William Boyd Rankin

  • Born 6 July 1984, Londonderry
  • Educated Strabane Grammar School; Harper Adams University College, Shropshire
  • Occupation Farmer then Professional Cricketer
  • Debut 20 August 2003 v Free Foresters at Eton College, Berkshire
  • Cap Number 643
  • Style Left-hand bat, right arm fast medium
  • Teams Bready, Swarkstone (Derbyshire County League), Quandon, Alvaston and Boulton (Derbyshire Premier League), Middlesex 2nd XI, Derbyshire, Warwickshire, England Lions, England

Boyd Rankin, possibly the tallest man to have played cricket for Ireland, is a member of one of the North West's best known cricketing families.

His father Bob was a Bready stalwart, younger brothers David and Robert both represented Ireland at U 19 level, with David also appearing for Ireland A. Sister Jemma, a regular in Bready 4th XI sides, has played for Ireland Women's Development XI.

Into the bargain the siblings' fourth cousins Ian and David each played regularly for the North West Guinness Cup team in the 1970s, Ian having also represented the Irish Schools.

Boyd is himself a remarkable bowler. His great height, besides immediately bringing to mind Curtley Ambrose and Joel Garner - two players whom he greatly admires - makes him a formidable proposition, able to obtain awkward lift in most conditions, his ability to swing the ball adding greatly to his armoury.

He also has a safe pair of hands, usually in the gully when on Warwickshire duty, but his batting - though a strong element of his play during his schooldays, no longer merits such a description.

His county team-mate, fellow pace bowler Keith Barker nominated him in his Dream XI in a recent edition of "The Cricket Paper" but remarked, "He's not in here for his batting, that's for sure." Barker added the following description of Boyd in action, "he celebrates his wickets like an eight year old girl, which is quite scary. He screams every time he takes a wicket and he jumps as high as he can - which is pretty high."

Boyd's batting has always been vigorous and uncomplicated, using his height and reach to great advantage. Never has ths been better seen than at Maghermason on 28 June 2003 against Fox Lodge. Coming in at No 8, Boyd had already reached a half century, when Adrian Heywood, two wickets already under his belt, began the final over. Boyd struck each of the last five balls for six, finishing on 88 not out, leaving Bready on a match winning 262-7. Adrian's figures were 5-0-60-2.

Boyd, with or without his airborne acrobatics was a prominent cricketer from his earliest years at Strabane GS, where he was an exact contemporary of his great friend William Porterfield , first attracted notice beyond his school and club in 1998, when he was part of the Irish U13 XI which took part in the Edinburgh Cricket Festival at Fettes College.

The side, led by Porterfield and also including Eoin Morgan and Gary Wilson, won two of its matches while the third was rained off. Boyd had 3-13 against Scotland to snatch a 20 run victory after Ireland had been dismissed for 76.

The following day Ireland needed 83 on a drying wicket against Durham, five wickets fell quickly but Boyd with 10 stood firms with Glen Logan (21) to win by 5 wickets.

The following year saw his batting again to the fore this time at Interprovincial level, as North West, led by Porterfield took the title. They lost to NCU, despite Boyd top scoring with 31, then beat Leinster by 8 wickets Boyd finishing on 34*.

Much as Keith Barker might struggle to believe it, he was at it again in the trophy clinching third match with Munster. This time Porterfield made a half century, but Boyd with 39 ensured that North West posted a tournament highest 247-5 which was far too much for Munster.

His batting again was to appear as his strongest suit for Ireland U15 that summer. Unfortunately he injured his back in the first match and was unable to bowl to any effect in the remaining games. However scores of 19 against Scotland and 16 against Denmark meant that in a tournament in which 3 of the 4 sides finished level on points, he was by no means a passenger.

Performances for Ireland over the next few years in the European Championships at U17 and U 19 level and in the U19 World Cup of 2003/04 - by which time he had made his debut for the full side - were not spectacular but did enough to support the high opinions held of him.

An essential member of the full Irish attack by 2006, he turned in two match winning performances for the U23 side in the European championships, held that year in Dublin. Against the Netherlands at Observatory Lane his figures of 10-0-40 3 disrupted the visitors batting and prepared the ground for Ireland to win by 5 wickets, while at Malahide he was more economical with an analysis of 10-2-27-3, helping set up a 4 wicket victory.

