Gary Wilson is very much a cricketer in the modern mould. A batsman good enough to have a County Championship hundred to his credit, he is also a skilled wicket keeper, though he has often been selected for his batting alone. Further, when not wearing the gauntlets, he is an excellent fieldsman. A prominent all round sportsmen at Belfast's Methodist College, Gary who stands 5 feet 10 inches was a prominent member of Irish age group sides, numbering William Porterfield, Kevin O'Brien and Eoin Morgan among his team-mates. Keeping wicket for the U15 side in the 2001 European Championships, he showed ability to take all types of bowling besides making an undefeated 51 in a 9 wickets victory over Scotland. The following season saw him in both the U17 and U19 teams. In the younger side's match against Scotland, he distinguished himself by making two stumpings off Morgan then, having seen Scotland dismissed for 137, topscoring with 43 in Ireland's 7 wickets victory.
The 2004 season saw him play several very good innings in the U19 European Championships at Oundle School in England's East Midlands. In a big win over Denmark he and Robert Rankin (97) put on 132 for the first wicket, Gary making 63 as Ireland reached 250 before bowling the Danes out for 132. Then against the Netherlands, he topscored with 48 in a low scoring match, Rankin failing to score. Ireland totalled 184 but lost by 3 wickets. Gary's best innings of the tournament came against Scotland when he came in at 4, Rankin being partnered at the top of the order by Fintan McAllister with whom Gary shared wicket keeping duties. Ireland posted 232-8 and won by 153 runs. Another big innings came the following summer when he made 89 in a win over Denmark.
He also appeared with some success in two U19 World Cups. In Pakistan in February 2004 he made 64 against the West indies in a match Ireland lost by 6 runs making 259-9 in reply to 265-8. Gary faced 92 balls and hit 9 fours, while Kevin O'Brien hit a typical 95. In the Plate Semi Final Ireland lost to Australia by 49 runs despite an opening stand of 75 between Gary and Porterfield. Gary's 48 came off 36 balls and included 7 fours.
Gary's professional career in England has deprived Irish cricket watchers of seeing much of him in domestic cricket. As a 17 year old he scored 377 runs at 22.71 for Belfast Harlequins with two fifties Both these knocks were against Downpatrick. An early season 62 was not enough to prevent a 66 runs defeat, though it was matched by 88 from opener Ijaz Ahmed. They were both in the runs again later in the season when the Co Down side was resoundingly defeated. Gary topscored with 77 and, with Ijaz making 68 Harlequins totalled 224 going on to win by 107 runs. In 2008 Gary was able to play 5 matches for Civil Service North, contributing some key innings in the Cup. CSN had rather a torrid path to the semi-finals, having Regan West to thank for a quarter final win over Carrickfergus and were not the favourites when they faced North Down at The Green. The hosts made a useful 253-7 but, as Clarence Hiles wrote Gary and West, "tore the North Down bowling apart." West made a piratical 93 * while Gary, Man of the Match was out just before the end 122 off 124 balls having set up the 8 wickets win. He made only 23 in the Final against Waringstown but in a low scoring match, which the margin of victory only 4 runs, every run was crucial. He also appeared in the semi-final against the same opponents in 2011. To quote Clarence once more, "Civil Service North flew in Gary Wilson from Surrey and he revelled in the challenge with 73." Facing a score of 176, CSN won by 7 wickets with Gary Man of the Match. However despite his presence of Gary in the Final the Villagers were not to be denied this time.
A large amount of Gary's English cricket has been played in the Second XI championship, firstly for MCC Young Cricketers, where his team-mates included Porterfield and Kevin O'Brien and more recently - and mostly - for Surrey. He has 8 fifties and 1 century to his credit at this level, his century coming for Surrey Seconds against Hampshire in September 2009. Coming in at 91-3 he made 155 off 208 balls with 28 fours before being 9th out at 379, having scored 54% of the runs added while he was a the wicket. Hampshire had to follow on but were able to draw the match. Gary has also turned in some fine wicket keeping performances, bowlers such as Jade Dernbach and Stewart Meaker owing many wickets to his safe gauntlets. He has twice made six dismissals in an innings, having some notable all round performances also. Thus against Warwickshire Seconds in 2007 he made 85 off 86 balls with 11 fours and then, in the opposition's second innings accounted for four batsmen, thus helping considerably in the eventual 4 wickets victory. The following season against Worcestershire Seconds at Ombersley he made an undefeated 67 from 137 balls with 7 fours as Surrey totalled 516, then he held four catches in the hosts' second innings. That same summer he hit a fine 90 against his former team MCC Young Cricketers in the 50 over Second XI Trophy, This helped Surrey to 277-4 but the match was lost by 4 wickets.
