingly disregarded. However against Wales in 1988, in the match in which he reached four figures as a batsman, he took 4-72 in 15 overs as Wales chased a target of 281, falling well short with their last pair in. He was by now "A deadly accurate off spinner who was not afraid to give the ball a real rip." (Siggins and Fitzgerald).
At Castle Avenue the following summer he had 6-75 against Scotland in 24 overs though the match was drawn. His wickets included Omar Henry, a leading South African player in Government enforced "non white" cricket, who, when the citadel of apartheid fell, was to represent his country on its readmission to Test Cricket.
Garfield's best bowling performance for Ireland, or indeed for any side, came in the Scots match of 1990 at Myreside. This match was rain affected and all chances of a definite result disappeared when the hosts continued their first innings into the third morning. This did however allow Garfield to complete a remarkable spell of bowling. He finished with figures of 43.2-11-113-9. The last 35.2 overs were unchanged, though he did have a night's rest after the 27th.
He set all sorts of records. It was the best bowling performance for Ireland "overseas." The previous record was Charlie Lawrence's 8-32 v MCC in 1858. It was the second best first class bowling for Ireland, being headed only by Frank Fee's 9-26 v Scotland in College Park in 1957, which was also the last time an Irish bowler had had a "9 for." it was the fourth bowling performance of all time for Ireland, if JP Mahaffy's 9-16 in a 12 a side match v I Zingari in 1866 is discounted.
Apart from Fee, Tom Ross's 9-28 vs South Africa at The Mardyke in 1904, and, almost certainly Arthur Samuels' 9 v I Zingari in 1859 shade Garfield. No record of the runs scored off Samuels has been found, but as IZ were all out for 198, it seems highly improbable that Samuels went for more than 113!
Garfield's figures were also the best first class bowling, not only in England, but in the whole of the first class world that year.
Garfield David Harrison retired from international cricket in 1997, following Ireland narrowly failing to qualify for the 1999 World Cup at the ICC Trophy in Kuala Lumpur.
He was appointed as the first Northern Ireland Cricket Development Officer in 1994, though he later resigned to take up a post in Media Communications.
Needless to say, he is profiled in Siggins and Fitzgerald "Ireland's 100 Cricket Greats."
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