Tom Dixon was a fast medium swing bowler, devastating with the new ball
Thomas Hartigan Dixon
Tom Dixon was a bowling all rounder. Tall, dark haired and strong, he was a fast medium swing bowler, devastating with the new ball, given any help from conditions. He was also a hard hitting lower middle order batsman, capable of reducing good bowlers to a level of ordinary, and destroying those of lesser ability. As his career progressed, his bowling declined, so that the man who had batted at No 11 for Ireland, finished up at No 3 for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy, and barely turning his arm over.
Though he and his brother Pat, his life long inseparable companion, were born in India, they were taken to Australia at an early age, where they were educated at the prestigious, Sacred Heart College in Adelaide's beachside suburb of Somerton Park. Its spacious playing fields are better known for helping the development of Australian Rules footballers and, at least one tennis champion in John Fitzgerald, the Grand Slam winning doubles player. Its cricketers are less well known but Tom and Pat were able to take full advantage of the facilities on offer, before both entered Dublin University in the autumn of 1925, finding places in the XI the following summer. Both were to be ever present until 1932. How much time they gave to engineering is debateable, considering the length of their time as undergraduates, but at least they did not surpass the achievement of song writer William (Percy) French, who some twenty years before had taken twelve years to gain his degree!
Tom,, who captained the XI in 1928, deserves to be remembered as one of the all time greats of Dublin University Cricket, sitting well with players of the calibre of Lucius Gwynn, George McVeagh and Ed Joyce. In League matches - the Leinster Senior Cup did not make an appearance until Tom had departed for sunnier climes than College Park - he scored 1172 runs at 29.50 and took 162 wickets at 13.74. Only three other University players have achieved this double. With a highest score of 111 v Phoenix in 1928, he past 50 on eight other occasions. As a bowler, he had twelve "5 fors", achieving the feat four times in 1927 and three times in 1931. He was runner up to Eddie Ingram for the Samuels Cup (awarded to the best all rounder in Leinster cricket) in both 1929 and 1931. However, the University had an extensive fixture list in those days, far beyond League cricket. In all he took 339 wickets and scores 2176 runs, with a highest score of 113* v Ulster CC at College Park in 1929. He also found Northern opposition to his liking with the ball. Thus in 1929, against Queen's University in Belfast, he had 7-24, while two years later the men from Ballynafeigh again sufferd on a visit to College Park, as he recorded figures of 8-37. He appeared in the last two first class matches played by the University, both against Northamptonshire in 1926. The University were heavily outclassed and there was general agreement when McVeagh, by far the leading batsman, proposed a halt to such fixtures in future. The results were all the more disappointing as Northamptonshire were among the weakest of the sides in the County Championship at the time. One of the few of the vanquished to make any showing was Tom. In the first match in College Park, he had bowling figures of 23.4 - 10 42 - 6 as Northamptonshire, having routed their hosts for 138 (Tom 16) were bowled out for 291. They responded by shooting the University out for 89, Tom and Noel Kelly each making 25 were the only batsmen to make an impression. Later in the season, fielding a much weaker side, the University were again rolled over, by an even greater margin, but Tom was once more the leading bowler. However his figures were less impressive, though at 54 - 14 - 118 - 4, they show that he was by no means collared.
His debut for Ireland came, as a late replacement, against Scotland in College Park the following summer. He had what Derek Scott has called, "a magnificent debut." On the first day, after the visitors had chosen to bat, he came on second change with the opening batsmen in control. Swinging the ball both ways, he was unchanged until the end of the innings, taking 7-52, only the diminutive but excellent batsman John Kerr being able to counter him. Then at No 11 he made 20 before taking 3-79 in the second innings in which he was given the new ball. He thus had match analysis of 10-120. In the end Ireland fell two runs short of their target in a run chase, with 4 wickets standing. Tom, promoted to 8, was 31* at the end having added 71 for the 7th wicket with Jacko Heaslip 92, but for the run out of Jim Ganly Ireland would have won. They also suffered from almost three hours having been lost on the second day (Monday) following the murder of Kevin O'Higgins on the Sunday.
Tom was never to be out of the Irish side until he left the country at the end of the 1932 season. He scored 372 runs, partly because he was placed rather lower in the order than his talents warranted, at 15.50 and took 79 wickets at 17.95 Though his debut remained his best bowling, he had three other "5 fors". He had 9-149 in the match v Scotland at Raeburn Place in 1928, including 5-52 in the first innings. The Scots just survived for the second year in succession, their last pair batting out the final 40 minutes. Another five wicket haul came against MCC in a rain affected draw in a two day match at Ormeau later that summer, his wickets being taken for 38 runs. These figures were repeated when Ireland beat the Catamarans in College Park the following year. The visitors were made up of Indians living in England, including the young Nawab of Pataudi. He was to play for England four years later, and win fame for refusing to stand in the body line legside field for Larwood and Voce. "His Highness has conscientious objections", said Douglas Jardine, and Pataudi, despite having scored a hundred, lost his place in the Test side. He captained India in England in 1946 as his son did twenty one years later, a Pataudi returning to Ireland as the younger Nawab led his team to victory over Ireland at Castle Avenue. However, perhaps Tom's most famous game for Ireland had come in the epic victory over the West Indies in 1928. He was the leading bowler with match figures of 7-110, besides taking part in a dramatic last wicket stand of 40 with McVeagh, helping his partner to a memorable hundred, and himself making a well played 19. This enabled Ireland to set a target of 352. Tom with 32.1 - 9 - 76 - 4, backed up by brilliant fielding, particularly by McVeagh, ensured that they fell 60 runs short.
Another notable match came at Lord's in 1931, by which time he was leading the side. Statistically in fact he remains Ireland's most successful captain with a 100% record from his four matches 1931 /32. At Lord's he was devastating with the new ball. Bowling predominantly inswing, he removed the top order twice to have 4-30 and 4-24. In between which he struck his only fifty for it Ireland, a hard hitting 52*, including two memorable sixes off JC Masterman, a very good medium pacer, who also found time, at varying stages of his life, to be a novelist , biographer, Vice Chancellor of Oxford University and a shadowy figure in the world of espionage. He was also a lawn tennis and hockey international. To hit him for six was no mean feat for he bowled, according to Wisden, "with a low and clumsy action", and had a nagging accuracy. One of Tom's blows struck the pavilion balcony another almost killed Middlesex and England all rounder Nigel Haig.
After leaving Ireland, Tom worked for some years in India. He must have been very successful in club cricket of a high standard there, as he was captain of the Delhi side in their first Ranji trophy match and made several other appearances in important matches, both at first class level and just below. Unfortunately he met with little success in these and it has not proved possible to find scores of the matches which must have gained him selection. Further, as mentioned above, he was now seen as a batsman, usually coming in at first wicket down, and rarely. His highest score in the three Ranji Trophy matches he played, was 16 in the second innings for Delhi v Northern India in February 1936. Otherwise he achieved little, though he made 22, batting at No 8 for The Viceroy's Xi v Indian University Occasionals in October 1934. Both sides were strong with six Indian Test players, present or future, being involved. Tom's side went down by 9 wickets, Tom making a duck in the second innings, bowled by Mohammed Nissar, one of the few pre war Indian bowlers of genuine pace.
It has not proved possible to trace many details of the Dixon brothers' subsequent lives. As far as is known, they were mostly together and never married, though Tom had a son, of whom he knew nothing, but whose identity came to light in recent years. The brothers both became missionaries and were eventually discovered to be living near one another in Kenya's Rift Valley, where they died just over two years apart, both at the age of 79.
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