He made only three appearances in the Second XI Championship in 2012, but played one fine innings in these matches. This was against a Sussex 2nd XI side - including John Mooney - in late May. Surrey won by 114 runs which was in no small way due to Gary who made a memorable 123 in the first innings from 198 balls with 17 fours. He also played in several Second XI Trophy and T20 matches, being seen to the best advantage in two matches, both won by Surrey, played on the same day,against Kent in the latter competition. In the first he topscored with 45 from 37 balls hitting 4 fours and 2 sixes, while in the second, again the top scorer, he made 52 from 38 balls with 7 fours and one 6. In the second he was dismissed by a young slow left armer who had caught him in the first one. The bowler's name was Fabian Cowdrey, son and grandson of two England captains. Gary made his County Championship debut in 2010.
His appearances have been limited, hardly surprising as the Surrey staff boasts two other wicket keepers, including England reserve Steve Davies and a wealth of batting talent. However when he has played Gary has, as the 2011 Wisden remarked "offered hope for the future." He had an excellent debut deputising for Davies in a mid may clash with Middlesex at The Oval. Coming in at the fall of the 7th wicket, he made 62 off 121 balls in 91 minutes with 10 fours. He was eventually stumped off the leg spin of his former MCCYC team-mate Dawid Malan. Surrey totalled 490 whereupon Gary held 5 catches in the Middlesex reply of 324. The match petered out in a draw. After several other useful scores he was in the side as a specialist batsman against Leicestershire at Grace Road in late August. This match was dominated by the internal affairs of the host county as the players attempted to unseat the Chairman. However there was some good cricket as well in a game where rain was the eventual winner. Batting at No 6 in the visitor's' first innings, Gary joined Mark Ramprakash as the star of the dance floor was displaying his elegant footwork on the cricket field. Together they added 218 for the 5th wicket before the Old Master was out for a superb 179. Gary continued to make his own hundred before being caught off Nadeem Malik's medium pace for a well received 125 from 235 balls, 16 of which went for 4 in a 271 minute innings. Gary finished third in the County's averages with 339 runs at 42.14.
His opportunities in both 2011 and 2012 were rather limited but he continued to impress. His best match in last (2012) season came against Nottinghamshire at The Oval in September when - playing just as a batsman - he hit a half century in each innings. The first knock saw him come in at 83-5 and add 123 for the 6th wicket with the former South African Test player Zander de Bruyn (71). Gary was eventually lbw to medium pacer Luke Fisher for 68 having faced 162 balls in a three hour stay and hit 9 fours. He and Zander had another good partnership in the second innings, putting on 90. This time Gary reached 57 in 10 minutes under 2 hours, hitting 3 fours and facing 95 balls. He had thus played a major part in thre comfortable win that Surrey secured. Gary had two half centuries for Surrey in the 2012 T20 competition. Against Middlesex at The Oval he helped set up a 28 runs victory . Coming in at 32-4 to join left hander Matt Sprigel, he shared in an unbroken stand of 117, Matt making 53. Gary's share was 54 from 40 balls with 3 fours and 2 sixes He was again to the fore in an 8 wickets defeat at the hands of Kent in mid June, his 53* coming from 43 balls with 4 fours and 1 six. He had come in following the dismissal of Tom Maynard whose tragic death occured in the small hours of the following morning.
By the end of Ireland's long year's cricket in 2012, Gary had scored 2977 runs at 25.44 with one hundred and 16 fifties. He has not always had a settled place in the batting order and began his Irish career with two "did not bats." His highest score of 113 came against The Netherlands at Castle Avenue in August 2010. This was the first of two ODIs against the Dutch, both of which Ireland won comfortably. Ireland won the toss and Gary and Paul Stirling put on 82 for the first wicket. He then added 112 with Alex Cusack for the second before being third out at 231. Missed on 29 he took 30 overs to reach his 50 but then only another 42 balls to reach three figures. Ireland reached 275-6 off their 50 overs and with Gary allowing no byes and making a smart stumping in support of his bowlers the result was never in doubt. For good measure he contributed 48* in the 9 wickets win two days later.
