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Essex Shield

Tales from the Boundary

Lee Irvine


I remember seeing Lee Irvine at the Colchester Garrison ground, before play started, with a large sausage roll in each hand.  Whether this was his breakfast or merely supplementary feeding I know not.   Lee's slightly rotund figure did not suggest a need for extra sustenance between meals though.  However, he scored 75 in each innings so his pastry intake obviously did not hamper him.

Anyway, I think it was at this match that I moved a sight screen for him.  By Myself!  The secret is to 'put yer back into'.  Don't try pushing forwards.  Just lean against it and push with the legs.   It's all to do with dynamics and applied forces.  (Does that sound convincing?).

Lee was one of the first 'foreigners' to be allowed to play county cricket without a qualification period.  Hampshire had Barry Richards, Gloucester had Mike Procter.  Notts had Gary Sobers.   BUT (I think) Lee suited Essex AND Essex suited Lee.  He did not have such an impressive curriculum vitae as the others but he complemented our team.

For details of the 'foreign invasion' click on

Lee played only two seasons for Essex, 1968 and 1969, scoring 1,439 at 32.70, with 9 fifties and 1,235 at 37.42, with 6 fifties and one century.  He also took 17 and then 23 catches.   These figures are not fantastic and his performances over the next few years were much better but they were all back in South Africa.

Lee was unfortunate that, following four successful Tests against Australia in 1969-70 (353 at 50.42, one century and two fifties), the South Africa tour to England was cancelled and his country went into isolation.  Unlike others, he chose not to return to county cricket.

Lee was a left handed swashbuckler, hitting 26 sixes in the 1968 county season.  His style and demeanour suited Essex.  But for Essex having a skeleton staff he might have wrenched the gloves off 'Tonker' as he was a more than useful wicket keeper.

The character of the man is well shown at,-played-tests-south-africa-1969-70-.   Here's another good 'un...

Andrew Appleby