Jeremy Paul Bray
Jeremy Bray is probably one of the best batsmen ever to have represented Ireland. Few would be selectors of fantasy Best Ever Ireland XIs would leave him out of their final pick of opening batsmen.
Tall and strongly built, he has every shot in the book when set, being particularly strong outside off stump, and is capable of dominating the best attacks.
Some critics have pointed to a perceived weakness early in his innings, citing a tendency to play across the line, making him an LBW candidate against the new ball and an uncertain starter. Opening bowlers throughout Ireland and elsewhere would doubtless wish that he were more uncertain.
He worked hard to overcome this problem and his record at all levels of the game speaks for itself. His value to any side is increased by his all round skills. Though generally to be found standing at first slip, where little escapes him, he is also a highly capable wicket keeper and a more than useful medium pacer.
He was introduced to serious cricket at CBS Lewisham, a school noted for producing generations of fine rugby league players, but numbering one Test cricketer amongst its alumni. He was, however, a Baggy Green wearer of the distant past Michael Joseph Hartigan (1879 - 1958) - always known as Roger Hartigan - who scored 48 and 116 on debut v England in 1907/08 but only played one other match for his country.
Starting his grade career with Petersham- Marrickville, Jeremy later moved to St George where he became friendly with a young pace bowler called Dave Langford -Smith, a friendship which was to have repercussions for Irish cricket.
St George, the club of Don Bradman - before his move to Adelaide - Bill O'Reilly and Ray Lindwall to name but three, has always been one of the strongest teams in the Sydney First Grade. Jeremy spent three years with them, passing 1000 runs in the 1996/97 season.
This was a memorable year for St George who won the First Grade grand Final by beating Mosman, largely thanks to Jeremy's batting. Against an attack led by Brett Lee and including Brett's elder brother Shane, a very handy medium pacer, he made 79 and 169*.
Such form led to a professional contract in The Netherlands the following summer where he carried off the National League batting trophy, leaving the prolific Zimbabwe batsman, Murray Goodwin - now often seen destroying attacks for Sussex in tandem with Ed Joyce - in second place.
Jeremy gained representative honours early in his career, playing for New South Wales U 19 and Colts, before graduating to the Second XI and, twice, to the full state side. He also represented Australia U19 both at ODIs and Test Match level. In 1992, in his second match for the State U19 side against Victoria., he made 96 adding 99 for the second wicket with Jason Amberger, who, in a vintage period, never made the Test side but scored over 6000 first class runs with 13 hundreds. Their batting enabled NSW to reach 217-3 in reply to Victoria's 170, leaving a two day match drawn.
Jeremy's best performance for NSW Colts came against NSW Country at Sydney's Bankstown Oval in February 1995. In another drawn encounter Country rattled up a formidable 399-8 declared but Jeremy then insured that they were unable to capitalise on this with a superb, undefeated 165. Batting 252 minutes, he faced 288 balls, hitting twenty three 4s and one 6. His dominance is shown by the fact that, opening as usual, he made his runs out of 297-6, 55% of the total.
His appearances for Australia U19 came against New Zealand in the 1992/93 season. He played in the Second and Third Tests making 26 and 10 in the Second. His opening partner Martin Love, who scored a century in the Second Test, was later to play in five full Test matches as well as appearing with considerable success in County Cricket.
Also in the side for the Tests and the ODIs which followed were Brad Hodge, Jimmy Maher, who was to play a leading role for Glamorgan in the years ahead, and pace bowler Matt Nicholson. The second ODI produced a 10 wicket win for Australia as, having dismissed New Zealand for 161, Love (101*) and Jeremy (55*) took their side to a 10 wicket victory. Jeremy batted 124 minutes and, facing 97 balls, hit seven 4s and one 6.
At the start of the following season - after his productive summer in The Netherlands - he found himself in the full NSW side for a match at the SCG against Transvaal who were making a short tour of Australia including both first class and List A matches. They were led by the former New Zealand captain Ken Rutherford who was, of course, later to coach Ireland, though his spell in charge is not exactly fondly remembered by all!
They took on NSW in a List A match and, batting first scored 296 off their 50 overs. Their hosts were 202-6 when rain called a halt to the proceedings. The visitors were declared the winners on a faster scoring rate. Jeremy had made an 89 balls 66, including seven 4s and one 6.
Two months later, however, he made a life changing move. His Irish girlfriend, Geraldine, had to return home because of the serious illness of her father. Jeremy accompanied her and stayed. Their subsequent wedding brought "Lanky" to Ireland as a wedding guest. He also decided that the country was where his future lay.
Meanwhile Jeremy had taken three months to discover that cricket was played in Ireland at all. Growing up, his knowledge of the country had been limited to the fact that it contained Guinness. However, living in Co Kilkenny with Geraldine, he went to Laois CC where he was redirected to Phoenix.
