Obituary, 2010

Arthur McIntyre

Arthur McIntyre in the nets at The Oval, May 16, 1956
Arthur McIntyre, one of the best - maybe the best - wicketkeepers of his generation, was also the oldest surviving England Test cricketer © Getty Images
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Teams: England | Surrey

McINTYRE, ARTHUR JOHN WILLIAM, who died on December 26, 2009, aged 91, was the oldest surviving England Test cricketer. He played only three Tests and in one of those was picked as a batsman. But in a first-class career spanning 25 years, he built up a reputation as one of the best - maybe the best - day-in, day-out wicketkeeper of his generation. The flamboyant Godfrey Evans won the applause, the headlines and the caps; McIntyre, along with the much younger Keith Andrew, won almost as much respect from his peers.

"Mac" was a Surrey boy from the start. Born almost within earshot of the Oval crowd and educated at Kennington Road School, he would watch Jack Hobbs bat and, aged 18, was put in charge of the cycle shed. His destiny as a keeper was by no means assured: he kept for London Schools (sharing a century stand with Denis Compton) but made his Surrey debut, in 1938, as a leg-spinner who batted. He played 11 pre-war matches and, after being wounded during the Anzio landings, was active in the makeshift military cricket the British played in Italy. There he linked up with the Bedser twins whom he credited with pointing out that, at 5ft 5in, he might have more future keeping than bowling. After coaching from Herbert Strudwick, the Surrey job became his in 1947. He made progress as a batsman too, passing 1,000 each year from 1948 to 1950.

The story goes that in 1950 Evans, the established England keeper, was having dinner with McIntyre and his wife Dorothy, who suggested he should get injured to give her husband a chance. Evans promptly broke his finger and McIntyre made his debut at The Oval against West Indies. "You witch!" Godders told her next time they met. Both men went to Australia that winter, and McIntyre was - eccentrically - picked ahead of Gilbert Parkhouse as a batsman for the First Test. In the final innings, with England still hopeful of victory, he was run out attempting a fourth. Andrew was preferred as No. 2 on the 1954-55 Ashes tour and McIntyre did not play another Test until 1955, against South Africa at Headingley, when Evans was again injured. But the two were not far apart as batsmen (seven centuries each; McIntyre's career average - 22 v 21 - fractionally better) and some preferred the less obtrusive style of keeping. "Mac had very strong hands, but at the same time he was velvety," recalled his team-mate Micky Stewart. "Most of all, he was quick on his feet, and so smooth that people didn't see how fast he could go."

Off the field, McIntyre was as quiet as Evans was boisterous, but he was a Londoner through and through: "If something needed saying, he'd be the first to say it," said Stewart. He was a fixture in the Surrey team through their seven Championship years of the 1950s, and in 1958 Wisden chose him in the Five. However, at the end of that season he effectively retired, some thought prematurely, to allow Roy Swetman - who had been earmarked as an England keeper - to claim a regular county place. McIntyre succeeded Andy Sandham as Surrey coach, a job he held until 1976; he insisted on rigorous respect for the old values, but was a kindly mentor. However, he made a brief comeback in 1963 in Arnold Long's absence, playing at Bramall Lane against a Yorkshire side including the young Geoff Boycott, who was his 795th and final first-class victim. Since McIntyre had played against Woolley, and Boycott was to play one of his last matches against Graeme Hick, the four players form a chain of first-class cricket stretching from 1906 to 2008. Add in Lord Hawke, who played against Woolley, and the five-man chain stretches back to 1881. Sir Alec Bedser, 51 days his junior, succeeded McIntyre as the senior England player.

© Wisden Cricketers' Almanack