Spotlight on William Porterfield
William Thomas Stuart Porterfield
William Porterfield is a high quality, top of the order left hand batsman who has proved his worth in all types of the game. He is also a superb fieldsman, who has acted with great distinction as a substitute for England at both Test and ODI level.
BBC Cricket Correspondent Jonathan Agnew thought him the fielder of the Tournament in the 2007 World Cup. This was a different take on Porty - as his team-mates know him - from that of Agnew's predecessor, later President of MCC, who had proved unable to pronounce Strabane correctly and believed its Grammar School to be in Leeds!
As befits Ireland's most successful captain, William is also a very shrewd tactician, having led Irish sides since Under 13 level besides taking charge of MCC Young Cricketers and Gloucestershire teams in 2nd XI Championship and one day matches and leading the ICC Winter Training Camp XI in South Africa in 2006/07.
An outstanding cricketer at Strabane GS, a distinction he shared with his school-mate Boyd Rankin, he was selected for the first ever Ireland U 13 side in a tournament at Fetes College, Edinburgh in 1997, though he was a year younger than many of the other participants.
He showed his worth in the match against Scotland, making an undefeated 56, inspiring Dessie McCall to write in the Irish Cricket Annual, "Porterfield built his innings on solid defence before launching into fluent stroke play..... a magnificent display of opening batsmanship."
Another to be impressed by the innings was a young red headed all-rounder called Kevin O'Brien who took 3-10. For the first, but by no means last time, they combined to bring their country victory.
As mentioned above, William captained Irish age group sides with great success, besides in 1998 leading the North West to the U15 Interprovincial Championship. In both 2001 and 2002 he led Ireland U17s to victory in the European Championships, his consistent batting being part of the platform on which their success was built.
He was also in the U19 side in both those season. Ireland, under John Mooney's captaincy were victorious in the former year, but William was unable to pull off a double in 2002. His batting played a major part in Ireland's success in 2001. His 63* led the way to an 8 wicket victory over a Danish side led by the future Derbyshire wicket keeper Freddie Klokker while against the Netherlands he hit a brilliant 102, setting up a 109 runs win .
He was able to make up for the disappointment of ceding the U19 title to Scotland that year by leading his team to lift the trophy the following season. He also showed his class in the U19 World Cup held in Bangladesh in 2004. His best innings came, appropriately, against Australia when Ireland reached 291-9 in pursuit of a total of 340.
They owed much to a good start provided by William and Gary Wilson who put on 75 for the first wicket. William making 44 - 60 balls, 6 fours - and Wilson 48. Ireland were then carried towards the "ask" by a typical 65 from Eoin Morgan.
Before leaving age group cricket we may note the match U23 match against Denmark in 2006, by which time, William was, of course, a fully-fledged international. In this European Championship game at Clontarf, Ireland, batting first ran up a formidable 385-8 with openers William and Railway Union's Kenny Carroll both making hundreds, William's being 113. Another Park Avenue man, Kevin O'Brien weighed in with 60 before the Danes were bowled out for 191. Ireland made a clean sweep of all the European titles that year.
What might be termed the downside of William deciding to pursue a professional career in county cricket has been that he has all too rarely been seen in our domestic game. Donemana saw him in fine form in the 2001 season when they won the NW and Faughan Valley Cups and were runners up in the League. William hit 551 runs at 25.04 with a four 50s of which the highest 75 came in a fine league win over Limavady. Facing a total of 313, inevitably based on a Decker Curry hundred, Donemana were struggling at 10-3 but William, who had opened the innings, stood firm his score doing much to ensure a two wickets victory.
He also did well in the Faughan Valley Final, making a quickfire 60 which, added to Junior McBrine's dominating 109, enabled their side to post an impressive 241-6. Eglinton fell well short in their reply. William a played a leading role in bringing the NW Senior Cup to Donemana. In a first round victory over Coleraine he made an undefeated 62 seeing his side to an 8 wickets victory. He was again to the fore in the Final with innings of 57 and 18, the former part of a first wicket stand of 142.
His appearances for the LCU side, Rush, were also limited as by this time he was playing regularly in 2nd XI Championship cricket In England, as well as for the Home Counties' Premier League side, Milhillians. However he still found time to make several useful scores for the North Dublin side, being prominent, for example in the Bob Kerr Cup in 2007 when he helped them to 8 wickets victories over both Waringstown and - ironically - Donemana with useful 30s which saw the innings off to a good start.
Also that season, the day after he had played successfully for Milhillians, he made 70 in the Leinster Senior League against local rivals The Hills as Rush chased down a target of 241 to secure another 8 wickets win. William and wicket keeper Fintan McAllister (102) put on 176 for the first wicket before he was caught by Willie Dwyer off brother Matt.
