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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
Alex Richard Cusack
  • Born 29 October 1980, Brisbane, Australia
  • Educated Marian College, Ashgrove, Brisbane
  • Occupation Carpenter, Professional Cricketer
  • Debut 10 June 2007 v Middlesex at Castle Avenue
  • Cap Number 661
  • Style Right hand bat, right arm medium fast
  • Teams Clontarf

Alex Cusack is an outstandingly good all round cricketer. As an upper or middle order batsman, he is capable of playing whatever game the situation demands, while his bowling, usually just over medium pace, is invaribly economical and frequently penetrative. He began playing cricket seriously at the age of eight and developed his skills at Marian College, Ashgrove - a well-known Catholic boys' school, both boarding and day pupils in a Brisbane suburb. Equipped with excellent sporting facilities - nine ovals being provided for cricket and rugby - it also numbers many famous names among its alumni. The most outstanding cricketer produced there was that pugnacious opener Matthew Hayden, while among several Australian Rugby internationals - of both codes - legendary World Cup winning captain John Eales stands out. Away from the nine ovals, the College can point to former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and actor Ray Meagher, better known to some - though not I hasten to add this writer - as Alf in the long running soap opera "Home and Away."

With such a background, it is little wonder that Alex became a prominent sportsman excelling at both cricket and rugby; he retains, incidentally, a strong interest in Queensland Rugby League. However aged 22 and a first grade cricketer in Brisbane - he came to Ireland, looking for a club to play for during the summer. With the help of his brother, who was playing rugby in Limerick for Old Crescent, he found professional employment at Castle Avenue. Later becoming an Irish citizen, he has never looked back.

He stands among those leading all rounders who have scored more than 4000 runs and taken over 200 wickets in leinster Senior Cricket.

His figures would undoubtedly be even more impressive, had the Irish calls not restricted his appearances somewhat in recent years. His highest score to date is 103*, made ironically in a losing cause against North County at Balrothery in 2006. After Clontarf had won the toss, Alex came in at 41-2 and showed little signs of being in trouble for the remainder of the innings which totalled 237-9 from the 50 overs. He then took an early wicket but with Andre Botha making an undefeated century and John Mooney and Connor Armstrong both passing 50, the hosts had little difficulty in reaching their target. Alex's best bowling thus far was achieved against Merrion in an early season match at Anglesea Road in 2011. Opening the attack he returned the figures of 7-0-19-5, including Dom Joyce, John Anderson and the very promising Tyrone Kane in his haul. He then opened the batting and, with 36, led the way to a win by 7 wickets.

Among many other fine performances for Clontarf in Leinster cricket we might note a Man of the Match one against Phoenix in the Cup in his first season. He began with bowling figures of 12-1-41-3 to see Phoenix bowled out for 239. His wickets included the prolific opening pair of Jason Molins and Jeremy Bray, crucial in restricting the Park men's total. He then came in at 151-5 which soon became 163-6. However, making an undefeated 52, he saw his side home in company with Zimbabwean Pat Gade.

All told during his time with Clontarf, he has seen the Club take 14 Leinster Senior titles, some, in no small way, due to him. However he also has several excellent performances in the Irish Senior Cup to his credit. Thus in 2004, he had 3-43 against Bready away which helped his side to a narrow second round victory, before dominating the third round encounter with Bangor at Castle Avenue. The hosts innings was restricted to 47 overs, depriving Alex of a well-deserved century, he finished on 96* with Tarf totalling 292-5. With bowling figures of 9-0-29-3, he then set up an impressive victory and received his second successive Man of the Match award.

The 2016 season saw Alex, still only 35, decide to retire from cricket at this level, for reasons explained below. Though in pain for much of the season, he still played a vital part in Clontarf winning yet another senior title, even hitting the winning runs - typically a six - and taking three wickets in the vital match which brought them first place. In all competitive cricket that season he scored 472 runs and took 28 wickets. Ironically, his batting performance came in a one wicket defeat at the hands of YMCA, when he hit a belligerent 77 from 81 balls with 8 fours and 1 six.

He has also, of course, made a number of appearances at interprovincial level, both in the old style Regional Challenge and in the current competition. He contributed well, for example, in a two wicket 50 over victory over Northern Knights at The Vineyard in 2014, making 46 and taking 2-46, though a typically swashbuckling century from Kevin O'Brien stole the show. His economical bowling also played a key role in a T20 win over the same opposition at Anglesea Road in 2015, when his figures of 4-0-16-2, saw the visitors fall well short of a 169 runs target.

