- Born 9 January 1967 Lisburn, Co Antrim
- Educated Friends School, Lisburn
- Occupation Bank Official (now Bank Manager); Semi professional footballer
- Debut 3 July 1992 v MCC at The Meadow, Downpatrick
- Cap Number 583
- Style Right hand bat; right arm medium
- Teams Lisburn, Muckamore
Uel Graham, as he has always been, was a distinguished all round sportsman - having kept goal for Distillery FC at semi professional level - as well as a highly competitive cricketer. A strongly built upper order batsman he was also a very useful and accurate medium pacer who - in both disciplines - gave sterling service to Lisburn and Muckamore over the years.
Having developed his skills in his native town's Friends' School - always a fine academy for Irish sport - he distinguished himself as a bowler in the U19 Ulster Bank Interprovincial tournament in 1986, with 3-15 against Munster at The Mardyke to give Ulster Country a narrow victory in a low scoring match.
By this time, however, he was already a fully fledged member of the Lisburn side, having helped them to the NCU Cup Final of 1985 in which they recorded a 3 wicket win. In fact he was to play in three Finals without ever really producing his best batting form, his highest score being 29 against Lurgan at The Meadow in 1996 which was not enough to save his side from a 5 wicket defeat. His best Final performance, however, was one which does look over impressive statistically. Against North Down in the famous tied match of 1994, he played with a broken thumb which meant that he batted at 11, but still bowled his full ration of 24 overs in the match. These went for only 80 runs, his first innings figures of 12- 2 - 31 - 1 being particularly valuable.
Apart from his many fine matches for both his clubs in League games, three other Cup performances may be noted here. In 1995 he turned in a man of the match performance to bring a third round victory over NICC by 6 runs. Batting first Lisburn reached 233-8 off their allocated overs. They owed much to Uel whose commanding 83 ensured a respectable total, the next highest score was Neil Doak's 31. Then he had 3-39 in 12 typically tight overs as North finished on 227-9. Fast forward to 2007 and a second round match at Wallace Park against Lurgan. Lisburn ran up 217-7 with Uel topscoring on 74. Lurgan could only manage 130 in reply. In that same season in the Club Turf Ulster Cup against Glendermott, he made 71 as Lisburn reached 212-6 off their 40 overs. He then took 3-26 to lead the way to a 23 run victory.
He was also a formidable opponent in senior Interprovincials, playing 35 matches and scoring 788 runs at 34.26 with five 50s. Four of his best innings may be noted here. In 1989 at The Mardyke, Ulster Country had Uel and Paul McCrum to thank for being able to post what proved to be a winning total. Uel made a typically forthright 91 - his highest score at this level - while McCrum reached 55. The total was 200-8. Paul was then joined by his brother Charlie in bowling the hosts out for 117, but without his and Uel's innings, the result might have been very different.
Uel was in top form with the bat again two years later at Castle Avenue, though this time on the losing side. Batting first the visitors totalled 261-6, Uel opening the innings led the way with a thoroughly aggressive 68, made out of 110 while he was at the wicket. He was eventually bowled by Matt Dwyer who took 5-86. However North Leinster also found the wicket to their liking and, with Deryck Vincent and Bangor exile Michael Rea in command, cruised home by 5 wickets. Three years later at Lodge Road, Country were again in need of Uel's batting to see off a Munster challenge. The south easterners were dismissed for 189, getting this far thanks to a last wicket stand of 36 which Uel ended by dismissing Irish paceman John Power. Ulster Country then found themselves 47-3 before Uel and Garfield Harrison added 94 for the 4th wicket. Uel then fell for another 68 but the Waringstown all rounder remained in control with 71* to steer his side home by 3 wickets. In the same summer against Ulster Town at The Green, Ulster Country suffered another 5 wickets defeat. Again they had Uel to thank for the fact that the defeat was not a heavier one. Ulster Country were dismissed for 163 Uel topscoring with 73 before falling lbw to the peripatetic Charlie McCrum. Doak (28) was the next highest scorer.
Uel scored 544 runs for Ireland at 19.45 and took 22 wickets at 38.09. His bowling was little used at first but later seems to have been regarded as his stronger suit.
His debut came in a two day match against Middlesex at Malahide in 1992. Ireland narrowly escaped defeat in this match after being on level terms for much of the time. Uel did well enough with a second top score 28 in the first innings, batting at 3 against an attack led by Angus Fraser. He also reached double figures - just - in the second innings as Ireland needing 200 to win subsided to 157-9. He had two useful knocks in the Kenya based ICC Trophy of 1994. Against Malaysia he helped Justin Benson see Ireland to a 9 wicket win after their opponents had been bowled out for 110. Coming in at 17-1 after Rea was out, he shared in an unbroken second wicket stand of 94 to see Ireland home. The Leicestershire batsman starred with a powerful 74* but Uel supported him well. Facing 52 balls and hitting 2 fours, he finished on 27*. A high scoring match against UAE saw Ireland go down by 59 runs, chasing a total of 294. Uel came to the crease at 20-1, Benson being run out and helped Rea (36) add 65 for the third wicket. He was eventually out at 102-3 having made 28 in 77 minutes off 48 balls, hitting a solitary boundary.
His best matches with both bat and ball came the following summer. Against MCC at Castle Avenue Ireland faced a total of 331-8 declared with Uel having bowled tightly to return figures of 11-4-20-2 including the wicket of former Warwickshire and Oxford batsman David Thorne for 61. Ireland started well in reply and were 142-3 when Uel came in. He then had to hold the batting together as a collapse ensued. He made a fine 55 but his side totalled only 250. Eventually they fell 58 runs short of a 296 run chase, Uel with 25 helping maintain the challenge for a while.
Later in the summer he was man of the match in the Triple Crown game against Wales at Glasgow's Titwood ground. Batting first Ireland posted 311-5 with Stephen Warke, winning his 100th cap but falling short by 5 runs of marking the occasion with another type of century. Wales, however, also found the conditions to their liking and would almost certainly have won had it not been for Uel. He came third change having bowled 14 overs and taken 0-70 in the previous two matches. He held up the Welsh charge in the most effective manner, by taking wickets, achieving the analysis of 11-0-49-4 to see Ireland home by 15 runs. He also helped Ireland to victory over the same opponents the following summer, when he and Doak put the brakes on Wales at The Meadow after the visitors had made a promising start with 44-1 in 15 overs. Bowling in tandem the Lisburn duo restricted Wales to 23 off the next 19. Uel finished with 11-5-18-2 and Doak 11-2-15-0. Neither was called on to bat as Ireland won by 6 wickets.
One other noteworthy innings came against an MCC side captained by Andy Flower at Lord's in that year. The match ended, as these two dayers at Lord's had a habit of doing - in a draw. Uel's first innings 40 had helped Ireland keep in touch after an MCC first innings total of 259-3 declared. He was described was described by that stern shrewd and much missed judge of the game, Dermot Monteith as " a good club player." Coming from Monty that means rather more, a fact which "the World's third best slow left armer " showed by including Uel in his All Time Lisburn XI which appears in his - Monteith's - autobiography. Samuel Graham did more than enough during his career to hold his place in most of the company with which he played.
Edward Liddle, April 2011