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One of the main reasons for Surrey's record run of six County Championships has been the superb close to the wicket fielding. Four players last season accounted for no fewer than 264 wickets. In the centre of all this snapping up of what to many other counties would not even be chances was Arthur John William McIntyre for ten years regular wicket-keeper to the County Champions.
Competent and consistent, McIntyre has missed most of the big honours of the game through being contemporary with Godfrey Evans whose sustained brilliance has made him always first choice for England since the first season after the war. McIntyre has only three England caps, two received when Evans was injured and one in his own right--as a batsman against Australia at Brisbane in 1950--but for years he has been to more than one Selection Committee the keeper in the shadow team for home Tests.
As an all-rounder McIntyre must hold a unique record among cricketers. He was awarded his Surrey second eleven cap as a leg-spin bowler, his first eleven cap as a batsman and yet he has made his name in cricket as a wicket-keeper.
McIntyre was born on May 14, 1918, within a quarter of a mile of famous Kennington Oval where he was to become such a popular figure. At the age of eight he was playing cricket at Kennington Road School, and he pays tribute to the help and encouragement he received from the masters at the school as he developed his batting and leg-spin bowling. On all possible occasions he would slip along to The Oval to watch his idol of those days, Jack Hobbs.
At school he was called upon occasionally to keep wicket and it was as a keeper that he was chosen to play for London Schools. Contemporary with Denis Compton, who is only nine days younger, they played together at Lord's on one occasion for London Schools. They had a century partnership, which was broken in the expected manner--Compton ran out McIntyre. "He learned that very early in his career!" cracks Mac, as he is known among his colleagues.
Although his name had been put before the Surrey club as a promising young player, McIntyre took a job outside cricket on leaving school because he did not fancy having to sell scorecards. He kept that job for eighteen months, playing cricket with the firm's side, and then answered a call to The Oval where he joined the ground staff in 1936--and was put in charge of the cycle shed!
After two years he made his first appearance in the Surrey team but his career as a batsman-bowler was cut short in 1939 by the war and by December of that year he was in the Army. He saw service in North Africa and took part in the Anzio landings in Italy where he was wounded. Among cricketers in Italy at the time were the Bedser twins, Rhodes of Derbyshire, Hill of Hampshire, Tom Dollery, Tom Pritchard and Arthur Wellard.
When the war in Europe ended cricket became a favourite recreation of the troops and McIntyre, then a sergeant in the A.P.T.C., was soon keeping wicket for the Central Mediterranean Force. It was on the suggestion of the Bedser twins, who pointed out his height of 5 ft. 5½ in. was rather against him being a bowler, that McIntyre wrote to the then Surrey secretary, Mr. A. F. Davey, asking if he might be considered as a wicket-keeper.
When county cricket was resumed in 1946, Mobey was the regular Surrey wicket-keeper; McIntyre kept his place as a batsman-bowler and was awarded his county cap. With the help of that great Surrey wicket-keeper, Herbert Strudwick, who made special journeys from his home at Shoreham to Wandsworth to give him coaching lessons, McIntyre improved his work behind the stumps and on the retirement of Mobey at the end of the 1946 season McIntyre became the Surrey keeper.
That 1947 season was the first time he had kept to Alec Bedser and Laker and he recalls a match against Essex at Chelmsford that year when there were no fewer than 33 extras in the Essex second innings. At the end of the second day the match looked a foregone conclusion for Essex. Surrey, set to get 340 to win, had lost five wickets for 125 and the dry dusty wicket was all against batting. Thanks to McIntyre, who made 70 and shared a fine sixth wicket stand with E. R. T. Holmes (65 not out), Surrey turned pending defeat into victory by two wickets.
Two years later McIntyre had his best season behind the stumps with 94 victims and in 1950 he made his first appearance for England playing against West Indies at The Oval because Evans was suffering from a broken thumb. His good form earned him a place in the M.C.C. team for Australia and New Zealand that winter, during which he made his one Test appearance at Brisbane.
His big year was 1955 when his benefit raised £8,500 and he also won the 100 guineas prize for wicket-keeping. That same year he played against South Africa at Leeds, and would no doubt have kept his place for The Oval game if he had been completely fit for Evans was still out of action.
McIntyre has always been a useful batsman in the middle of the order for Surrey where his aggressiveness has brought him more than 10,000 runs. He passed that milestone during last summer. Of his quick scoring McIntyre recalls the match against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge in 1955 when he scored 189 runs for once out. In the first innings he made 110, taking only 108 minutes over his century, helping K. F. Barrington in a stand of 177. In the second innings he made 79 not out, which included four 6's and nine 4's, and helped Peter May put on 149 runs in 57 minutes.
A damaged hand kept McIntyre out of nearly half the 1956 season and it seemed he might lose his place in the side, but he came back in his old form, and as long as he maintains that standard he will be an indispensable unit in Surrey's wonderful fielding combination.--L. N. B.