Jack Short was an aggressive, yet stylish, opening batsman. Likened by former Irish Times cricket correspondent, the late Sean Pender, to Graham Gooch or Colin Milburn, he resembled, to bring the analogy up to date, a right handed version of the great Australian opener Matthew Hayden, in his desire to dominate the bowling from the first, and, in his belief that a batsman's first duty was to hit the ball.
Sometimes, he seemed to carry this to excess infuriating admirers such as Pender, who wrote that, "had he played with a little more circumspection in his halcyon seasons, Jack would unquestionably have accumulated even more runs." (Irish Cricket Union Yearbook 1985). However as Pender also pointed out Jack saw a half volley as being there to be hit no matter who was bowling. Further he was capable of playing the other game. Sean Pender once compared his determination to Stan Bergin's. Two of his best innings for Ireland, his 80* v The Australians in 1977, and his match winning 114 v Scotland, two years earlier, were feats of concentration of which both the Pembroke man and "Sir Geoffrey" would have been proud.
He was also a very good short leg, holding six catches in the Welsh match of 1979, to equal Stuart Pollock's 1956 record against MCC in College Park. Stuart was in the covers or at mid wicket, all his catches were off Frank Fee. Jack, in fact, held 34 catches for Ireland mostly as a member of the "suicide squad."
Jack first gained representative honours for Munster Schools, also, from an early age playing for Bohemians and Cork County. At The Mardyke he came under the influence of Pat Dineen whose help and encouragement he always valued highly. He was later to devote much time, when team-mates were in the bar or otherwise relaxing after a match, in playing with, and otherwise assisting, young hopefuls.
His representative career began for Munster in the Guinness Cup in 1968, when he was not quite 17. The following season, just under two months past his eighteenth birthday, he found himself in the province's team to play the touring Pakistan International Airlines side at The Mardyke. The PIA XI was bristling with current or future Test men, but Jack, batting at 6, was not one to be overawed. He was leg before for 10 in the first innings to Test left arm spinner Pervez Sajiid. This, he may later have reflected, was ten more than Gooch was to make on his Test debut, when somewhat older. It was also ten more than Len Hutton made on his debuts both in First Class and Test Cricket. Still keeping ahead of the Essex titan by the distance of his score, Jack made 6 as Munster collapsed in the second innings. He was LBW again, this time to the paceman Asif Masood.
While still at UCC, where he read Mathematics and Statistics, perhaps not altogether appropriate for a batsman who set no store by averages or records, he played for the Irish Universities against a strong Leprechauns attack in College Park. He top scored in each innings. His first innings 51, coming in at 3, dwarfed his team-mates contributions. The next highest being opener JG "Doc" Crothers, capped for Ireland that year, who made 15. In the second innings, Jack reached 30*, with home club captain CAR Halliday next on 17. These runs were achieved against an attack of Alec O'Riordan, Dougie Goodwin, Gerry Duffy and Mike Halliday. Jack's talent, if it had not been recognised before, was now plain for all to see. Incidentally, the highest score for the Leprechauns, who, apart from O'Riordan and Duffy included Jack's mentor Pat Dineen, Alfie Linehan, Ken Hope, Chris Harte, Ian Lewis, and Stephen Mollins could only manage a top score of 44 by Duffy.
On graduating in 1974 and taking up a civil service appointment in Dublin, Jack, having made a century for Cork County v CYM that season and won the club's fielding cup, joined Leinster. His two brothers remained prominent Cork cricketers. The Leinster connection was partly due to Duffy, whom Jack had several times met in cricket in Cork. Playing until 1988, though managing only four games following his move to France after the 1984 season, he scored 6059 runs for the Rathmines club at 38.58, with three 100s, highest score 142, and forty two 50s. The 142 was made in the Leinster Senior Cup Final of 197 v Phoenix, setting a new record for the Final but was not enough to win the Trophy. Aided by Gerry Duffy, Jack saw Leinster reach 227-7 in their 60 overs. However with the ageless David Pigot and Gerry Murphy in good form, Phoenix got home by 2 wickets off the last ball, despite Jack's gentle off spin taking 3-18. He was captain three times during his ten year stint as a regular player. In his final season he led them to the two League titles, the Belvedere Bond and the Wiggins Teape. His 52* in the final of the latter competition was the crucial knock. Leinster also reached the Senior Cup Final that season but lost to YMCA by 28 runs despite 48 from Jack. Alan Lewis, still a long way from abandoning the willow for the whistle, was the victors' hero with a century and 3 wickets.
