Jack Ikin was a steady, correct left-hand bat who sold his wicket dearly, a useful leg break and googly bowler, and a quite brilliant short-leg fielder. Stronger on the off-side than the leg, he was capable of opening but often batted down the order. Born in Staffordshire he made his debut at 16 for his native county before the Second World War, and made his first-class debut for Minor Counties in 1938. He played four times for Lancashire in 1939, dismissing the great George Headley for his initial first-class wicket. He lost crucial years to the war, but on the resumption of first-class cricket made such an impression for Lancashire that he was picked to play against India in 1946 before receiving his county cap. He played for England 18 times in all, without ever playing a major innings, or firmly establishing himself in the side. His performances against India were unimpressive, but the selectors, seeking a batsman who would lend stability to the middle order, picked him for the tour of Australia that winter. He played in all five Tests of the tour, bowling infrequently, and with a highest innings of 60. In the first Test he apparently caught the struggling Bradman at slip, but the appeal was turned down, and Bradman went on to dominate England in the series - many thought that if Bradman had failed he might have retired at that point. Picked to tour the West Indies the following winter he failed to make much of the chances offered to him, a pattern that was to be repeated several times. In 1950/51, he had a superb tour of India with a Commonwealth XI, averaging nearly 90 against strong opposition. Such success continued to elude him at Test level, however. He opened the innings with Hutton several times during the 1951 series against South Africa, crucially making a brave 38 in most difficult conditions as England won the Third Test. Battered and bruised by a series of short pitched deliveries, Ikin stood firm in the final hour of the fourth day, setting up an easy victory. Ill health cut short his first-class career, and he retired from first-class cricket in 1957. He returned to play for Staffordshire however, captaining them for ten years. He was a respected coach, and toured Australia and New Zealand in 1965/66 as assistant manager of the MCC team. Wisden said of him in his obituary "gentle, generous and friendly he perhaps lacked the toughness to make quite the most of his considerable natural talent".
(Article: Copyright © 2003 Dave Liverman)