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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
Peter Christopher Connell
  • Born 13 August 1981 Dannevirke, Manawutu, New Zealand
  • Occupation Schoolteacher, Professional Cricketer
  • Debut 27 June 2008 v Bangladesh at Bready
  • Cap Number 668
  • Style Right-hand bat, right arm fast medium pace
  • Teams Hawke's Bay, North Down, CIYMS, High Wycombe, Wings Warriors, Eastern Suburbs

Peter Connell, strongly built and dark haired, is a very good fast medium bowler and a far from negligible lower order batsman, who was always a force to be reckoned with during his time in Irish Cricket. Unable to break through to the first class game in his native New Zealand, he decided to use his UK passport and his Northern Irish ancestry (a grandmother) to seek his cricketing fortune at North Down, hoping to play high quality representative cricket by being selected for Ireland.

Before leaving home in 2006, he proved his point as to his suitability for first class cricket, by severely troubling one time destroyer of England's attack Nathan Astle, as the Black Caps warmed up for an ODI against the West Indies. Struck on the helmet by two successive bouncers, Astle reportedly left the practice far from pleased. Peter, hoping for success at Comber, told a local journalist that if he achieved it, "It might shut a few mouths around here." He had not been without his detractors at home. Whether mouths were shut or not this writer is unable to say but certainly there were to be fewer critics of his bowling at The Green or later Belmont and Strabane Park.

In his first NCU season, Peter certainly answered his Antipodean critics. In competitive matches he took 40 wickets at 16.10, generally breaking the opening partnership in his first spell. He also scored 353 runs at 31.62, helped by 4 " stars." Early in the season he achieved his best bowling figures with an analysis of 10-1-38-5 against Waringstown. He dismissed both openers for ducks and also removed No 3. North Down went on to win by 7 wickets. The team's and Peter's success continued throughout the season, he finished top of the averages and the Club finished top of the League.

Unfortunately a mistake had been made with Peter's registration papers which led Waringstown to mount an eventually successful challenge and gain the title. The following season, however - at least from the Comber point of view - the situation was rectified with North Down achieving the League Cup double. Peter took 33 wickets at 18.24 with two impressive bowling feats in the Cup 5-44 against Laurevale in the Quarter Final and 3-23 against Instonians in the Semi. 2008 saw him make his Irish debut and also take 33 wickets for North Down at 13.48. His best bowling return was achieved against Cliftonville when he had the outstanding figures of 10-3-30-6 in a mid September fixture. The following week he had 4-26 against CIYMS, removing Nos 1, 2 and 4 in the order and having them reeling at 29-3 before Michael Hingston chose an appropriate time to make what was comfortably his highest score of the season.

In 2009 Peter made only ten appearances for North Down taking 11 wickets at 24.82 which, however, included a fine performance in a rain affected Cup game at The Lawn. Batting first Waringstown were bowled out for 155 with Peter having figures of 10-5-11-3. North Down won on a D/L calculation, finishing on 97-1. Peter's absence from other matches is partially explained by his Irish commitments and partly by the fact that, for reasons to be explained below, he also played some matches that summer for the Buckinghamshire High Wycombe club in the Home Counties League. No record of his time with Comber side would be complete without mentioning that he formed one of the NCU area's most effective new ball partnerships with Taimur Khan, a combination which was to be briefly reunited at CIYMS in 2012. Peter played for the Belmont side in 2011 when he took 23 wickets at 24.57 with a best bowling return of 4-27 against Civil Service North in June. A very tight match saw CSN, needing only 150 to win scrape home by one wicket, Gary Wilson and Andy Cowden joint top scorers on 19. In 2012 Peter played seven matches for CI taking 12 wickets at 15.67. HIs best bowling return was 4-31 against Carrick in the League while he also had 3-17 against Waringstown, removing Nos 2, 3 and 4 in the order, a start from which the Villagers never recovered.

Peter's final figures for his time at The Green and Belmont are 154 wickets at 18.33. His move to High Wycombe was partly triggered by the necessity of ensuring financial stability - he had begun supply teaching in the London area. High Wycombe were, as stated above, in the Home Counties League a highly competitive one of a very good standard. His sometimes spasmodic four season career with the Club brought him - from the figures available one scorecard is incomplete - 39 wickets at 21.89 including three five wicket hauls. His best bowling came against Radlett in 2010 when he sent Wycombe storming to victory with figures of 7.2-1-16-5. Two matches previously he had taken 5-53 against Harpenden and, before the season ended, he also claimed 5-49 against Tring Park. Peter's Irish debut came against Bangladesh A at Eglinton in 2008.

He was to play 58 times taking 107 wickets at 20.54 with four outstanding performances. In his fifth match, which was also his first class debut, he had match figures of 10-29 in the Intercontinental Cup against The Netherlands at Rotterdam in July. The match was badly affected by rain but Ireland, despite being sent in and lacking four key players owing to injury and county calls, won convincingly. They began with an imposing 400-6 declared with Andre Botha making an impeccable 172. Peter then led the attack with 4-41 as the hosts were bowled out for 127. They did rather better in the follow on and, with rain around had some hopes of saving the game at 206-7. Then Peter struck with a hat trick, beating his opponents, two clean bowled and one leg before, by sheer pace, to finish with figures of 6/28. He became the third Irish bowler after fast underarmer Tom Hanna and Trent Johnston had previously achieved the feat. He also became the 16th bowler to achieve the feat on first class debut.

