Allan Thomas Rutherford
Allan Rutherford was a very good wicket keeper, whom many observers of the Irish game, not those in the North West alone, thought unlucky not to have added to his 47 caps.
He was also a most useful middle order batsman at club level, with some important innings in Irish colours to his credit. He took time to establish himself in the side and, apart from the 1996 season, was never really sure of retaining his place, as the selectors tried several glovemen, none of whom Allan lost anything in comparison with, in their efforts to find Paul Jackson's successor.
Educated at Strabane HS, he was a prominent schoolboy cricketer, who first came to general notice in the U19 Interprovincial Championship of 1984. Against Ulster Town at Lodge Road, Coleraine, he hade a superb 112* as the home side totalled 267-5 declared before bowling the visitors out for 90.
This innings greatly helped his team to win the Cup. It enabled him to finish third in the tournament averages at 43.50. He was also to the fore in the Youth Tournament in Bermuda in 1985, in which Ireland finished 5th. His 41* contributed greatly to a six wicket win over Denmark.
As a club cricketer he was in Clarence Hiles' words, "much travelled." He began with Brigade, moved to Bready then, in Belfast, helped Woodvale win the NCU Senior Cup in 1998, but soon returned to his old clubs, first to Bready, thence to Brigade. A member of the Brigade side which narrowly defeated Eglinton in a tense NW Cup Final in 1991, he had moved to Bready by the time they took on Strabane at Beechgrove in NWCU Cup Final of 1996. His 42* in the first innings helped his club to within two runs of Strabane's first innings 220-8, thereafter a man of the match performance by Alex Cilliers ensured Bready victory.
It was Allan Rutherford's turn to be man of the match when he helped Woodvale to victory over Instonians at The Meadow in 1998. Batting at 4, after his side had won the toss, he made a first innings top score of 46, a key part of the total of 155-7 in 60 overs. He then made two stumpings of upper order batsmen, restricting Instonians to a single run lead. In the Woodvale second innings two wickets were down for 27 when Allan joined Stephen Warke. Together they took the score to 210, Allan making 66 and Stephen 102. Wickets clattered in the final overs, but the Ballygomartin Road attack, ably supported by the keeper with two further stumpings, was on target to gain a memorable 15 run victory.
They were back at Strangford Road the following summer to lose to NICC by the same amount, but Allan restricted North's progress with two more stumpings. Back on his native heaths in the early years of the new decade, Allan continued to show his batting skills In both the 2001 season, with Bready and 2002, with Brigade, he passed 400 runs averaging over 25 both years with a highest score of 83*.
Perhaps Allan's most famous day on the club scene came in a match that ended in defeat. This was the Irish Senior Cup Final of 1995 at The Green, Comber. Allan had won the Man of the Match award in the first round making a vital 52 in a close fought encounter with Pembroke. Now he had to come to the wicket at 62-2 as Bready chased a North Down total of 227-3 which had owed much to a stylish hundred by Paul McCrum, the century coming in the 50th over in an unbroken stand with captain Robin Haire. Allan had to contend not only with a typically business like home attack, but with several of his team-mates throwing their wickets away with wild shots. He, too, caused an unnecessary loss, running out Sam McConnell after they had added a sixth wicket 42 and tilted the game towards the North Westerners. Otherwise he played superbly, masterminding a perfectly timed run chase. He batted 35 overs, hitting only two 4s, but remained in control. 28 were needed off the last three overs, 10 off the last one and 2 off the last ball. Alas for Bready, "The Valiant Stumper" had his wicket shattered by Charlie McCrum and North Down were home by the narrowest possible margin.
Ian Callender described the innings as, "The closest thing to a match winning innings one could possibly wish to see." Mike Hendrick and Sir Everton Weekes gave the match award to Paul McCrum but the former England seamer turned national coach, described Allan's knock as, "An intelligent piece of cricket." It certainly was that!
At Senior Interprovincial level, he began as a batsman, and, in only his second match in what was then the Ulster Bank Cup, against North Leinster at Strabane in 1988, he struck gold. He hit an impressive 110 as the hosts declared on a commanding 272-6. However good batting by Brian Gilmore and Neil Taylor enabled North Leinster to draw the match. He finished third in the averages, with 65. The following season he assumed the gloves and immediately made his mark, finishing joint top of the wicket keeping table with 8 dismissals. He was also to shine once more with the bat in these matches. Against Ulster Country in 1992, he came in at third wicket down, as his side faced a total of 203. He won the match by his decisive batting which brought him 70*, finding a useful partner in Stephen Smyth, with whom he put on an unbroken 86 for the third wicket.
