Famous Irish Cricketers: Paul McCrum (updated)
Paul McCrum was a cricketer of great ability and boundless enthusiasm whose longevity in senior cricket was maximized as a player/coach who delivered. Elder brother of Charlie, Paul was a fast medium bowler who bowled predominately outswing and blossomed at International level under his number 1 mentor Mike Hendrick. His action, with a fast and whippy arm , hurried many batsmen throughout his career and claimed many leading players including Robin Smith, Graeme Hick, Mark Ramprakash, Darryl Cullinan, Hansie Cronje to name a few.
At international level he achieved only one "5 for", but his consistency was such that took over 100 wickets for Ireland. (His 100th wicket was former England opening batsman Steve James v Glamorgan). In club and interprovincial cricket, he prospered for two decades and was renowned for his high fitness levels and work ethics which made him a signing target for many clubs in the NCU and further afield.
As a batsman, he was low in the order, at international and, normally, interprovincial level but he was, when set, a formidable and effective bastman, who shared in a record partnership for Ireland, and passed three figures on crucial occasions at club level, where he was to be found higher in the order, often taking first ball. Clarence Hiles once described him as "A brilliant opening batsman."
He appeared in six NCU Challenge Cup Finals of which four were won and a fifth tied. For Waringstown against NICC at Downpatrick in 1992, he took 4-22 in the Belfast side's first innings, ensuring a commanding first innings lead after a century by Shane Harrison had set the Villagers on their way. Against North Down the following season, still in Waringstown colours, he (33) and Harrison (38) were the only two batsmen to pass 30 in the first innings as Waringstown finished on 122-7 in reply to 127-7. Paul had led The Village attack also with figures of 12-3-21-3. The game was described as "rather tedious" because it was so one sided and "the Waringstown Treble winning side were too darn good! - the best club team I played in". With Garfield Harrison having a second innings "5 for", Waringstown won by 7 wickets, Paul being man of the match. Back at The Green the following season, he played a leading part in the tie with Lisburn, scoring a first innings 38, second top score to Charlie. With 15 in the second innings, his match aggregate of 53 was a significant counter to the sterling all round work of his long time friend and future Ireland roommate Derek Heasley.
Paul was also seen in five Irish Senior Cup Finals, being victorious on each occasion. His outstanding performance was in the 1995 Final against Bready at The Green, having played a notable part in seeing his side that far. Thus he had taken 3-14 in the Third Round against Bangor, then in a quarter final match with Railway Union had hit 74* ensuring that there were no hiccups in chasing a moderate target. The Semi v Downpatrick had seen the Strangford Road side make a decidedly useful 237-3. North Down however made light of the task, the McCrum brothers chasing it down with an unbroken first wicket stand. Charlie was the dominant partner with 125, Paul finishing just short of three figures on 98. So to the Final. The hosts batted first and, though losing Charlie early, Paul was in top form. He reached his century in the final over, after an unbroken 4th wicket stand of 139 with his captain, Robin Haire. A superb innings of 70 by Alan Rutherford just failed to win the match for Bready, the Cup going to Comber by one run. Paul was Man of the Match as adjudicated by Ireland Coach Mike Hendrick and presented by Sir Everton Weekes. After this game Hendrick talked McCrum into coming back into the Ireland fold after two years of self exile - "the dark amateur days of parochialism were gone".
Space precludes a lengthy review of the remainder of Paul's career with his clubs. His ability and unwaning enthusiasm and continued professionalism can, however, be seen, if we note that having announced his retirement at the end of the 2005 season, he was lured out of it by Charlie - though one suspects not much luring was needed - to play for Senior 2 side Laurelvale. After averaging 39.67 in the first year, he made 66* in the Cup against Saintfield the following season, also scoring 107* v Holywood in the League. Such figures were enough for CIYMS to sign him to play in the Premier League again, in his 46th year year and team up again with ex Ireland colleague Derek Heasley. He scored over 300 runs and, sometimes opening the attack, took 10 wickets - overall his bowling was very economical and "with the other hired gun Heasley's experience vital in helping CIYMS survive in Senior 1".
It was enough for CI to end a struggling season, with their noses just above the relegation waterline. The following year saw Paul still not finished but playing as a professional for PSNI. An end of season 102 to enable them to beat Clogher showed that his skills were still intact. "The Impartial Reporter" - living up to its name - praised his batting against their local side, but pointed out that he was missed twice -"it was a ploughed field though scenic". It also perpetrated the Ulster cricket understatement of the season, describing him as "Paul McCrum, who has played for Ireland."
Paul had a long and productive career at interprovincial level. His batting skills were often ignored but, as a bowler he invaribly opened the attack, taking, in all, 91 wickets at 17.13. The curtailment of the programme towards the end of his time undoubtedly robbed him of 100. His wickets included 2 eight wicket hauls and a hatrick v North West at Newforge Lane including Steven Smyth as the final scalp. Playing for Ulster Town against North Leinster at Pollock Park in 1990 his victims came at a cost of 48 runs, six going to catches by Paul Jackson. The visitors were put out for 203, with only Deryck Vincent (65) facing Paul with confidence "and surviving with an abundance of luck"! However Town also found batting difficult, finishing on 128-6 as the match ended in a draw. Against Munster at Malahide four years later, he contributed an undefeated 28 at no 7 as Ulster Town were dismissed for 106. Fortunately for them, Munster found batting even more difficult and Paul virtually unplayable. He bowled unchanged, his 8 wickets coming in 15.2 overs at a cost of 32 runs. Munster had also been on the receiving end of his best all round performance at this level, when he was playing for Ulster Country at The Mardyke in 1989. The visitors made 200-8 with Paul contributing 55*, second top score to Uel Graham's 91. Then he took 3-38 and Charlie 3-13 as the hosts fell for 117, despite a half century from Peter Dineen.
