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Aussie legend Ricky Ponting ideal example for Gary Wilson

By Ian Callender

It is not often an Ireland player goes to the middle to join a team-mate who has more than 13,000 Test runs and the little matter of 23,849 first class runs, but it could be a familiar path for Gary Wilson in the next couple of months.

Ricky Ponting, the former Australia captain, joined up with Surrey last week and Wilson found himself batting with the legendary batsman in his first innings at Derby.

"He was 150 not out when I went out to bat so that definitely helped," said the 27-year-old Belfast man. "He was pretty chilled out, clear in his processes, clear what he wanted to do to set up a win and the first thing he said to me was just 'give me the strike and I will try and do the scoring for you for the first five or six overs'. He took the pressure of me before I was able to play a few shots."

After 168 Test matches and 375 matches, Ponting, now 38 years old, has forgotten more about cricket than many players know and Wilson confirmed he made an instant impression in the dressing room.

"The first thing he said on his arrival was 'I want to win games that's why I'm here'. And it's that wealth of experience, knowhow and will to win which should be a great help in the next few weeks."

Ponting can stay only until July 29 as he is commited to playing in the inaugural Caribbean Premier League but at least he should be here longer than South African captain Graeme Smith who started the season as Surrey captain.

Wilson explained: "He took off for a run against Hampshire and just knew straight away that something was wrong. The coach was hoping it would be cramp but it was quickly diagnosed as a stress fracture of the ankle so he is out for six months. But he'll be back next year as he has a three-year contract.

"He is equally a big a character. He came in as captain so he immediately stamped his authority on the squad and the way he wanted to do things and take things forward. So it was unfortunate that he had to go home after a month."

The arrival of two stellar names at the same county immediately puts the not-so-established players under pressure for their place but Wilson is no longer one of them.

"I knew Ricky and Graeme weren't going to play in the same team (Smith was due to be away for these two months on Champions Trophy duty and then the birth of his first child) because of the one overseas (player) rule. But I came into the season on the back of a good tour of UAE (with Ireland) so I took confidence from that, I scored 150 in a warm-up game so knew that I would get the opportunity to start the season and I then backed myself to score runs.

"When that happens people start believing in you and you start believe in yourself more as well," added Wilson, who has now also cemented his place in the Ireland team and, unlike at Surrey, is also first choice with the gloves.

"It's nice to be backed by Simmo (Ireland coach Phil Simmons). I've always wanted to keep wicket and bat for Ireland. It's frustrating that I can't keep wicket for Surrey but happy to be in team scoring runs and if Davo (Stephen Davies) keeps playing the way he is playing he will get back into the England team and then I will get my chance here as well."

This month's Surrey's gain will be Ireland's loss because Wilson is one of the county professionals who will not be available for the four-day game against Australia A, at Stormont, starting on Friday week.

But after the disappointment of throwing away the chance of victory against Pakistan, Wilson hopes Ireland can put up a big performance against the Aussies.

He said: "Kevin (O'Brien) and Cusi (Alex Cusack) have experience but it certainly won't be our best team. James Shannon will get another chance to show what he can do.

"I see him as the next big player coming through."

Belfast Telegraph


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