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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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McDonald, Edgar Arthur (Ted) (1891–1937)

by Peter Pierce

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

Edgar Arthur (Ted) McDonald (1891-1937), professional cricketer, was born on 6 January 1891 at Launceston, Tasmania, son of Arthur McDonald, tinsmith, and his wife Jane, née McBean. He was educated at Charles Street School and played cricket for Tasmania in 1909-10 and 1910-11. Then he moved to Victoria, where he played pennant cricket for Fitzroy, swapped his early reputation as a batsman for that of fast bowler, and was included in the Victorian team before the outbreak of World War I. McDonald was picked for Australia in the 1920-21 series against England, when he had three undistinguished if unlucky Tests, and first partnered Jack Gregory with the new ball.

On the tour of England in 1921 McDonald was the outstanding Australian bowler with 150 wickets, including 27 in the Test series which Australia won 3-0. With Gregory, McDonald formed the first great fast-bowling combination in Test cricket history. His Test batting average of 46 (assisted by not outs) was just behind Charles Macartney's. After three more Test matches in South Africa, McDonald ended his Australian career by deciding to play in England on pitches that he had found more responsive. A qualifying season in Lancashire League in 1922 was followed by a highly successful career with the county in 1924-31. When he retired McDonald had taken 1053 wickets for Lancashire, made a maiden first-class century and played much of his finest cricket. On a trip back to Australia, he turned out again for Fitzroy. In 1932 he rejoined Lancashire League and on retirement became a licensed victualler.

Few bowlers have attracted such thoughtful superlatives as 'Ted' McDonald. Johnny Moyes rated him as 'the most gifted fast bowler' and Ian Peebles as 'the most perfect of fast bowlers', confirming the endorsement of Warwick Armstrong, McDonald's captain in 1921. In his account of the 1921 tour, Ronald Mason said that McDonald 'harboured in a not very approachable personality a genuine vein of genius'. He performed best when the opposition was strongest; was until Larwood's advent the fastest bowler in England; and in his fortieth year bowled (Sir) Donald Bradman for nine. McDonald's speed was complemented by an ability to move the ball either way (so far that out-swingers and leg-cutters often missed off stump, Armstrong remembered) and to reduce his pace to bowl off-cutters on slow pitches.

McDonald was tall, slim, powerful, with black hair and a deeply bronzed complexion. T. C. F. Prittie described him as 'the most impressive figure of his day on the cricket field'. His approach to the wicket attracted special notice because of its effortless, gliding motion—'his silent run of sinister grace', (Sir) Neville Cardus called it. To Sir Robert Menzies, McDonald's action suggested silk running off a spool. His feats for Lancashire prompted some of Cardus's most lavish praise: 'A Lucifer of his craft', 'a satanic bowler, menacing but princely'.

On 22 July 1937, McDonald was killed when struck by a car near Bolton, Lancashire. He was survived by his wife Emily Myrtle, née Hamill, whom he had married on 10 April 1920 at Holy Trinity Church, East Melbourne, and their two sons.

Select Bibliography

  • N. Cardus, The Summer Game (Lond, 1929)
  • T. C. F. Prittie, Cricket North and South (Lond, 1955)
  • A. G. Moyes, Australian Cricket (Syd, 1959)
  • R. Mason, Warwick Armstrong's Australians (Lond, 1971)
  • E. W. Swanton (ed), Barclay's World of Cricket (Lond, 1980)
  • J. Pollard, Australian Cricket (Syd, 1982)
  • 'A Great Fast Bowler', Times (London), 23 July 1937, p 5
  • Argus (Melbourne), 23 July 1937
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 23, 24, 28 July 1937.

Citation details

Peter Pierce, 'McDonald, Edgar Arthur (Ted) (1891–1937)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 25 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

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