In his 74 matches for Ireland Paul took 106 wickets at 32.32. His best match with the ball came against MCC at Malahide in 1996. Ireland batted first, making 243, thanks to a fine 100 by Kyle McCallan. They lost their last three wickets for 0 runs, Paul getting a duck at 10. However opening the attack with Mark Patterson, he returned the fine figures, in conditions very much favouring the batsmen, of 22.5-5-52-5, having the former Test batsman "one cap wonder" Paul Parker leg before for 13, Mark Crawley, who had the unusual experience of captaining Nottinghamshire before being awarded his county cap, caught at the wicket and also getting the Australian Test all rounder Tony Dodemaide for 94.
Ireland were headed by 60 and eventually left MCC 272 to win, after a superb batting display by Angus Dunlop. However though Paul again bowled well to gain match figures of 8-108, victory was denied Ireland, as Parker, missed off Paul on 86, posted an elegant 129 to see his side home. Among Paul's other performances which stand out we may note the match against a team styled the Zimbabwe Cricket Union President's XI in March 1991 at Harare, though whether Comrade Robert himself did the selecting is open to question. In the first innings of this 3 day match, Paul had figures of 19.3-3-60-4, including that of Test man Alastair Campbell for 51. The match finished in a draw with Ireland doing well against strong opposition. That summer in a Nat West match against Middlesex at Castle Avenue, Ireland. bowled the County out for 216, with Paul taking 3-31including opening batsman Mike Roseberry. He also had a 4 wicket haul in the ICC Trophy Semi against Kenya at Kuala Lumpar in 1997. With Kenya in much trouble top scoring Maurice Odumbe was plum LBW & live on on star TV where former NZ keeper/batsman Ian Smith commentating it was only missing because it was going under middle stump! - but the not out decision by Nigel Plews probably cost Ireland their place in the World Cup. Unfortunately Ireland having contained the then more experienced Kenyans well for 45 overs, conceded 56 off the last 5, Paul only partially stemming the tide with the final over which went for 10. He finished with 4-51.
His batting powers were never seen to their full extent on the national stage but included two notable displays. Against Wales at Usk in 1991, he and medium pacer Eddie Moore put on 58 for the last wicket. Paul, who made 63, his highest score for Ireland , had the lion's share of the partnership with Eddie finishing on 6*.
A more famous last wicket stand came against the Scots at Malahide in 1997. This match ended in an exciting down to the wire draw, but Ireland would probably have been defeated had it not been for John Davy and Paul who put on exactly 100, and would still be batting if Ireland hadn't declared - both seeing it huge! They rescued Ireland from the very moderate score of 170-9. Both men were undefeated on the declaration, Paul making 44 and John 51.
Paul's major milestones under Ireland coach Mike Hendrick:
In 1998, he was one of the Northern Ireland party which went to Kuala Lumpar to take part in the Commonwealth Games where he privately announced his retirement and played his last game on the international stage against South Africa. The squad had great spirit and acquitted themselves very well running South Africa close and at the time inflicting on Bangladesh their biggest One Day defeat. Paul had the wicket of Jacques Kallis in the match against South Africa, which was a superb last wicket to a long international career and one to cherish.
Paul has indeed proved himself a remarkable cricketer "As good as anyone I played with, " said his former Irish captain Alan Lewis and selected by the highly talented and legendary Dermott Monteith in his Ireland XI in his publication.. His coaching and cricket development skills have taken him to South Africa where he worked for the Northern Cricket Union in Pretoria and his brief was to bring a Cricket Culture to the players at the Correctional Services Club under the affirmative action policy of the United Cricket Board of South Africa. His work and report was "highly praised by Dr Ali Bacher. Following this Paul worked for the Free State Cricket Union and the opportunity was afforded by Team Ireland and South Africa Captain Hansie Cronje. Paul worked in Northern Free State and again majored in UCBSA development work including the Maokeng Township in Kroonstad and playing for Players CC in the Free State Premier League. In 2010 he immigrated to the USA where he is currently Coach & Development Manager for Colonial Lonestar CC and the North Texas Cricket Association. Paul is also working as advisor the the USACA under 19's and with the USACA Elite Squad.
As he nears another, more personal, half century, it might be thought that his active playing career is finally over. However his history suggests that it would be a foolish person indeed who would lay his or her life savings on Paul McCrum not being seen again on the green fields of Ulster, or indeed elsewhere in Ireland the country he adores and is so proud to have "been blessed by God with the talent to play the wonderful game of cricket and enjoy the everlasting camaraderie of team mates and opponents".
He is profiled in Siggins and Fitzgerald "Ireland's 100 Cricket Greats".
I am indebted to Paul McCrum for providing some valuable details to help in the updating of this article.