Famous Irish cricketers: Victor Craig
Vic Craig was an outstanding cricketer. As a wicket keeper, he was certainly the best to come out of the North West until the advent of Ossie Colhoun.
However he was also a very good middle order batsman, who scored two centuries in NWCU competitions, besides a host of other useful scores. He reserved, however, his most spectacular performance with the bat until well into his sixth decade.
He first came into prominence in the late 1930s. For example his wicket keeping in the NCU cup tie between Strabane and Armagh in 1937 was seen as outstanding. He held 4 catches and did not concede a single bye as Strabane got home by 106 runs.
His two senior hundreds, however, were both in post war cricket. In the NWCU semi final of 1946 between Strabane and Eglinton, Strabane reached 243. A local paper reported, "The highlight was the innings of 103 by V Craig....outshone by far the other batsmen."
Alas it was not enough. Eglinton keeper and opening bat Tommy Orr, who had brought Vic's innings to an end with a stumping, made a brilliant 146 to see his side home by 2 wickets. Vic's other senior hundred, 122 out of 238, came in a drawn League match v City of Derry in 1954. He had made 65* against the same opposition the previous summer.
In August 1948, he was selected to play for Ireland v MCC at Rathmines. Fellow NWCU man JW "Waldo" Allen was also in the side. The match, notable for hundreds by Leinster "debutant" Jimmy Gill and former England captain RES Wyatt, was a rain ruined draw but neither Waldo (0) nor Vic really distinguished himself.
Vic made 12, before falling to the leg spin of former POW and future baronet JM Brocklebank, but he allowed 14 byes in the MCC innings of 242. The wicket was difficult and Jimmy Boucher, who took 7-91, notoriously difficult to keep to. Vic did hold one catch off his bowling: tail ender and off spinning GP Dr RA Shaddick.
The three debut makers never played for Ireland again. Gill and Allen were never asked, but Vic was selected on three further occasions. He had to declare himself unavailable because he was unable to get the time off work.
To play his Saturday matches he had to take a 5.45 am shift, so regular two or three day matches were impossible. He continued to distinguish himself for NWCU in representative matches, but it remains a disappointment that this talented gloveman was never seen to best advantage in an Irish sweater.
In 1976, at an age when most would have retired, he hit six 6s in an over from Herbie Kennedy batting for Burndennet v Kildoag. Unlike Malcolm Nash (Garfield Sobers hit 36 off one over) Herbie recovered to take 7-11 the following week.
Vic was also a useful footballer who won an Irish Junior Cup Final with Strabane United in 1948. He also managed "The Clipper Carlton", described as "Ireland's first real showband!"
Vic always retained his cricket interest and was prominent in administration after retirement, being a national selector in the 1980s.