ED JOYCE – A PROUD SERVANT OF BOTH SEAXES & MARLETS
On Friday Middlesex head to Hove to take on Sussex in round four of this year’s Specsavers County Championship.
For our latest ‘Memory Lane’ article, we look back on a player who has served both Middlesex and Sussex with distinction over the best part of the last two decades.
Born in Dublin, Ireland, on 22 September 1978, Edmund Christopher Joyce, is one of nine siblings, five of whom went on to represent their country at cricket.
Born into a cricket loving family in Bray, a coastal town to the South of Dublin, Joyce was introduced to the game by his cricket loving father, Jimmy, who had fallen in love with the sport, like many others, through the medium of Test Match Special, listening to the soothing tones of John Arlott and co in the fifties.
Whilst Joyce’s home town of Bray had its own cricket club, a young Ed spent more of his time playing at Merrion Cricket Club, some 15 miles away from Bray, where he and his siblings learned their trade.
It was in 1998, when studying Economics at Trinity College, Dublin, that Joyce was recommended to Middlesex by the then Ireland National Coach Mike Hendrick, and a youthful Joyce duly joined the Seaxes on summer contract terms – travelling to London to join his new county side outside of term time at Trinity, when studies allowed.
A first-class debut for Middlesex came the following year, although his breakthrough year came two years later in 2001, a month short of his twenty third birthday, when playing in his first County Championship clash of the season against Warwickshire in August at Lord’s.
With Strauss, Brown and Shah all departing cheaply, Joyce found himself at the crease with Middlesex in trouble on 33 for 3. With Stephen Fleming for company at the other end, Joyce notched his maiden first-class hundred for Middlesex, putting on 219 for the fourth wicket with the New Zealander, as the young Irishman laid down claims for a regular spot in the first eleven.
Three weeks later he backed up those claims up with a second hundred in the Championship – an unbeaten 108 against Worcestershire at New Road, and Ed Joyce had officially arrived. Joyce signed a full-time contract that winter and joined the professional ranks of Middlesex.
From here Joyce flourished as a batsman, proving rock solid in the Middlesex middle-order, reaching the batsman’s milestone of 1,000 runs in each of the next five seasons – although his run-scoring exploits were not just restricted to the domestic stage.
He played a pivotal role in Ireland’s World Cup qualifying campaign in the summer of 2005, as his home country sought qualification for the showpiece international tournament in the Caribbean in the winter of 2006/07.
In five qualifying matches, he hit scores of 103, 40, 115*, 60 and 81, amassing 399 runs at an average of 99.75 to take Ireland to the World Cup finals. He finished as his country’s leading run-scorer and was the toast of the nation – although as it transpired, he would not get the opportunity to enjoy the results of that success at the tournament with Ireland.
For in the summer of 2006 Joyce was selected to play for England, and with a deep-rooted desire to play Test Cricket, Joyce accepted the calling, and made his debut for his adopted country - ironically against his home nation in an ODI in Stormont in July. He made just ten, as England ran out winners by 38 runs at the Civil Service Cricket Club.
He went on to make seventeen ODI appearances for England over the next two years, including five at the very World Cup he’d helped Ireland reach! Here he came up against Ireland once again, and fared no better, dismissed for just 1, bowled by Boyd Rankin, as Ireland upset the odds when beating England by three wickets as they were sent crashing out of the tournament in the Super Eights stage.
Alas, Joyce’s dream to play Test Cricket with England never materialised – with him never getting closer than when being named in the England touring party who were drubbed by Australia in a 5-0 series whitewash over the winter of 2006/07.
Joyce never played for England again, and had to wait almost four years before he was qualified under ICC regulations to once again play for Ireland, having reached the decision to return to play for his country of birth.
Joyce’s dream of playing Test Cricket remains intact - although now with Ireland, who eventually, after a long struggle to achieve their Test status, will go head to head with Pakistan in their inaugural Test in Mallahide this month.
When Joyce left Middlesex at the end of 2008 he had made 118 first-class appearances for the Seaxes, hitting 8,278 runs at an impressive average of 46.76.
His finest season for Middlesex came in 2005, when he hit 1,668 runs at 61.77.
His highest score came for the club came against Nottinghamshire in the opening game of that 2005 season, when he hit 192 at Lord’s.
Since joining Sussex his record has been remarkably similar. In 113 first-class appearances he has hit 8,348 runs at an average of 49.39.
Quite how a batsman, as fluent, as technically gifted, as gritty and as proficient in red-ball cricket, who has amassed over 16,500 first-class domestic runs can have missed out on playing Test cricket is almost unfathomable.
It seems poetic justice and more than deserving of Joyce that at the ripe old age of 39, he will finally achieve that Test dream in Mallahide this month.
I’m sure I speak on behalf of everyone at Middlesex and Sussex in wishing him and Ireland Cricket every success in that fixture.
Thanks for the memories Joycey.