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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
Keith Richard Bailey
  • Born 26 February 1964 Dublin
  • Educated Wesley College, Dublin
  • Occupation Bank Official later Bank Manager
  • Debut 3rd July 1985 v Sussex at Hove
  • Cap Number 557
  • Style Right hand batsman, wicket keeper.
  • Teams YMCA

Keith Bailey was a very good wicket keeper, who was unfortunate that his Irish career was mostly played in the shadow of gloveman par excellence, Paul Jackson. When Paul, having equalled Ossie Colhoun's cap record for a keeper, hung up his international gloves, rivals such as Brian Millar and Allan Rutherford presented themselves and Keith's chance had gone.

He began as a stumper at Wesley, being told by that legendary guru of Leinster Schools' Cricket, Frank Morrison, "You can't bowl, so why not try keeping wicket?" Frank, with his uncanny perception had undoubtedly seen Keith's potential. In 1978, he was persuaded by fellow schoolboy Alan Lewis, then at St Andrew's in Dublin to join YMCA, something for which Keith was always grateful. Lewis also brought Eamon Masterton, then at Sandford Park School, not particularly noted for its cricket but once presided over by former Ireland and Canada wicket keeper, Douglas Cordner. The three were to do much for the Claremont Road side in the years to come. They were all in the Irish Schools' side of 1981 which, on a brief British tour, took on both the Welsh and English Schools. Eamon was captain and the bowling was spearheaded by Peter O'Reilly. Keith did not get an innings in the match against Wales at Swansea, which Ireland won by 7 wickets, though Keith might prefer to forget the Welsh first innings in which he conceded 15 byes. However he redeemed himself in the second, no byes being allowed.

The batting success of the match, though Lewis contributed well, was another international, but, alas, his honours were gained for Northern Ireland at football as he was lost to cricket at a still early age. He was Robbie Dennison, to become known as a Wolverhampton Wanderers midfielder rather than a Waringstown and Ireland batsman. They then played the English Schools at the attractive Cheltenham College ground. Here rain caused both sides to declare with barely a handful of runs on the board. Ireland declared a second time to leave England 164 to win. They got home by 6 wickets. Keith had his first knock in the second innings, reaching 12 before being caught behind by a Peter Moores. Maintaining his connections with the future management of English Cricket, he caught Hugh Morris, captaining the English team, off O'Reilly for 53, having already caught opener Nick Newman, who later played a lot of County 2nd XI cricket, off Masterton for 0.

Keith played for South Leinster in the U19 Esso Cup for two seasons. Somewhat remarkably, his main success in these matches was with the bat. In the former year the ICU Yearbook, described him as one of the team's "leading run getters." His 51 v North West in 1982 ensured a draw - his team-mates struggling with Alan Jeffrey's pace - besides being the side's joint top score that season. The following year he hit 36 v Munster to bring about a 9 wicket win.

He kept wicket for YMCA from 1980 to 2000 making 356 dismissals catching 254 and stumping 102. He still stands high in the list of Leinster wicket keepers but his record of 41 dismissals in 1986 has been surpassed. He, himself, broke Pembroke's Harry Hill's 37 victims established 10 years earlier. Keith had most of his 37 catches off pacemen Jonathan Garth (15) and Australian "Sully" Sullivan (12). He continued to be mostly among the leading keepers until his retirement, though 1986 remained his solitary Hopkins Cup. That season, however, he suffered the disappointment of being left out of the Ireland U23 side.

For South Leinster in the Guinness Cup, he was a regular behind the stumps from 1984 to 1991. His first match v Ulster Town at Anglesea Road was a dramatic one. The visitors made 218/6 declared, with Keith taking three catches. South Leinster batted well in reply, but one was needed with two wickets left off the last ball. Going for the winning run, Keith was run out. He was not to exceed three dismissals in an innings, but invariably made two. He included a number of stumpings in these dismissals, forming, towards the end of his time, a useful combination with leg spinner Conor Hoey. Added to his glue like gloves when keeping to pace, this achievement marked him as a keeper of the highest class.

1991 Wales v Ireland: Welsh batsman Andy Puddle watched by Keith Bailey

He was to play 11 matches for Ireland catching 13 and stumping 3. His debut for Ireland came in 1985, as a substitute for Jackson, in a Nat West Trophy match with Sussex at Hove. He did well enough to allow 5 byes in a Sussex total of 283-6, unfortunately Ireland then collapsed for 39 He was still required against Australia at Downpatrick, a match mainly remembered for the atrocious weather. The visitors batted in increasingly heavy rain until lunch after which it was decided that play could not continue. There was time for Alan Border to make 91* and for Keith to stump opening bat Andrew Hilditch off Mike Halliday for 45. Hilditch, later Chairman of the Australian Selectors., had a miserable Ashes series, constantly getting out hooking the new ball. Though he had several clean sheets as wicket keeper, one match which stands out was the one day friendly against Worcestershire at Malahide in 1988.

This was the second of two matches, the first played at Beechgrove had seen Jackson injured. Coming into the side, Keith not only made his highest score for Ireland, 15, he also scored all his international runs. Caught and bowled by slow left armer Richard Illingworth, who in 1991 was to take a wicket in his first Test over, he put on 38 for the 8th wicket with Garfield Harrison (71), the best Irish stand of the match, but could not prevent defeat by 115 runs.

1991 Ireland v Middlesex (NatWest Trophy): Middlesex batsman Mike Gatting and wicketkeeper Keith Bailey

He toured Zimbabwe in 1991, but played in only one cap match, a two day game against Masonaland Country Districts in which he allowed no byes in either innings. Ironically, he gave his best performance for his country in a non cap match, v Matabeleland Schools. He had two catches and two stumpings, the first of the latter accounting for Craig Wishart who later played 27 Tests for Zimbabwe.

Keith Richard Bailey was an outstanding craftsman behind the stumps. His handful of caps is no reflection on his ability, but rather a comment on the excellence of his main contender.