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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
Peter Gerard Gillespie
  • Born 1 May 1974 Strabane, Co Tyrone
  • Educated St Colman's High School, Strabane
  • Occupation Civil Servant
  • Debut 6 June 1995 v Duchess of Norfolk's XI at Arundel
  • Cap Number 598
  • Style Right hand bat, right arm medium pace
  • Teams Strabane

Peter Gillespie comes from one of the North West's best known cricket families. His father, Paddy and three elder brothers, all have their names deeply embedded in the history of the Strabane Club, one brother Mark also playing for Ireland, while Paddy played for North West in the early years of the Guinness Cup. Peter, at his best in a crisis, is a very good middle to upper order batsman, who though sometimes regarded as an accumulator, can and often does, when set, bat with devastating power and effect. He is also a distinctly useful medium pacer. He was, perhaps, never quite an all rounder at international level, but he was much more than just an occasional bowler turned to in desperation. At club level, he can regularly be relied upon to pick up wickets. He is also a magnificent fieldsman, one of the best in the Irish teams of his time.

He first appeared on a wider cricket scene in the U15 interprovincial championship when his 47* for North West against Munster was the fourth highest score of the tournament. Three years later he was in the Irish Schools' side again Wales at Sophia Gardens. In a high scoring draw he made 46 in Ireland's first innings batting for five minutes under two hours and hitting seven 4s. He also played in the International Youth Tournament that year but was largely unsuccessful. The England side he faced was a very strong one, containing eight players who - one as an umpire - went on to make a considerable impact on the first class game. Peter was dismissed for 8 by Phil Weston, later to have to abandon his bowling because of injury, but to open the batting for Worcestershire and Gloucestershire.

Peter played a leading all round role for Ulster Schools against the South at Castle Avenue in 1993. Opening the batting, he made 41 out of 54 before being dismissed. He completely dominated an opening stand of 32 with Steve Ogilby who contributed 4. Peter also had 3-43 in the South innings but rain washed out the rest of the match. This performance saw him play for the Irish Schools XI against The ICU President's XI in the match which followed.

For Strabane his feats have been nothing short of remarkable. As recently as last - 2010 - he scored 1400 runs at 66.10, the highest aggregate of his long career in competitive matches in the North West, propelling Strabane to the League title. One of his best innings was, however, played in a losing cause in an early season encounter with Coleraine. He dominated the opposition attack to make exactly 100* but, though Strabane posted 255, Coleraine passed the total with four wickets standing. The season also saw a superb innings in the local derby with Fox Lodge. He dominated the attack, racing to an undefeated 106 before the innings closed at 227-7. Fox Lodge were bowled out for 187 in reply.

His best all round season was in 1996 when he had the highest aggregate in the NWCU area with 1169 runs at 55.56 and 30 wickets at 23.33. He hit two centuries a highest of 111 v Eglinton and also 104 v Donemana, both in League matches. We might also note a near miss four figure season in 2004, 908 runs at 53.41 when besides a highest score of 118, he passed 50 on seven occasions. That season also saw a fine display in the Cup Final, which Strabane lost to Donemana by 8 wickets. Batting first, they were dismissed for 152, Peter's 30 being second top score. Donemana responded with 266, but then had to work hard for victory. Coming in at 46-2, Peter made a typically resolute 87 before being caught off fellow veteran Junior McBrine. He put on 134 for the 4th wicket with Mark, who finished on 58. When their overs allocation ran out Strabane had totalled 264-8. Donemana, however, lost only two wickets in their victory quest, inevitably to a Gillespie, Mark capturing both.

Peter was, of course, a fixture in the North West interprovincial side from the time of his debut against Munster at Ballymena when, batting at 9, he made 15* in a drawn match. Two years later he won the match against North Leinster at Eglinton with a crisis averting display. The visitors were bowled out for 132, but NW soon found that batting was no easy matter. Bobby Rao, Mark Kilgore and Stephen Smyth were all back in the hutch with only 8 runs on the board. Enter Peter. Wickets fell regularly at the other end, but, reaching an admirable half century just before the end, he - with 53* - guided the hosts to a one wicket victory. Another half century came against Leinster - the format of the competition having been changed - - at Castle Avenue in 2000. The visitors totalled 203 owing much to a 3rd wicket stand between Peter and Mark. They added 88 before Peter was caught off Conor Armstrong for 54. The hosts were, however, on the victory path at 183-5 when the rain arrived. One other half century came against NCU at Stormont in 2003, when again North West had Peter to thank for posting a reasonable score. His 54 c Haire b Eagleson was easily the top score, 19 being next. However NW were still dismissed for 176 and with Andrew White in fluent form the hosts recorded a 4 wicket win.