Making his Irish debut in 2007, he is numbered among the elite band who have scored more than 2000 runs and taken over 100 wickets. His career record in 174 matches is 2347 runs at 22.79 and 180 wickets at 21.86. He hit 1 century and 9 fifties besides having 1 five wicket haul. His bowling figures put him in eighth place among Ireland's all time wicket takers. The century came on his first class debut against Scotland in a match at Stormont in 2007 which was badly affected by rain. The Scots batted dourly into the second afternoon, totalling 314. With the third day washed out Ireland had only a big first innings lead to play for. Alex did not get to the wicket until the first over of the fourth day, which was not bowled until 1.30. Together with Botha he then took control, though he should have been run out early on. They added an Irish and Cup record 234 for the 6th wicket before the South African was stumped - at the second attempt - for 186. Alex then took complete charge, reaching his hundred with a six and continuing to find the boundary freely. He was eventually caught at the wicket trying to cut medium pacer Richard Berrington. He had batted 229 minutes, facing 204 balls. He hit 16 of them for 4 and two for 6.

His best bowling figures for Ireland came against Afghanistan in the World Cricket League at Rotterdam in July 2010, an ODI that in fact required two days to finish. Ireland, thanks to 77 from Andrew Poynter, well supported by Kevin O'Brien and Trent Johnston made 237-9 before bowling the opposition out for 198. Alex was principally responsible though he was well supported by the rest of the attack. "Cusack," wrote Ian Callender, "proved the golden arm." Including Nos 1, 3 and 5 in his haul, he specialised in taking wickets early in each of his three spells. Thus he took two wickets in his first over and one more at the beginning of each of his second and third spells. Capturing a 5th, he finished with the praiseworthy analysis of 8.1-5-20-5.

He has, of course, won several Man of the Match awards while playing for Ireland. For example against South Africa at Stormont.in June 2007 in the second of Ireland's two ODIs in a rain plagued tournament also involving India, he came into the side in place of Gary Wilson and gave a splendid all round performance, though Ireland never looked like winning a match which was reduced by rain to 31 overs a side. The visitors batted first and made 173-4 from their allocation. Alex was the bowling hero, taking 3-15 in four overs, his wickets coming in the space of 16 balls and including those of Herschell Gibbs and Jack Kallis. As he also held a smart catch off Roger Whelan, to dispose of former Carrickfergus man AB De Villiers, he had a hand in all the wickets that fell. Ireland struggled from the first but reached the respectability of 131 (Philander 4-12), partly thanks to Alex who made an undefeated 36 from 56 balls, he hit one 4 and a towering 6 over long on, the latter being caught by Dale Steyn, who, however, had both feet over the boundary.

At the end of October the following year Ireland faced Namibia in the Final of the Intercontinental Cup at Port Elizabeth. Good bowling by Peter Connell kept Namibia to a total of 250 but Ireland then struggled against the swing bowling of Gerrie Snyman. Only Alex, missed at third slip on 12, countered him. Coming in at 11-1 when Niall O'Brien was out, he batted throughout the innings for an undefeated 95, facing 230 balls and hitting 15 fours in his 273 minutes stay. Roy Morgan has described the innings as, "One of determination rather than attractiveness" but thanks to Alex, Ireland were only 55 behind. Connell and Boyd Rankin then bowled the opposition out cheaply, leaving Ireland 201 in difficult conditions. Alex came in at 68-1 to find Niall O'Brien in fine form. Alex supported him well as they added the 133 required for victory. He finished on 39* from 130 balls with 5 fours, Niall was on 119. The Man of the match award went to Alex for his vital first innings.

Despite such performances however, many would argue that his finest performance for Ireland came on that famous March evening in Bangalore in March 2011. Let us remember that he came to the wicket with Ireland in the near impossible situation of 111-5 - needing 328 - to join Kevin O'Brien also newly arrived. Kevin's magnificent display is already the stuff of legend, but Alex's contribution should not be overlooked. They put on 162 for the 6th wicket before Alex was run out. Kevin had this to say in his book "Six After Six," "Cusy was fantastic, running for everything and giving me plenty of strike. We put on 62 off the five overs of the batting powerplay, which was 20 more than England got off ours." Without Alex there would never have been what Alan Lewis, close up observer of many top class cricket and rugby matches described as "The greatest sporting day I've ever witnessed." The 2015 World Cup was to see another outstanding performance, when he played a key role in the thrilling win over Zimbabwe which answered the claims of those who had called for one of the younger and faster bowlers to be included at his expense. His figures of 9.3-2-32-4 were just as crucial to ireland's hair raising victory as the fine batting of Ed Joyce and Andy Balbirnie. Not only did he dispose of the opposition's star batsman Brendan Taylor, deceived by a slower ball, but, as Ireland threatened to "snatch defeat from the jaws of victory", he took the last two wickets in the final over, the final batsman going to William Porterfield's nerveless catch on the boundary. Alex had bowled Ireland to a victory every bit as heart stopping as any other achieved in the last 160 years!"

He had intended to retire after the World Cup but played on to help Ireland gain qualification in the World T20. His eventual decision to call it a day came because of injury problems and family and work responsibilities. The comments of his fellow players and Cricket Ireland officials show the high esteem in which he was held and how widely he will be missed. Gerard Siggins and Jim Fitzgerald produced their "Ireland's 100 Cricket Greats" in 2006 when Alex Richard Cusack was still qualifying for "the green jersey." If a second, or revised, edition was to be published there can be no doubt that this talented all-rounder would be profiled in its pages.