The Man of the Match award, however, went to Botha. Later in the summer he was to win the M-o-M award in the World T20 Qualifier against Bermuda at Stormont. The game, badly interfered with by rain saw Ireland make 43-7 from the 9 overs the elements allowed. Peter's opening spell of 2-0-8-3 was thus crucial in sending the hosts to a 4 run victory, particularly as it included the wicket of Warwickshire and Glamorgan batsman David Hemp.

Another five wicket haul came against Namibia In the IC Cup Final at Port Elizabeth in late October / early November of the same year. He had already taken seven wickets in the match when the two sides had met just over three weeks earlier, helping Ireland to an 8 runs win. Now Namibia batted first and made a useful looking 250 in seam friendly conditions, Peter having figures of 20.1-5-54-5. Despite fine batting from Alex Cusack and the inevitable Trent Johnston Ireland trailed by 55 runs on the first innings. However Peter with 3-36 and Boyd Rankin (4-39), well supported by Botha, dismissed Namibia for 145. Ireland still had a tough target to chase but a superb undefeated hundred by Niall O'Brien saw them home by 9 wickets.

However it is arguable that Peter's best performance for Ireland came in a Cheltenham and Gloucester Cup tie against Worcestershire at New Road on 20 May 2009, a match which this writer is very happy to have seen. Put in on a misty morning with rain never very far away, Ireland faltered against the medium fast seam and swing of Matt Mason, Perth (WA) born but of Irish origins. It took some late order heroics from Johnston and Kyle McCallan to enable Ireland, unable to bat out the 50 overs. to post a score of 152. Victory and a home quarter final seemed a formality for the hosts but Peter, who felt from the start of his spell that Ireland had a chance, had other ideas. In his second over an outswinger took the edge of prolific Vikram Solanki's bat to give Fintan McAllister, swooping to his right a low catch and more was to follow as, in no time, the county were in deep trouble. Successive balls disposed of No 3 Stephen Moore, then seen as an England possible, and Moeen Ali, not then on the selectorial radar, but - though the prospect of another hat trick loomed - Peter greeted Alexi Kervezee with a bouncer which was calmly ducked. No matter, he went lbw to Kevin O'Brien and with Peter then removing dashing opener Steve Davies and all rounder Gareth Batty, the scoreboard read 21-6 with the D/L target racing skywards. With his figures at 6-3-10-5, Peter was hit for 9 in his next over as Daryl Mitchell and overseas all rounder Ashley Noftke attempted a recovery but, with Peter resting, the ever reliable TJ joined Alex Cusack in finishing off the innings for 58.

The following season, however, Peter was dropped from the side after what some saw as a lack lustre performance in the ODI against Australia, Phil Simmons apparently feeling that his attitude left something to be desired. As with some of the coach's other decisions this did not meet with universal approval. Peter was in the Ireland A XI the following season and reappeared in the national side in the rain ruined series against South Africa the following season but did not regain the wonderful form shown at Rotterdam, Port Elizabeth and Worcester.

He spent some time in the 2012/13 season with the Sharjah based side Wings Warriors, helping them to win the Desert League a T20 tournament.

Rather strangely, his bowling was not always used but in five matches he took 7 wickets at 11.71 with best figures of 3-20 against Everlive in the Semi Final. He was to appear for Wings again the following season, playing against Ireland in two warm up matches for the T20 World Cup. In the first game he took 1-14 dismissing Paul Stirling, just as the Middlesex man was getting into his stride.

The 2013 season found him back in Irish cricket playing both for Strabane and North West Warriors. For his club he took 28 wickets at 18.75. He announced himself with 3-30 against Bready on his debut and had best bowling figures of 4-61 against Brigade in the next match which, however, was not enough to prevent a 163 run defeat. He also hit his only half century in Irish senior cricket, 52 against Fox Lodge, beating his previous best of 39* for North Down against Waringstown in 2006. He was hampered by injury in his matches for the Warriors but had a good match against Leinster at College Park in the three day competition. Facing a Warriors total of 191 Leinster replied with 319, three batsmen passing the half century mark. Peter led the attack with figures of 27-7-59-4. This was down to a remarkable new ball spell in which his figures changed form 0-38 to 4-45 in 7 overs. He missed out on a " 5 for" having Max Sorensen dropped first ball. The visitors were then dismissed for 153 leaving Lightning the seemingly simple task of 4 overs to make 25. Instead they finished on 22-4 with Peter 2-15 and Johnny Thompson 2-6 sharing the wickets.

The end of the 2013/14 season saw Peter back in New Zealand where he had taken up a teaching post at Rongotai College in Wellington. He also joined the Eastern Suburbs Club in the city. The largest club in the country it runs 23 senior teams and 28 junior ones, besides including cricketers of the quality of Bruce Edgar, Stephen Fleming and Jeetan Patel among its former players. Appearing for them in the national club championships in Auckland in April, Peter took 5 wickets at 28 in the five matches of the tournament. In his most recent (at the time of writing) season he was very prominent and, finishing high in the averages, won the GF Harris Cup for the Club's best bowler.

Peter Christopher Connell is most unlikely to be seen in Irish colours again. However as Ian Callender wrote in the 2014 Irish Cricket Annual, "When Connell is fired up there is no better sight." Those who saw him in his pomp, as this writer feels privileged to have done on that memorable day at Worcester, would surely all agree.