Already capped by Ireland, Peter played two one day matches for the Ireland Development XI against the Irish Universities in College Park in 1996. In the first game the Universities posted 180-8 off their 50 overs. This was a none too daunting task but the Development XI lost three wickets in scoring 74, then Peter joined Johnny Byrne at the wicket. They added an unbroken 111 - no ill luck from Nelson this time - to see their team to a seven wicket victory. Peter dominated the partnership in typical fashion, strong driving being a feature of his 72* which came from 52 balls in 58 minutes with six 4s and one 6. He was in similar vein in a non cap "pre season friendly" against Loughborough Centre of Cricketing Excellence in April 2005. Ireland found the student attack to their liking with Peter and Dom Joyce adding 113 for the 4th wicket. When Peter was out to a bearded turbaned slow left armer he had made a half century in quick time. The scorecard read PG Gillespie lbw b Panesar 58. Monty had took one other wicket but it was not really his day. His final figures were 10-0-50-2.

It seems strange now to record that it took Peter some time to establish himself in the Irish side. However once there he was an almost permanent fixture winning 124 caps and scoring 2774 runs at 27.47 with nineteen 50s and one - magnificent - century. That innings is generally regarded as the highlight of his career. Played against MCC - not, it must be admitted, represented by the strongest Marylebone side ever to visit Ireland - at Upritchard Park, Bangor on 20 June 2005, it was and remains the fastest hundred both in terms of balls faced (47) and minutes (50) taken, ever to have been made for Ireland. Ireland batted first in a 50 over match and, having had an opening stand of 121, were 218-3 when Peter came in. Failing to score of only 10 balls received, he struck six 6s, eight 4s, thirteen singles, nine 2s and one 3 in an astonishing display. What made the innings all the more astonishing was that he was only on 36 after 45 overs. 20 came off the next one, 15 off the 48th so that he was on 91 when the last over began. On 96 as the last ball was delivered, he hit it over square leg for 6.

Another innings of power and quality had come against Bangladesh at The Lawn, Waringstown in 1998. The visitors had totalled a handy 229 all out in their allocated overs, with Kyle McCallan taking 4-35. Ireland were 85-2 with Stephen Smyth batting fluently when Peter came in. Missed when the score was 112, Peter then ran Smyth out with what Derek Scott called "a bad call" before taking command. Facing, in all, 80 balls he had reached a marvellous 94 with two 6s and nine 4s, before running himself out. Ireland were still 3 runs short of victory with 5 balls left, but got home with 3 balls to spare.

Top class opposition was also put to the sword at Castle Avenue in 2002, when West Indies A came to Dublin and scored 268-6 in their 50 overs. Ireland were 58-4 when Peter came in to play " a gem of an innings in a lost cause." He made a wonderfully good 88 with two 6s and eight 4s. The next highest score was Jason Molins' 19.

Peter himself values highly the innings he played against Gloucestershire to win a C&G match in 2006. Undefeated on a difficult Bristol wicket facing the vastly underrated fast medium bowler John Lewis among others, his 41 put Ireland into a position from which they were able to record their first away win in the competition. He also sets store by a half century against Hampshire in 2007 with an attack which included Shane Warne, Stuart Clarke and Chris Tremlett on a bowler friendly wicket. There was another fifty against Yorkshire at Stormont in 2005, this innings only two boundaries, a six and a four, the former a tremendous straight drive off England spinner, Richard Dawson, who was joined in the attack by Matthew Hoggard, Tim Bresnan and Craig White. Peter's 55 came off 113 balls and took 106 minutes.

Later that season a timely 64* against Canada at Castle Avenue brought victory in the ICC Trophy semi final. Sharing in vital stands with Trent Johnston and Andrew White, he hit five 4s and a six in facing 70 balls in an 87 minute stay. White won the match with a six.

Peter Gerard Gillespie decided to retire from international cricket after the 2007 World Cup. Work, the demands on a family man and the immense amount of travelling a commitment to Ireland required all played their part in the decision. He will be remembered in Adi Birrell's words as the "heartbeat of the team " and In Derek Scott's "one of the nicest guys ever to play for Ireland." He told Cover Point magazine in an interview that he would like to "put something back into Strabane cricket."That is what he has been doing since his earliest years!

He is profiled in Siggins ad Fitzgerald "Ireland's 100 Cricket Greats " and also featured in an interview in Cover Point Vol 1 No 2. This study is indebted to both these publications.