sundaylife

| 16.3°C Belfast

Coleraine professional Graham Hume keen to secure 'added bonus' of Ireland cap

Graham Hume

It proved a good choice by Graham Hume to stay in Northern Ireland last winter.

Not only is Coleraine's South African professional one year closer to achieving his ambition of playing for Ireland, but he has been in lockdown with his girlfriend, Jenna.

Hume admits it was "probably more my girlfriend" that made up his mind to spend his first winter here, but "representing Ireland would be ideal, an added bonus... definitely something I would like to achieve".

The 29-year-old pace bowler from Johannesburg took his first step in that direction with an appearance for the Ireland Academy against Gloucestershire II in Bristol last September and was invited to their training sessions at North County during the winter.

It will be 2022 before he qualifies, but if he continues the form he showed in his debut season for North West Warriors last year, it will be the Ireland selectors who will be chasing him rather than the other way round.

"The game with Ireland Academy went well and it was nice to get a winter off. I really enjoyed it and saw snow for the first time," said Hume.

"I started training in January and was feeling really good going into March. I thought that I was going to hit the season running and then it all changed."

While Hume signed for Coleraine in 2017, this is his ninth consecutive season playing in the UK after two each in the Yorkshire and East Anglian Premier leagues and one in the Bradford League.

"I was always told, 'You'll have to go and try Ireland', so when my agent told me Coleraine were looking for a professional, I decided to give it a go," he said.

It was an instant love affair, with 36 wickets in his first season and a top score of 99 not out. When he followed that up with 32 wickets in 2018 and the best economy rate and average in the North West, the Warriors came calling, but they didn't get any further.

"Coleraine were worried about me getting injured, especially in the three-day games, so they didn't release me, but I had no problem with that. My focus then was back home (playing with KwaZulu-Natal Inland)."

That changed last year and he played every inter-provincial championship and cup game and still took 28 wickets and scored almost 500 runs for Coleraine.

His link with Ireland goes back to 2010, when current Waringstown captain Lee Nelson was his first international wicket - at the Under 19 World Cup in New Zealand.

"That was our first game of the World Cup and I remember before it our coach, Ray Jennings, warned us, 'Ireland always come out fighting'. I didn't know what to expect but was pleasantly surprised," he said.

Eight of the team that played South Africa became senior internationals, but of the opposition line-up only Colin Ackermann reached the same status.

"It was still a good side in that tournament," recalls Hume, who finished as the leading wicket-taker in the tournament with 13.

A week later, Hume made his first-class debut for Gauteng and is still hoping to make his 98th first-class appearance for Warriors and the chance to add to his impressive 308 wickets at an average of less than 18. But, like everything, cricket is on hold.

Although he will be 31 before he can make his Ireland debut, Hume believes his best years are still ahead.

He added: "Look at Jimmy Anderson, still bowling as well as ever at 37, and Tim (Murtagh) is nearly 39. As long as you look after yourself... and so far I've been lucky I have had no serious injuries."

Belfast Telegraph