A tale of the centuries: 200 and counting

AMID the flurry of records Ed Joyce has been racking up over the last year or so, one seems to have passed us by. The Sussex batsman has been accumulating first-class centuries for fun over his glorious career, and has now racked up 45, which is nearly twice as many as the next Irish-born cricketer, former England captain Freddie Fane.

But while scoring more than 20% of all FC centuries by Irishmen, Ed also marked an important milestone in that list. His last domestic ton of the 2015 season, an even 100 against Yorkshire at Hove, was the 200th first-class century by a man born on our island. Since then he has made four more.

The notion of “first-class” is applied to two-innings games of three or more days’ duration and is evaluated by ICC, although MCC and other domestic bodies played that role in the past. This week an ICC official will be running the rule over the Inter-Provincial Championship to see if it qualifies for this exalted status which is guarded by statisticians of the game.

Ireland first played FC in 1902, on a four-match tour to England organised by Sir Tim O’Brien and WG Grace. Very few games were played over the next century, although the annual fixture against the Scots retained the status for years when it probably didn’t merit it. In the last decade there has been an upsurge in FC cricket played by Ireland through the Inter-Continental Cup.

No fewer than 68 centuries were made by Irish players in those games, although some of those would have been recorded by men not born here, including recent ones by Jeremy Bray, John Anderson and Alex Cusack. Niall O’Brien has scored most for Ireland, six, while Andrew White scored all his five in the green-sprig jersey.

The first FC hundred by an Irishman was made far away, on the East Melbourne Cricket Ground on 12 November 1880, by Tom Horan from Midleton, Co Cork, who was playing for Victoria against South Australia. Horan scored the first test century by an Irishman 13 months later against England at the MCG.

Horan scored the first seven “Irish” FC tons in fact, including a couple on tour in England, before Tim O’Brien made the eighth for Middlesex in 1884.

Since then they have been a rare enough feat, with the first 200 taking 135 years although 92 have come since 2000.

The Irish-born century-makers are:

45: Ed Joyce (Middlesex 19, Sussex 23, Ireland 3)
25: Freddie Fane (Essex 18, MCC 4, England 1, Lord Hawke’s XI, HDG Leveson-Gower’s XI 1)
15: Sir Tim O’Brien (Middlesex 10, MCC 3, Ireland 1, LG Robinson’s XI 1)
14: Niall O’Brien (Ireland 6, Northants 6, Leics 2)
11: Eoin Morgan (Middlesex 6, Ireland 2, England 2, England Lions 1,)
11: Reggie Poore (Europeans 1, Hampshire 10)
8: Tom Horan (Victoria 5, Australians 2, Australia 1)
8: William Porterfield (Ireland 4, Gloucs 2, Warks 2)
5: Andrew White (Ireland 5)
5: Tom Jameson (Hampshire 2, MCC 1, Army 1, SB Joel’s XI 1)
4: Justin Benson (Leics 4)
4: Henry Mulholland (Cambridge Univ 3, Ireland 1)
4: Arthur Paul (Lancs 4)
4: Paul Stirling (Ireland 4)
3: Gary Wilson (Surrey 3)
3: Ivan Anderson (Ireland 3)

Below were all scored for Ireland unless noted

2: LH Gwynn (Dublin Univ 2), WK Harbinson (Cambridge Univ 2), M Robinson (Glamorgan 2), PV Williams (Army 2), DA Lewis, TG McVeagh, SF Bergin, AR Dunlop, SJS Warke

1: RJH Lambert, TJ Macdonald, KJ O’Brien, JS Pollock, AP Gwynn (Dublin Univ 1), JR Gill, GD Harrison, J Harrison, LC Jacobson, J Macdonald, Jun McBrine, JF Mooney, AJ O’Riordan, FM Quinn, MP Rea, JF Short, LA Warke