That season - 1998 - he took Leinster cricket by storm, scoring 1051 runs at 65.00 with 3 hundreds and 7 fifties. In the seasons ahead he established what was to prove a devastating opening partnership with Jason Molins, between them putting many attacks to the sword. In all for his three Leinster clubs in League and Cup cricket, he has scored 9660 runs at an average of 56. 91 with 23 hundreds and 61 fifties. His most prolific season with the bat was 2000 when he averaged 115.73, hitting 1273 runs with a highest score of 118.
However his career best score at his level, 168, came in a first round Leinster Senior Cup match for Phoenix against YMCA at Phoenix in 2003. Batting first Phoenix got off to a roaring start with Jeremy Molins in a 130 runs opening partnership, before Molins was out for 60. Staying there and revealing his full array of strokes Jeremy then added 130 for the second wicket with fellow Australian the peripatetic Queenslander Chris Torrini. Phoenix finished on 367-5, then to complete a day which might have been celebrated by a rendering of "Advance Australia Fair",
Dave Langford-Smith weighed in with three wickets including Alan Lewis who, with a stalwart 79, was one of the few YM batsmen to show confidence. Jeremy was an obvious choice for Man of the Match, an award he received again in the second round, when he made an undefeated 101 in an 8 wickets win over Pembroke, having put on 166 for the first wicket with Molins.
We may also note a remarkable all round display in 2005, the season which having transferred his cricketing allegiance, he spent with Clontarf. Again it was a Cup match and again the opponents were Pembroke. Batting first at Castle Avenue, the hosts began badly with Emmet Whaley disposing of Alex Cusack for 3 and Scottish international Dom Rigby for 0.
Then Jeremy, who had watched all this from the other end, was joined by Trent Johnston in a superb third wicket partnership of 161. Jeremy finished five short of his century, while Trent made 86. They enabled their side to post a formidable 277-9 and then bowled Pembroke out for 192. Jeremy was again to the fore. He caught the first five batsmen and then, put on to bowl, returned figures of 6.3 -1-17-2, taking the last two wickets.
He also had an outstanding season in 2006 when he caused some controversy in Leinster circles by signing for the North West club, Eglinton. He passed his thousand runs with 1028 at 68.54, hitting four 100s and five 50s in doing so. His highest score of 111* came as Eglinton chased down a formidable Burndennett score of 250-5 to win a NW Senior Cup quarter final by 9 wickets. Jeremy's innings was chanceless and utterly dominating. He reached three figures in 70 balls and, in all, hit nineteen 4s and one 6. Burndennett really had only themselves to blame, Jeremy' partner, Richard Wylie (114*) was missed three times!
Jeremy played another superb innings in the Final, still a two innings match, with Strabane as the opposition. Run out for 102, after Eglinton had batted first, he made his runs off 124 balls, with eight 4s and four 6s. He also top scored in the second innings with 47, which put the match out of Strabane's reach, despite their batting line up containing three Gillespies!
Incidentally, though Jeremy was Man of the Match in the quarter final he had to cede the award to Bobby Rao in the Final. The legendary Indian made two vital undefeated lower order contributions, as the Eglinton batting showed signs of foundering and bowled economically in the Strabane second innings.
Jeremy has, of course, several memorable performances in the Irish Senior Cup to his credit. His highest score, however, came in a losing cause. The match was a quarter final against Limavady at Phoenix in 2003. The hosts began badly losing Molins for a duck but Jeremy then played a dominant innings. He made 141 off 132 balls with fifteen 4s and four 6s before being caught off Decker Curry. At 323-2, Phoenix must have been fairly confident, particularly as Decker went for 31. However a magnificent innings by Richard McDaid saw the visitors home.
It was obvious during his early years in Dublin that, as soon as he was qualified to do so, Jeremy would play for Ireland. In the meanwhile he captained the Irish side in the European Development Championships in the Netherlands in 2001, leading a team that contained one past and two future Irish wicket keepers as it included Peter Shields and Niall O'Brien as well as Jeremy.
It was a tournament of low scores with Jeremy's best being 29 against Scotland in a match won on run rate. His eventual Irish qualification brought him a place in the North Leinster side in the interprovincials of 2003 and 2004. It must be said that, apart from one match, his performances were solid and consistent rather than spectacular.
However at Castle Avenue in 2004 against North West he led the way with a powerful 101, enabling North Leinster to reach 302 and go on to win by 97 runs.
He played 83 matches for Ireland between 2002 and 2009, scoring 2812 runs at 31.95 with 7 hundreds and 12 fifties. His run tally included 337 fours and 16 sixes. He showed what was to come in only his second match when he and Molins in a brilliant first wicket partnership took Ireland to a famous 10 wicket victory over Zimbabwe at Stormont in 2003. Jeremy played a supporting role finishing on 67*, his captain, also undefeated, reaching 107.