William's career In English cricket had begun while at University when he appeared for the Bradford/Leeds University Centre of |Cricketing Excellence, which enabled him to play in 3 day matches against county sides. The Universities are often heavily outclassed in these matches but the long term benefits are obvious. We might note a fighting second innings 32 against Yorkshire in 2004. Opening in the second innings, after making a duck in the first he batted for 88 minutes, hitting 5 fours from 70 balls facing an attack which included Chris Silverwood, Tim Bresnan and off spinner Richard Dawson.
The 2005 and 2006 seasons saw him with MCC Young Cricketers at Lord's along with Wilson and Kevin O'Brien as well as other Associate hopefuls such as Klokker to say nothing of current West Indies captain Darren Sammy and Middlesex all-rounder DJ Malan. While at Lord's William as mentioned above played a number of matches for Milhillians at a high level of league cricket, MCCYC ensuring that their players had plenty of match practice.
In 2004 he had been joined in the side by Kevin O'Brien. William also made a few appearances in 2007 when he made a highly praised 84 in a drawn match against Potter's Bar. Opening, he was 5th out at 172 having faced 129 balls and hit 12 fours. MCCYC play in the 2nd XI Championship and One Day Tournaments and William proved his worth in such matches besides having the chance to further his leadership skills on several occasions.
In the Second XI Trophy (one day) he had an outstanding 92 against Kent before being caught off former Test seamer Martin Saggers. It was almost entirely due to William that MCCYC were able to reach 220-9. They eventually lost by 2 wickets via the D/L method.
One of his best innings in the Championship came against Northamptonshire 2nds at Radlett in August 2006 when MCCYC were set a target of 329. They emerged victorious by 3 wickets, thanks to William who made a magnificent 163* off 199 balls with 16 fours. Best bowler for the county was Andrew White with 3-64.
Such innings gained him the attention of several county sides including Kent for whom, in September of that year, he hit a second innings 144 off 127 balls with 29 fours and 1 six, adding 221 for the second wicket with New Zealander Stuart Mills. Irish batting was well represented for the Hop County in that match, Niall O'Brien having made 54 in the first innings. These and similar innings gained William a Gloucestershire contract in 2007.
He was soon to become part of the county side but his Second XI innings included a fine 91, again at Radlett against Middlesex inn 2006 and - as late as 2010 - 92 against the same opposition. Once more the match was at Radlett, clearly one of his favourite grounds.
In County Championship matches for Gloucestershire, William scored 1636 runs at 30.84 with 2 hundreds and 10 fifties. The two centuries both" big ones" came in his final - 2010 - season. The first 175 was made against Worcestershire in an extraordinary match in the Cheltenham Festival (cricket not horse racing) in early August. The hosts led off with a potentially winning total of 489, William's innings being the first century of the Championship for the county that season, reached with a pull for 6 over mid-wicket. In all he faced 209 balls, hitting 25 fours and 4 sixes. Though having a lead of almost 200 Gloucestershire batted again, were skittled for 136 of which William made 33 second top score, only to see their visitors make 339-4 to carry off an unlikely win, their captain Daryl Mitchell hitting a remarkable hundred.
Shaken Gloucestershire moved on to Northampton where they won by 7 wickets, in no small way due to William who 150 was, according to Wisden "assured and impressive." He put on 219 for the second wicket with Chris Dent (92) but no other batsmen in the match could master a wicket of variable bounce. William had faced 245 balls and hit 23 fours.
Moving to Warwickshire for the 2011 season William had a highest score of 87 made against the ever formidable Durham attack with leg spinner Borthwick prominent. William came in at 3 with 72 on the board and stayed while 173 were added before being 5th out lbw to the leggie. The match was eventually lost by 8 wickets. He has also turned in a number of good performances at List A and T20 level for his two counties having three man of the match awards at the shortest form of the game.
The most spectacular of these came last season (2011) for Warwickshire against Derbyshire in a match won by 5 wickets. Wisden reported, "William Porterfield dominated Warwickshire's reply, making 83 from 53 balls before being run out with the scored level. "He had hit 10 fours and 2 sixes.
At List A level, his highest score thus far in county cricket came for Gloucestershire against Essex. This match saw Gloucestershire record a Duckworth Lewis victory by 5 wickets and was dominated by Associate batsmen, Ryan ten Doeschate hitting a belligerent 88 for Essex. Needing 193 from 18 overs Gloucestershire owed much to William, as Wisden relates. "They slipped to 39-2 before Porterfield and Franklin added 135. Porterfield who struck three sixes and 12 fours was denied his hundred when Chris Taylor hit the winning run."