His reputation as a hostile strike bowler had also, of course, long been confirmed by his feats for Bready to which we must now turn. As has been the case with his Irish team-mates such as Porterfield, Morgan, Wilson and Ed Joyce, Boyd's decision to follow a professional career on the county circuit, has meant that the Irish game has not seen as much of him as followers, particularly those at Maghermason, as they would have wished.

His breakthrough for Bready came in the 2002 season when he took 38 wickets at 14.68. Two matches taken, almost at random, from his season show his worth to the Mason Road side that summer. Rain reduced the League match with Drummond to a 20 over affair. Boyd returned figures of 4-0-13-3 which led to Bready winning by 4 wickets. In the Cup against Killymallaght, he bowled his team to victory with figures of 3-9 from 6.5 overs.

Among other feats may note two fine all round performances - Keith Barker take note - in the Cup in 2005. In the first round he contributed much to the 38 runs defeat of Strabane. Batting first Bready posted a useful 228, Boyd's 38 - lbw to Bobby Rao - sharing the top score with that reliable player Mr Extras. Then he took 3-40 in his 10 overs as Strabane - despite a dominating 88 from Peter Gillespie - were dismissed for 190. It was Boyd's capture of Gillespie's wicket that ended their hopes. In the second round, however, Bready went out to Glendermott, though Boyd at No 9 topscored with 37* and took 3-44.

His obvious potential in his early years in the Irish side began to attract the attention of English counties with the result that he had two seasons with Middlesex, though he never made a first class appearance.

Playing in a side which often included Eoin Morgan and saw him contest the right to have the new ball with Steve Finn and Middlesex's success of the 2012 season, Toby Roland-Jones, he had several notable performances, though his chances were hindered by the county's evident desire to use the matches as trials for likely players with the result that bowlers were often used in short spells, frequently waiting some time to get on.

Thus against Essex in 2004, Boyd had to stand and watch the score pass 300 before coming on as third change. He promptly took 5-38 in 8.3 overs but could not stop the opposition reaching 371-6. Middlesex replied with 329-4 - Morgan 129* - and the match petered out with Boyd not bowling in the second innings.

Some good performances for Derbyshire 2nd XI in 2006 - he was also playing league cricket in the county with some success - gained him a place in the County XI for 2007, his reputation having been further enhanced by his deeds for Ireland in the World Cup.

Unfortunately injury restricted his first class appearances to three, but he had an outstanding match against Middlesex at Derby in mid-May, which must have been the cause for much satisfaction. Middlesex, put in, were dismissed for 248 Boyd having figures of 23.3-7-80-4. He removed opener Nick Compton and later cleaned up the tail including Tim Murtagh, now his possible successor as Ireland's strike bowler. Derbyshire conceded a first innings lead of 23, before Middlesex collapsed for 180, having been 56-0. Boyd (15-3-41-4) was the main reason for this, his wickets including Joyce, former England batsman Ed Smith now a Times leader writer and TMS summariser, and all-rounder Jamie Dalrymple. His work was wasted however as his batsmen declined the chase of 204 in 38 overs, a missed chance as Derbyshire won only 3 matches in the season.

Looking for a more prominent club, Boyd joined Warwickshire in 2008. A regular choice when available, though injury and representative calls have reduced his appearances, he has taken 142 first class wickets for them with 5 five wicket hauls. His best figures 5.4-1-16-5 were achieved against Essex at Edgbaston in late August 2010 in a match much affected by rain. The fifth bowler used in the visitors' first innings of 114, he, in Wisden's words "polished off the tail", he last four batsmen failing to score, leaving Ravi Bopara high and dry on 53. Warwickshire went on to win by 7 wickets but Boyd was injured after bowling only 1 second innings over and did not play again that season.

However he was a key member of the side which was pipped at the post for the Championship in 2011 taking 55 wickets, Wisden describing him as "the ever improving Irish fast bowler." He has been less successful in List A matches in county cricket, his best performance coming against Kent at Edgbaston in 2010. After Kent had reached 57-2, he took 3 wickets in 5 balls and finished with 4-39, Rob Key (86) having led a partial recovery. Warwickshire, however, had little difficulty in recording a 6 wickets victory.

