Famous Irish cricketers: Sonny Hool
Nathan Bernard (Sonny) Hool
"Sonny" Hool, dark haired and of medium build, was a very good orthodox slow left armer. Flight and variations of pace, as well as sharp spin when the wicket was helpful, gained him most of his wickets, but he also had a somewhat telegraphed arm ball, which, in his University days, gained him a number of unwary scalps, caught at deep square leg.
He was an utterly dedicated cricketer, so much so that, on a Dublin University tour, his team-mates refused to room with him as he insisted on practising bowling in front of the bedroom mirror at 3 am.
He was also a more than useful tail ender and smart fielder. Though first coming to notice as a schoolboy at Dublin's Wesley College, he made his name in his seven years in the University XI, from 1942.
As a medical student he had a longer career in College Park than most. In 79 competitive matches over this period he took 251 wickets at 12.05. These included 23 "5 fors", with 8 in 1944 and the following season his best returns.
These performances gained him the first of his 14 caps in 1947, his selection being announced as with 7-27 he ran through Pembroke on a May afternoon at Sydney Parade.
He also scored 997 runs with 4 fifties, a total on a par with those of more fancied batsmen, AP Kelly, Louis Jacobson, and Brian Stronach.
In the University holidays he established himself in the Clontarf side, often forming a lethal spin partnership with John Hill., a pairing which was later to be seen in action in NICC colours.
His first representative match of note was for Leinster (the Province) v Derbyshire in College Park in May 1946. Though taking some punishment as a bowler with 0-66, he revealed hidden talents as a batsman against the County's formidable seam attack. He (37) and Hill (57*) added 80 for the 8th wicket in the first innings. As the hosts only just held out for a draw, this was clearly the crucial match saving partnership, despite a brave second innings knock by Ham Lambert.
1948 saw him win the O'Grady Cup for the LCU's leading bowler with 41 wickets at just over 11 apiece.
After receiving his medical qualifications, "Sonny" took up an appointment in Belfast and was lost to Dublin cricket. This loss was emphatically NICC's gain. He was to play for them for almost 20 years, taking a prominent part in Cup Final success in 1969 at the age of 45.
His cheerful and engaging personality won him many friends, just as his bowling continued to win him many wickets. In four NCU Challenge Cup Finals, he played key roles in bringing the coveted trophy to Ormeau.
In 1951 his first innings 5-21 gave NICC a lead of 99, which, despite a heroic all round performance from his left arm spinning rival Jack Bowden, was to prove crucial.
In 1956 he again had a first innings "5 for" as Lurgan were defeated in a close fought contest. His most notable contribution, however, was in 1960 against the same opponents. With match figures of 10-72, he ensured success in a low scoring match.
That season North did the League Cup double, they also won or shared 5 other League titles during his playing days. It must have been a source of regret to him that silverware eluded the club in 1958 and 1959 when he was captain.
His swansong was in the Cup Final of 1969. Though bowling honours belonged to Given Lyness and Stanley Hewitt as a fancied Queen's side was seen off by 64 runs, "Sonny" with 3-16 and 3-36 made a telling contribution.
It is a fitting tribute to him that the Sonny Hool Trophy is now presented, annually, to the leading bowler in the NCU area.
For Ireland he played 14 times between 1947, the only season in which he was a regular, and 1961, taking 27 wickets at 31.26. In company with other spinners such as Hill and Bowden, he suffered from a selection policy which sometimes, in his early games, saw Ireland go into a match with four or even five spinners. This was a nightmare for captains such as George Crothers and Noel Mahoney to cope with, and seems to have been dealt with by using one pairing in the first innings and the other in the second.
Thus at Lord's in 1947, "Sonny" did not get on in the first innings as Hill, not always favoured by his captain, had pride of place and took his only "5 for" for Ireland. In the second "Sonny" took 5-17, including WG Keighley, the best bat on the MCC side, who later was to give up the chance of captaining Yorkshire to become a sheep farmer in Australia, in a haul which included the top three in the order. This set up a seven wicket win for Ireland, a rarity in the immediate post war years.
Earlier that season, he had taken a second innings 5-73 on debut v Scotland at the Mardyke, including Jimmy Aitchison, Presbyterian Minister and outstanding Scottish bat for over a decade, then helped Hill bat out time to secure an unlikely draw.
After his initial season, his appearances became spasmodic and he had only one other notable performance, This was the Scots match of 1954 at Whitehaugh, Paisley, when Scotland just failed to force an innings win. Only "Sonny" had good figures among the visiting bowlers 38.4-7-68-4, as the home side totalled 489. He had Aitchison again, though not before the Reverend had reached 103.
In his last two matches for Ireland against the Free Foresters at Rathmines in 1957 and Leicestershire at Leicester at Leicester in 1961, he was wicketless. He went for 43 in 9 overs on the latter occasion, but he was not alone as the Irish attack was destroyed by Sri Lankan stylist Stanley Jayasinghe.
Dr Nathan Bernard Hool was widely mourned in both cricket and medical circles in Belfast and Dublin on his untimely death. His obituary is In Wisden 1990
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