After five Guinness Cup seasons with Munster, he joined South Leinster in 1974. Strangely, he never scored a century in this competition, his highest innings being 91* at Anglesea Road, Dublin in 1981, as he helped South Leinster to a surprisingly easy 6 wicket win over Ulster Country. Altogether, he played 61 matches scoring 1577 runs at 28.16, with nine 50s. Another notable score against Ulster Country had come in 1979 at Rathmines. No other home batsman was able to surmount the challenge of Dermot Monteith (5-70), but Jack's 66 ensured a competitive total. Thanks to an equally dominant 68* from Ivan Anderson, the visitors won by 6 wickets. Jack proved to be "a splendidly motivating captain" of South Leinster when he led them to the silverware in his final season 1984. His batting, together with that of Alan Lewis, Mark Cohen and "Ginger" O'Brien was the other reason for their success.
Jack made 56 appearances for Ireland scoring 2515 runs at 29.24 with three 100s and fifteen 50s. He began, as he meant to go on, with two commanding innings against The Netherlands at Amstelveen. He had come in as a substitute and batted at 3. Ireland, facing a moderate Dutch score of 194, lost 2 for 20 before Jack and O'Riordan added 100 for the third wicket. Jack later recalled the game, "I played sensibly enough in that innings." He made 71 as Ireland reached 226. Then in the second innings the trademark Short emerged, "I really went for the bowling. It was a very good wicket and I was lucky enough to be selected to play in the match" (Irish Cricket Magazine Annual 1985). He made 55, Ireland won by 3 wickets and the dye had been cast.
He did not, however, always play in this mode. As already mentioned his century v Scotland the following year was rather a different innings. Ireland batted first on a rain affected Rathmines wicket, but Jack together with the evergreen David Pigot, recalled to the colours aged 46, put on 102 for the first wicket. Ireland, despite some fine off spin bowling from George Goddard made 261/4, before declaring near the close of play. Jack batted 277 minutes for his 114, a match winner as Ireland went on to record an innings victory, their first such win first over Scotland since the inaugural match, also at Rathmines, in 1888. Jack's hundred was the first against the Scots since Stan Bergin's monumental and patience trying 450 minute effort at The Mardyke in 1961.
Jack's other two hundreds, both against Wales, were more typical affairs. In 1981, "on a village ground on a lovely wicket" at Pontardulias, his first innings 104 came in just over three hours, his last 50 coming in 56 minutes. His second innings 59 put him on a par with Bergin and Anderson in passing 50 in both innings of a match for the third time. He also helped Ireland to be able to declare twice and win off the first ball of the last over. The following year he hit a second innings 103 in 197 minutes, with two 6s and eleven 4s. He put on 155 for the first wicket with Enda McDermott, only six runs short of the then record established by Nat Hone and David Trotter at Lord's in 1879. Ten years later, also against Wales, the record was to go to Stephen Warke and Michael Rea.
Two of Jack's best innings were contrasting in style, in 1977. In early June he hit a 236 minute 80* not out against The Australians. This was not a vintage Australian side. They lost the Ashes and were riven over the Packer dispute which burst on the cricket world at the outset of the tour. Nevertheless, they had in Jeff Thomson and Len Pascoe, two formidable fast men, who subjected Jack and "Ginger" O'Brien to a barrage of bouncers during a third wicket stand of 112. The match ended in a draw with Ireland unable to reach the stiff target set them; Jack failed in the second innings but had surely shown his class against the best. Later in the summer, while on tour, he was to show it again. Sussex entertained Ireland at Pagham, and after three closely fought innings set them 200 to win. Jack, with 30 in the first innings to his credit, attacked the opening bowlers from the first. One was a fringe Sussex medium pacer Stewart Still, the other was Imran Khan. The future Pakistani captain and courageous politician had already, besides scoring a brilliant hundred, been warned for bowling bouncers at tail ender "Podge" Hughes. Now fired up, he gave Jack the full treatment. Three wickets were down for 17 and four for 74, but, as Derek Scott was to write, "Short had begun brilliantly and reached 50 in 53 minutes. He ultimately made 99 and added 100 for the 5th wicket with CCJ Harte." (Wisden 1978). Imran got him with a beauty to give him an unwanted record, the first Irish batsman to be out for 99, but he had almost seen his country home. They won by three wickets with two overs to spare. Chris Harte also just missed a landmark, making 49, but both were heroes.