His first half century had come against Somerset in a Friends Provident Trophy match at Taunton in May 2007. The county had run up an impressive 341-8 with Australian opener Justin Langer making a to class hundred but, despite good knocks from Jeremy Bray and Peter Gillespie, Ireland were 98-5 when Gary came in. He showed his ability against a powerful attack being last out caught off South African Test man Charl Willoughby for 51 from 63 balls with 6 fours. He had shared in partnerships of 57 with Kyle McCallan and 54 with David Langford-Smith, ensuring that Ireland achieved some respectability on the scoreboard. He had a further half century against Leicestershire the following year when he had a partnership of 109 for the 6th wicket with Andrew White (52). Gary reached 54, having faced 72 balls and hit 6 fours, but they lacked support and Ireland lost by 39 runs.
Arguably, however, his most remembered innings will be his 61 against The West Indies in the World Cup last (2011) year, which will always rank among there "might have beens" of Irish cricket history The West Indies had made 275, thanks to a careful hundred from Devon Smith and a whirlwind 94 from Kieron Pollard who had been missed by Gary, a difficult running catch, on 19. Facing this challenge, Ireland lost 2 quick wickets but a fine innings from Ed Joyce, who put on 91 with Gary for the 4th wicket, had kept Ireland in contention. Though Kevin O'Brien failed, Gary was going well when he was adjudged lbw for not having played a stroke to a ball outside off stump. Despite apparent TV evidence that he had done so, the decision was not changed and Gary, who had come into the side for White, had to go. He had made 61 in 90 minutes with 6 fours and 1 six from 62 balls. It was a sad end to what might have been his greatest innings for Ireland and a remarkable victory.
We should also observe that he had an excellent run of scores in the three matches - one Intercontinental Cup game and two ODIs, against Canada in September of last year, and this spring he contributed well to Ireland's Middle Eastern T 20 triumph. He made 49 in the narrow defeat by Namibia and an undefeated 52, with 3 sixes, against Oman, but his crucial innings came in the Final against Afghanistan. Needing 153, Ireland lost Porterfield and Joyce cheaply, but while Paul Stirling set about the bowling, Gary played a vital anchor role at the other end, giving his partner the strike whenever possible. Paul was out for 79 with 39 still needed but, Gary, finding another sound partner in Andrew Poynter stayed until only three runs were needed. He had batted for 58 minutes faced 39 balls and, hitting only 2 fours, made 32. A most unusual T20 innings for a top batsman, but he had adopted precisely the right tactics to "answer Ireland's call."
His highest score in 2012 came in the Intercontinental Cup Match against Afghanistan, possibly best remembered for the weather, bad even by the standards of so miserable a summer. Play did not get underway until the third afternoon when the visitors were soon bowled out for 84. With positive batting needed from Ireland, in by no means easy conditions, Gary came in at 65-2 to join Alex Cusack. They added 67 before Cusack was out for 38. Gary then put on 119 with Andrew White (44*) before being out for 73. He had batted for 147 minutes and hit 11 fours, having faced 100 balls. Unfortunately there was insufficient time for ireland to complete what would have been a well-deserved victory. Gary also batted well in the three T20 matches against Bangladesh at Stormont. His highest innings 41*, from 36 balls with 4 fours and 1 six, came in the first match, the only one in which Ireland were not in at the death. He ploughed a somewhat lonely furrow, with only William Porterfield, among the other major batsmen, making an impression.
He has kept wicket in 79 of his 138 matches for Ireland, catching 112 batsmen, stumping 18 and allowing only 125 byes. These statistics put him fourth in Ireland's all time wicket keeping list. it is a tribute to his glovework that he retained the role in 2012 when Niall O'Brien became available again. As youth is still on his side as these words are written, it is highly likely that the cricket world has still to see the best of Gary Craig Wilson. Considering what has gone before, that will be worth waiting for.