With 4700 runs at 30.52 from his 155 matches, William is currently Ireland's leading all time run scorer. He is also the leading century maker, having reached three figures on eight occasions, one more than Jeremy Bray and Ivan Anderson.
In 2009 he was ICC Associate player of the Year, scoring 1208 runs for Ireland at 42.83 with 3 hundreds and 6 fifties. He has won five Man of the Match awards for Ireland to go with his three in T20 county matches mentioned above.
To single out performances from such a career is difficult but we would have to include his dominating 166 against Bermuda at Castle Avenue in the Intercontinental Cup in August 2007. He set up an innings victory when Ireland were put in on a wet wicket in cheerless conditions. He batted for 407 minutes and, facing 326 balls hit 21 fours, putting on 221 for the second wicket with Andre Botha who made 122.
In January of that year he had made another match winning hundred against the same opposition: 112 in the World Cricket League. He also had two outstanding Intercontinental Cup innings against Scotland at Aberdeen in 2009. This was a match marred by rain and poor umpiring but William with 77 and 118 stood out above the controversy. Only available for the match because he had been dropped from his county side, he batted 177 minutes in the first innings, facing 121 balls from which he hit 1 six and 9 fours. Ian Callender reported that he did much as he pleased, "the Scottish bowlers were cannon fodder." His second innings was, wrote Ian,"304 balls of monumental concentration hitting 15 boundaries including a huge six over mid-wicket."
He also hit four fifties for Ireland in List A matches against the counties with 88 against Essex at Castle Avenue in 2007 the highest. Batting first Ireland were soon 41-2, William hitting several boundaries was well in control but his opening partner Kenny Carroll and New Zealand overseas player Jesse Ryder had fallen cheaply. However Kevin O'Brien helped him right the ship and Ireland eventually finished on a respectable, but ultimately inadequate, 227-5.William had faced 134 balls and hit 12 fours. His average for Ireland in these matches was 34.45.
Among his ODI innings against Test Match opposition two surely stand out. Against India at Bangalore in the 2011 Ireland batted first and were soon 9-2 with Paul Stirling and Ed Joyce back in the pavilion. However William and his old colleague Niall O'Brien took the score to 122 but unfortunately O'Brien was then run out and the innings crumbled somewhat hereafter. William batted for 134 minutes facing 104 balls from which he hit 6 fours and 1 six. Wisden described the game as "a match of what ifs." Suppose the run out had not happened and/or Johnston had not had to leave the field after India had lost early wickets, Ireland in front of 40000 people with the Blarney Army lost in a sea of Indian blue, might have pulled off another astonishing win.
However, in the opinion of this writer, William's most memorable innings for Ireland had come in the previous World Cup against Bangladesh at Bridgetown, Barbados in 2007. The two teams had, of course, spoiled the organisers' party by knocking out India and Pakistan who were supposed to have met in this Super Eight encounter.
Instead it was Ireland and Bangladesh who provided what Wisden termed "one of the tournament's better games." William had been struggling with the bat but coach Adie Birrell and captain Trent Johnston had kept faith with him. Now in difficult batting conditions and intense heat he and Jeremy Bray put on 92 for the first wicket, both batting in far less than their usual free scoring styles. Eventually William was 4th out with the score at 176. For Johnston his innings was, "a gutsy and determined 85", while Wisden commented that "the twenty two year old Porterfield played with restraint, before sacrificing a likely century." Batting for five minutes under three hours and facing 136 balls, he hit only 3 fours but laid the foundations for the O'Brien brothers and Johnston to accelerate and set up a match winning total.
2012 proved to be both a memorable year for William and one he might wish to forget. As a regular member of the Warwickshire side, he was able to savour winning the County Championship, which they had so narrowly failed to do the previous season. He made 538 runs in these matches at 26.57 with three 50s. His highest came in an early season victory over Somerset which proved to be a crucial one. Warwickshire were left chasing a total of 262 and got home by 2 wickets, thanks to William who top scored with a 161 balls 84 which took 188 minutes and contained 12 fours.
Away from the first class scene he also hit a memorable undefeated 100 against the Unicorns in a CB 40 match at Paul Getty's picture postcard Wormsley ground.
For Ireland he was less successful. There was the excitement of the Australian match and the World T20 in Sri Lanka but this was marred by his own first ball dismissals in all three matches, by Ireland's failure to advance beyond the first round in the T20 and by the rain which, having destroyed the Irish and English cricket seasons followed the Irish team to Sri Lanka and did its worst there.
However William Thomas Stuart Porterfield has already done more than enough to rank very highly in Irish cricket history. As he still, fortunately, has many years ahead of him at the highest level, who knows what further achievements lie in wait for him to reach and us to savour.
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