Thereafter Jeremy hit a slightly lean patch until a 94 against MCC at Lord's was quickly followed by innings of 77 and 143 in successive matches against Denmark. MCC fielding two class off spinners in Garfield Harrison and Peter Such were taken to the cleaners by Jeremy and Andre Botha in a 2nd wicket stand of 103 after Molins had gone cheaply. More good batting from Andrew White ensured the 7 wickets victory.
Though Jeremy followed this innings with single figure scores, he was at his best in the two one day wins over Denmark. In the second, at Malahide, he powered Ireland to a total of 363-5, putting on 160 for the first wicket with Molins and 165 for the second with Botha. His 143 became Ireland's highest one day score, passing Botha's 139 in the last match but one.
Of his other six centuries for Ireland, there can be no doubt hat the most famous and best innings was his superb undefeated 115 against Zimbabwe at Sabina Park in the 2007 World Cup. This innings enabled Ireland to set a target that their opponents could only match but not pass and thus tied the game, the start of what was to prove a special experience for Irish players and supporters alike.
Ireland batted first in good seam bowling conditions and torrid heat and soon losing William Porterfield to a slip catch. However Jeremy stood firm throughout a remarkable innings. He was helped by opposition bowlers constantly feeding his strength outside off stump but, in becoming only the 12th batsman to carry his bat through a World Cup innings, he exhibited great reserves of stamina and endurance. Facing 137 balls in a 221 minute stay he hit ten 4s, "Throwing the kitchen sink", in Johnston's words, at anything outside the off stump.
As he returned to the dressing room at the end of the innings the inevitable inane TV interviewer him what it felt like. "It feels pretty good, mate," replied the man known to some, at least, of his team-mates as Wordsworth.
He hit three first class centuries in the Intercontinental Cup. The first 135 against the Netherlands came in 2005 at Stormont, helping Ireland pile up an unassailable 407-4 in a drawn match. Putting on 121 for the first wicket with Molins and 162 for the second with Botha, he batted for 264 minutes and, facing 198 balls hit twenty 4s.
However his highest innings in this competition was surely his 190 against the United Arab Emirates at Windhoek in late October of the same year. When Ireland batted first he made a first innings 78 putting on 111 for the first wicket with Dom Joyce and then playing second fiddle to Eoin Morgan (151) in a second wicket stand of 132.
Ireland had a first innings lead of 161 but batted again, this time declaring on 444-4. Jeremy made a superb 190 with twenty three 4s. He batted 310 minutes and faced 251 balls. His second wicket stand with Niall O'Brien (176) realised 304 runs, a Cup record for this wicket and still, at the time of writing, the second highest made for Ireland for any wicket in all types of cricket. UAE, already fielding a weakened team, used 10 bowlers in an attempt to break the partnership.
The last of his centuries at this level - and his last for Ireland at any level - came in the 2006-2007 Final against Canada at Grace Road, Leicester. In a forerunner of happenings at Observatory Lane in 2011, the Canadians lasted less than two days before crashing to a heavy defeat. Canada batted first but were bowled out for 92 with Johnston taking 4-12. Jeremy and Porterfield (54) then led off with stand of 202, another competition record. Jeremy was out with no addition to the score for 146, made off 152 balls in just under three hours. He hit twenty seven 4s and one 6. With Kyle McCallan having a second innings "5 for" Ireland won by an innings and 115 runs.
Unfortunately after this match, Jeremy did not play for Ireland for two years. A dispute over payments for the World Cup and a general lack of communication between players and the ICU Chief Executive caused general ill feeling and Jeremy felt it keenly.
In a newspaper interview he made comments he later regretted describing Ireland's attempts to establish a professional structure as "a joke." He spent the next two seasons playing solely for The Hills, apart from returning to play in Australia in 2007/08, but happily was reconciled to a new Cricket Ireland administration in 2009, saying that he much regretted what had been said.
He played regularly throughout the season but apart from a 122 ball 89 against Kenya in a drawn match at Eglinton and 48 in T20 World Cup warm up match with New Zealand at Derby, showed only glimpses of his true form.
In January 2010 he announced his retirement from international cricket. Thanking Ireland's two coaches Adi Birrell and Phil Simmons for the faith they had shown in him and Ireland's enthusiastic supporters and saying that he would always be grateful for the opportunity Ireland had given him, he explained that at 36 "I'm not getting any younger." It was, he added, hard to maintain fitness levels.
After playing for The Hills again in 2010, topscoring in his last match, he rejoined Phoenix in 2011, having spent the intervening Australian season as player coach to the Canberra first grade side Ginninderra.
In 2011 he was appointed one of Cricket Ireland's two high performance coaches and has been much involved with the U19 side and Ireland Women as both made World Cup preparations.
He joined CIYMS in 2012 and was part of the team that clicnhed their first ever Premier League trophy.
He took charge of Ireland Women in 2012 and led them to their most successful campaign ever.
Jeremy Paul Bray has contributed greatly to Irish Cricket as a player, sometimes with never to be forgotten innings, it seems likely that he is now on the verge of a further, but equally important involvement.
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