In 1979, Jack established another, more satisfying record, though such achievements meant little to him. To make runs when it mattered was his concern. That year he hit five fifties, and totalled 490 runs, both seasonal records at the time. These half centuries included, at the season's end, two in the match v Worcestershire at a thankfully dry land New Road. His second innings 83 was the major part of an opening stand of 143 in 106 minutes with Michael Reith, the highest since Bergin and Herbie Martin had put on 148 v Scotland in 1958. Ireland, however, could not maintain the run rate required, chasing a difficult target. Worcestershire fielded only four capped players but their attack included veteran Test left armer Norman Gifford, Paul Pridgeon a fast medium bowler who took 530 first class wickets and off spinner Dipak Patel, who later emigrated to New Zealand for whom he played Test cricket. However in many eyes, Jack's best innings of the summer was his 80* from 96 balls as Ireland chased down a target of 139 in 61 minutes and 20 overs against Scotland at Rathmines. Until midway through the visitors second innings the rain affected match had been slow moving with a draw seeming inevitable. Then Scotland collapsed against the spin of Dermott Monteith and Mike Halliday, leaving Jack, with one 6 and twelve 4s to see Ireland home with 23 balls to spare.
Some were disappointed by his performances in the premier English knock competition, the Gillette or Nat West Cup as it was during his time. In Ireland's first ever venture in the tournament he found himself opening the batting at Lord's one July morning in 1980, after Monteith had surprised many by electing to bat on winning the toss. Jack made 33, seeing off the opening attack of Wayne Daniel, fast, mean and, as he did not often make the West Indian side, always with something to prove, and Vincent Van der Bijl, denied Test Cricket because of his government's racial policies, but one of the best fast medium bowlers in the world at the time. Two wickets fell for 7, then Jack and Ivan Anderson added 68 before Jack was dismissed, triggering a collapse, which not even a remarkable bowling spell by Halliday could redeem. Siggins and Fitzgerald write, "He then got himself out to part time bowler Mike Gatting." However the amply proportioned future England captain was a far from negligible bowler, particularly at this level. His figures in this innings were 10-2-14-2; his other wicket was Anderson's. In all one day cricket Gatting took 125 wickets at 27.25. Again at Northampton in 1982, where Jack top scored with 37, Sean Pender felt that he rather threw his wicket away to opening bowler, and future senior cricket administrator Tim Lamb, after dominating an opening stand of 50 with McDermott. This was, however, the way he played. Most observers, including Pender were happy to take him in this vein.
When he left Ireland in 1984 to take up an OECD appointment in Paris, it was hoped that he would return to Irish colours. This was not to be and, apart from four matches for Leinster, he was not seen again in serious cricket in Ireland, as his OECD career advanced. He did however play regularly in France. He scored heavily for the Standard Athletic Club, the best known team in the country, and in 1989, was the obvious choice to lead France, composed of English and Asian ex pats, against MCC led by former England opener John Jameson. This match was part of the bi centenary commemorations of the outbreak of the French Revolution, and also of the first attempted English cricket tour, which was also to be of France but was cancelled because of the fall of the Bastille. Recent research has thrown some doubt on the long accepted version of this abortive escapade, but that matters little here. MCC. batting first at the SAC ground reached 164/7 before declaring with Jameson, in typical mood, getting a half century. Jack replied in kind. In an innings which would have been no surprise to frequenters of Observatory Lane, he reached a robust 73* as France won by 7 wickets. It was a fitting way to end his representative career. Irish and Leinster supporters who saw him bat, and those who only read about his achievements, can only be thankful for him. Few other Irish batsmen have challenged the world's best in quite such a manner. His batting ensured that they, his team-mates and he himself could enjoy their cricket and, to adapt Milton, the poet not the old Gloucestershire and England opener, "live delights and scorn laborious days."
John Francis Short is profiled in Siggins and Fitzgerald, "Ireland's 100 Cricket Greats."