Martin Paterson Donnelly, a former University of Canterbury student is currently known in the cricketing world as the world’s best present-day left-handed batsman. Donnelly grew up in Waikato, attending New Plymouth Boys’ High School. From a young age his passion and talent for the game of cricket was obvious. The player made his first class debut for Wellington at the age of 19, in a Plunket Shield match against Auckland. Surprisingly, after only one first class match Donnelly was selected for the 1937 New Zealand tour of England. His first international test debut was at Lords before he even reached the age of 21.
After returning to New Zealand, Donnelly moved to Christchurch where he completed his Bachelor of Arts degree at UC. Playing for the university as well as Canterbury, he won the Redpath Cup as the best batsman in the Plunket Shield competition in 1939. Not only was Donnelly an exceptional cricketer, he was talented at rugby, playing code for UC as well as the Canterbury Provincial XV and the New Zealand Universities side. Following the completion of his degree, Donnelly enlisted in the army and began serving in 1941 in Africa and Italy. He rose to the rank of major quickly.
After the war, Donnelly continued his achievements, attending Worcester College in Oxford. Over his three years playing for Oxford he scored six centuries and became captain. He also headed the Oxford batting averages every year and this was where he gained his reputation as the best left-handed batsman in the world. Whilst in England, Donnelly continued with his rugby also, playing for the English national rugby side against Ireland in Dublin in 1947.
The former UC student was elevated to the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame in 1990 and died in October 1999, aged 82. One of the four houses at New Plymouth Boys’ High School is named in his honour.