Lancashire scorer Alan West recalls the career of the popular Jack Ikin.
When I was first a Junior Member in 1950, Jack Ikin was a major figure in the Lancashire side which shared the Championship with Surrey that year. With Geoff Edrich and Ken Grieves, he not only formed a reliable middle order, all passing 1,000 runs, but probably the best trio of close fielders the county has ever had at one time, Ikin specialising at short leg. They had 1,205 catches between them in their Lancashire careers in only 1,062 games.
Jack, or Johnny, as we tended to call him, had arrived at Old Trafford from Staffordshire in 1938 as a promising all-rounder but after a handful of games saw his career, as so many, interrupted by the War. His restart in 1946, though, was spectacular. Perhaps even to his own surprise, he was picked for the Test Trial as a no.6 batsman and leg-spin googly bowler. His 56, a stand of 146 with Hardstaff, and three wickets ensured selection for the First Test at Lord’s in only his 18th first-class match and before gaining his county cap. His performance was mediocre in a match dominated by Bedser and Hardstaff but a maiden century for Lancashire against the tourists helped him retain his place for the Old Trafford Test. Again, he failed to shine and was replaced by Peter Smith for the third Test.
But a solid season for Lancashire produced over 1,000 runs, as did the next seven seasons until illness and the rain of 1954. He played in all five Tests of the hastily arranged and disastrous tour of Australia that winter. At Brisbane he caught Bradman at slip but the catch was not allowed, leaving Bradman to go on to yet another big century and forget thoughts of retirement, as had been expected.
In West Indies the following winter of 1947-48, on what was still a minor tour, he played four Tests but with no success at all. It was not until 1951 that he was picked again to open with Hutton in the first three Tests against South Africa. Two more Tests came in 1952 against India, including the memorable Old Trafford encounter which I was privileged to see, when for only the second time in Test history a side was bowled out twice in a day.
Trueman, playing only his second Test, destroyed India in the first innings with 8-31, and Tony Lock on debut took five wickets in the second innings, as did Bedser, to complete the rout. Ikin had three catches in a busy and distinguished infield cordon which included Lock, Sheppard and Allan Watkins. One final Test came at the Oval in 1955 when Close was his experimental opening partner.
In many ways the highpoint of his career was the Commonwealth XI tour of India in 1950-51, when he averaged almost 90 in the unofficial Tests and was named one of the five Players of the Year for that Indian season. When he finally came to retire at the end of the 1957 season, he went out on a high, fourth in the county batting averages and the only batsman other than Alan Wharton to pass 1,000 runs for the season yet again.
For the next eleven seasons he went back to playing for his beloved Staffordshire, initially as captain, and combined that with coaching at Worksop College. The winter of 1965-6 he spent as the popular assistant manager of the MCC touring side to Australia. Before his untimely death in 1984, aged only 66, he was, once his playing days were over, a regular presence at Old Trafford, watching the cricket, chatting affably to spectators of all ages and never refusing to give an autograph, which was, incidentally, as neat and tidy as his batting.
Jack Ikin was a Lancashire stalwart of the post-war era with 14,327 runs in 21st place in the all-time Lancashire list, 278 wickets with a match best of 11-119 against Notts at Old Trafford in 1947, a hat-trick at Taunton in 1949, and perhaps best of all his 329 career catches, mostly at short leg, a total exceeded only by Ken Grieves and AC MacLaren. He has a firm place in Lancashire cricketing history.
Picture: Jack Ikin (left) with Surrey's Alec Bedser at the England Test Trial - England v The Rest - at Canterbury in 1946 (c) PA/PA Archive/Press Association Images