It has also been in a List A match that he has made his sole appearance for England Lions against Sri Lanka A at Northampton in 2011. Boyd had 2-19, the most successful of the England bowlers as Sri Lanka collapsed disappointingly for 129.

In his 82 matches for Ireland, at all levels, Boyd has taken 112 wickets at 24.12. Here we will consider some of his most successful matches. He was prominent in that St Patrick's Day epic at Sabina Park in 2007. When Trent Johnston won the toss and inserted Pakistan, Boyd took the second over, his first ball felling Imran Nazir. Langford-Smith then disposed of the other opener, before Boyd, in his second over had the brilliant batsman Younis Khan edge to Botha at slip. Pakistan struggled in difficult conditions before wicket keeper Kamran Akmal appeared to take control. Having been 72-6, they reached 102 before Boyd in the 31st over struck again, Azar Mahmood, a very good all-rounder, top edged a bouncer to Trent Johnston at mid-wicket. Four balls later Akmal holed out to a diving catch by Trent, now at mid-on, Boyd was to finish with 9-1-32-3, the rest, as they say, is history.

In first class matches he had two outstanding performances in the must win Intercontinental Cup Matches against Namibia at Windhoek in October/ November 2008. In the first game, Ireland - put in - were shot out for 69. Thanks to Boyd (2-36) and Peter Connell (4-24) Namibia's lead was restricted to 50 but Ireland were again bowled out cheaply, leaving Namibia 114 to win. They went about it in almost ODI mode taking far too many liberties against Boyd and Connell, though the former was hit for two successive 6s at one stage. Boyd was rested at 91-7 but came back with the hosts requiring 9 to win. Another indiscreet stroke resulted in a catch to Kyle McCallan at third man and Ireland were home by 8 runs, Connell was Man of the Match but Boyd with 12-3-39-5 was hero of the hour.

Kenya were defeated in the batsmen dominated next match which brought Ireland to the final, which Namibia only had to draw to win the Cup. Batting second Ireland were 55 runs behind despite Peter Connell's "5 for", Boyd, the next most successful had 2-68. They then bowled Namibia out for a second innings 145. Alex Cusack, whose first innings 95* had kept Ireland in the hunt was to be to be Man of the Match but Boyd, swinging the ball alarmingly was the outstanding bowler with figures of 16.3-4-39-4. A superb hundred from Niall O'Brien then carried Ireland to victory by 9 wickets.

Finally we should recall Boyd's three successive Man of the Match performances in the World Cup T20 Qualifiers early in 2012. Against Kenya he had 3-20 from his 4 overs as Kenya collapsed for 71, Porterfield and Paul Stirling then taking Ireland to a 10 wickets victory. His 3-16, as first change against an Italian side including one outstanding batsman in Michael Di Venuto of Tasmania Derbyshire and Durham as well as a very good one in the South African all-rounder Gareth Berg of Middlesex, restricted the score to 100-7, Ireland going on to win by 2 wickets thanks to 30* from Gary Wilson. His best figures came against USA, gaining him his third successive award. Ireland posted a match winning 160-6 before Boyd 4-1-9-4 and Stirling 3-1-9-1 bowled Ireland to a convincing win.

Near the end of the 2012 English season, during which he suffered much from injury, Boyd made the announcement which Irish cricket officials, players and followers had feared for some time. He would retire from Irish cricket after the T20 World Cup to concentrate on winning an England place. He said that if this had not happened within two years, he would be available for Ireland again. This decision was understandable if not exactly welcome. Many, including it must be admitted this writer, believed that Boyd had underestimated the task in front of him, considering the wealth of pace bowling talent available to England.

Some more cynical observers and conspiracy theorists though that Ashley Giles, then both Warrickshire coach and an England selector, was mainly concerned with preserving one of his prime fast bowling assets for county cricket alone. How very wrong this was, is now shown by Boyd's welcome selection for the England Test squad to tour Australia.

This followed on his performances in T20 and One Day internationals. If he reserved his best figures for his former team-mates at Malahide, his bowling against Australia was also most impressive.

There is no doubt that his selection is highly merited and, though he will presumably be competing for a Test place with two somewhat similar bowlers, in Steve Finn and Chris Tremlett. It is greatly to be hoped that, whatever the outcome of the Ashes series, William Boyd Rankin will return in the New Year with an enhanced reputation and a definite place in England's Test Match history.