- Born 10 January 1969 Londonderry
- Educated Strabane High School
- Occupation Plumber
- Debut 20 August 1998 v Australia A at Rathmines
- Cap Number 618
- Style Right hand bat; left arm medium pace
- Teams Bready
Mark Olphert was a very good cricketer, a batting all rounder who was a mainstay of the Bready side for more than twenty years. As a batsman, he was very adaptable, highly capable of success anywhere in the upper order, while his left arm medium pace could, and often did, account for the best amongst the opposition.
Mark first came to prominence in the U15 Interprovincial Tournament of 1984, which was held in the NCU area, and - regrettably from the viewpoint of Mark and his team-mates - saw North West lose the title they had won the previous season to Leinster. However no blame for this could be laid at Mark's door. In a generally low scoring set of matches his 30 for NW against NCU was one of the few good scores achieved by a North West batsman, and was a vital one in the match concerned as it enabled his side, despite a fine response from Shane Harrison to squeeze home by two runs. Three years later he was highly successful in the U 19 competition, passing 50 on three occasions though two were in a losing cause. Against Ulster Town at Deramore he made a belligerent 91 leading the visitors to a useful 233-6 which, however, the Hosts were able to chase down with four wickets to spare. He again reached the 90s against Ulster Country at Eglinton, but the match was, once more lost by four wickets. Victory came in the last match of the season at The Hills when North Leinster were beaten by 117 runs after North West had reached 225-3, Mark leading the way with a polished 79.
To choose but three examples of his batting successes for Bready in the high quality cricket of League Cricket in the North West will show his class and value.
In 2001 he played an essential role against Glendermott, a side that often seemed to bring out the best in him, in the first match of the season. Batting first they racked up a formidable 282-4 from their allocated overs, but Bready chased the target down to win by 4 wickets. Mark, batting with great confidence, contributing a dominating and match winning 83. Strangely it was to prove his only half century of the season in the competition.
Eight years later, against Strabane, he top scored with 88, finding a useful partner in Chris Dougherty (77), taking their side to 295-8 from their 50 overs. Strabane then fell for 191 in 44 overs with off spinner Trevor Britton taking 5-15 as, for once, the Gillespie family failed to fire, as they usually did against Bready.
In June 2011 against Fox Lodge at Ballymagorry, Bready found themselves facing a total of 329-9, despite the pace of Craig Young having taken 3-32. Neither Mark, with 72, nor former Ireland U15 batsman Stephen Clarke (80) appeared daunted by this formidable chase, but, unfortunately, their team-mates could not quite match their efforts, the visitors being dismissed for 279.
Mark was also seen to good advantage in the fiercely competitive world of the North West Senior Cup. One of his best matches was the Semi Final against Sion Mills in 1997. Bready batted first and put together a useful, but by no means invincible total of 253-9, Mark contributing the second top score, a well made 62, despite some fine leg spin bowling from Bobby Rao who took 5-66.When the Holm Fielders batted Mark was in the groove straight away. Few looked comfortable against him as he finished with figures of 7-22 to bring his side victory by 143 runs.
Unfortunately, Mark was never quite seen at his best in the Irish Senior Cup. His highest score 44 came at home against Clontarf in 2004 when the hosts fell away after Mark and Dougherty had given them a good start. In reply the Castle Avenue side lost three quick wickets, including opener O'Reilly to Mark straight away, but a Greg Molins led recovery brought the visitors a 2 wickets win.
Mark's best bowling in the competition came against CIYMS at Belmont in 2011. The sixth bowler to be tried after CI had batted first, he wrapped up the tail with an analysis of 5.1-1-10-3. Rain then intervened but eventually the Duckworth / Lewis system brought victory to the visitors.
Mark made an early impression on the Interprovincial scene. In 1997 against Leinster at Rathmines, he opened the innings when North West batted first and dominated the Southerners' attack with a much praised 108. Batting for 131 minutes he hit 5 fours and 7 sixes. He eventually fell to Angus Dunlop, caught by Johnny Byrne, helping his side to a score of 265-6, the next highest score being Peter Gillespie's 40.
Unfortunately for the visitors, it was to prove not quite enough, Byrne and Alan Lewis both made fifties and the hosts squeezed home by 1 wicket. Mark also hit two fifties in this tournament, 58 against Munster at Beechgrove in 1999, being dismissed just before the end as he and Dennis Cooke closed in on a 10 wickets victory and 56 against the South of Ireland XI five years later when his innings was made from 76 balls with 6 fours and 1 six. Together with Gillespie (68) he helped the hosts to a score of 193-5, from which they went on to win by 8 runs.
Mark's all too brief appearance on the International stage came in 1998. Having appeared, without much success, for both Ireland A and the Irish Provinces against the visiting Bangladesh team, he found himself one of five replacements in the full national side to play a first class match against the powerful Australia team at Rathmines.
Batting first the Australians made 309/6 from 68 overs with Mike " Mr Cricket" Hussey hitting 125 and Mathew Hayden a typically robust 68. Ireland were bowled out for 132, with paceman Adam Dale, with two Test caps to his name, taking 6-43, including Mark, at 8, who was LBW for a duck. The other wickets were shared between Jason Gillespie and Brendon Julien. Top scorer for Ireland was Mark's fellow debutant Steve Waugh. After the visitors had batted again for 169-5, Ireland, set an impossible task were bowled out for 196, Waugh again top scoring, but Mark, caught off Julien, managed to avoid his pair by only the narrowest of margins.
Edward Liddle, February 2016