A revamped tournament and a change of clubs found him in the Northern Cricket Union XI in 1999, only to be surprisingly beaten by Munster and to finish last in the table. In this unlikely match at The Mardyke, however, Allan did all that could be asked of him. He stabilised the Northern batting with a good 31, batting at 4, putting on 74 for the third wicket with George Morrison (67). Then as Munster progressed to their unlikely victory with 3 balls to spare, he held two catches, briefly stemming the hosts' advance.
As has already been mentioned he had to wait some time to establish himself in the Irish team, and, to the consternation of his North West supporters, having done so, was still not always sure of selection. This was sometimes explained by the fact that in keeping with other fine stumpers, some in more exalted fields, he, on occasions, found himself replaced by an apparently better batsman. In a 47-match career, he scored 360 runs at 20.00, with a highest score of 47*, a better return with the bat than some who replaced him. Behind the stumps he conceded 80 byes and made 62 dismissals at a rate of 1.32 per match. At the time of writing (January 2009), Allan stands fourth in the list of Irish wicket keepers.
He also captained Ireland on three occasions and emerged undefeated. He began with a two one day matches against Northamptonshire at Downpatrick and Ormeau in 1989, standing in for Paul Jackson. His greatest service to Ireland in these two games was to twice catch Darrin Murray, a New Zealand batsman, having a trial with the County that season. He was later to play eight Test Matches for his country. He top scored in both matches with some ease, 135 and 83, setting up a visitor's victory on both occasions. Allan also played a useful innings in the first match. Chasing a total of 243-8 - in which there had been only a solitary bye - Ireland were heading for disaster at 12-7 when Allan joined Junior McBrine. They took the score to 168, before Allan fell for 20. The Donemana man finished on 70 and a respectable total was achieved.
However Allan then disappeared from the side, apart from two matches in 1993, until 1996, when he had his best season. He made 24 dismissals, including five in the match - all catches - in the victory over England NCA XI Triple Crown at Pontarddulais, thus helping Ireland to win the tournament for the first time. His keeping in the match was described as "faultless", while his leg side catch off Mark Patterson, to dismiss David Clarke, dangerman of the England batting line up, was a brilliant one.
He was to repeat his five dismissals in the European Championship match with Denmark at Glasgow's Titwood ground in 2000 in what was to prove was his last season for Ireland, and, though he by no means played every match, he finished on a high note with 12 dismissals. He also had several valuable innings for Ireland, apart from that mentioned above. Against Surrey at Eglinton in 1996, in a Benson and Hedges match, he made 26 at 9, before being caught by Alec Stewart off the Australian left arm quick bowler, Bernard Julian. Ireland were 126-7 when he joined Neil Doak at the crease, having got that far courtesy of some fine batting by Derek Heasley on his debut, and Doak as they rescued Ireland from 17-5. Allan then helped Doak (84*) add 70 in the last 10 overs, the wicket keeper falling to the last ball of the innings, Ireland having reached 196. He then allowed only two byes in Surrey's 5 wicket winning reply, besides catching Graham Thorpe, just getting into his stride, for 30 off Heasley.
Two other useful innings came in the three day match with a strong South African Academy XI at Lurgan in 1999. Coming in at 7 in the first innings when Ireland had reached 114-5, he helped overseas player Jonty Rhodes add 64 for the sixth wicker before paceman Nel bowled him for 21. Jonty -pleased to succeed in this of all matches - made 86. They were in partnership again in the second innings, Allan making 26 towards a stand of 71, Rhodes finishing on 82, as Ireland declared, but, the first day having been lost to rain, were unable to force a result. This was a good match for Allan as he held two superb catches in the visitors first innings.
The first of his three matches in charge came on the England tour of 1997 at the beautiful Arundel ground v The Earl of Arundel's XI. Allan led the side as captain Justin Benson stood down to accommodate the recall of Peter Davy and Jason Molins to the team. Allan showed tactical skill in introducing the rather unlikely bowling of Ed Joyce at a crucial stage and seeing a middle order collapse ensue. He was in charge again the following summer against MCC at Lurgan and Bangladesh at Waringstown. The MCC match ended in a draw with the visitors on 187-6 needing 245. The following day saw a good win over Bangladesh in an ODI, so that Allan was able to hand on the captaincy undefeated.
He was also led Northern Ireland's Commonwealth Games team in September of that year in Malaysia. It was not to be expected that they would progress beyond the group stages, though they were not overwhelmed by either South Africa or Barbados. Allan was able to preserve his 100% captaincy record v Bangladesh in the final match, his three catches helping the side to a fine 114 run win.
As we have seen he continued to play club cricket after his last Irish match. He also made important contributions to cricket administration He was also to be seen in MCC colours. As recently as 2008, he kept meticulously for the club against Ireland U19. He deserves to be remembered as one of Ireland's best keepers, who can justly be compared with that other North West stumper OD Colhoun.
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