SPECIALS – Recollecting Anglo-Irish ODI duels

  Ireland are all set to play arch-rivals England in the first one-day international at the redeveloped ‘Fortress’ Malahide Cricket Club in Malahide, Dublin on 3rd September in what is touted to be the biggest cricket match on Irish soil. With a capacity of nearly 11,500 and the tickets almost sold out, this game is sure to be a landmark occasion in the history of Irish cricket.

  In this post, we look at the five ODI’s that the two teams have played so far in chronological order. Though England have four wins against one loss, Ireland have always stretched their illustrious opponents whenever they have met each other on the international scene:-

1) Stormont, Belfast, 2006 – England won by 38 runs

  This was Ireland’s first ever one-day international, and it was fitting that they took on England at home, led by the evergreen Trent Johnston. Irishman Ed Joyce made his ODI debut, albeit for England. England posted a big total of 301/7 after batting first, with Marcus Trescothick (113) and Paul Collingwood (80) rescuing them from 92/3 with a 142 run 4th-wicket stand. Dave Langford-Smith and John Mooney took 3 wickets each, although they were expensive.

_41759372_tresco_pa416   Marcus Trescothick en route to a knock of 113 in the inaugural England-Ireland ODI match at Belfast in 2006, which England won by 38 runs (source – bbc.co.uk)

  Chasing that total was always going to be a daunting task for a team in its first international, but Ireland ended their reply at a respectable 263/9, batting out the entire 50 overs and with their reputation enhanced. Andre Botha, at No.3, anchored the innings with 52 while Andrew White (40) and Kevin O’Brien (35) put on 74 for the 7th wicket. In their first international itself, the gutsy Irishmen had made quite an impression.

2) Providence, Guyana, 2006-07 – England won by 48 runs

  Ireland had shocked the cricketing world by beating Pakistan after having tied with Zimbabwe in the league stage of the 2007 World Cup, thus leapfrogging both teams to earn a dream place in the super 8 round. In their very first Super 8 game, they took on England. The highly accurate Irish bowlers had England on a tight leash, first at 23/2 – Boyd Rankin removing both openers – and then 113/4 in the 27th over, but Paul Collingwood smacked 90 from 82 balls to propel his side to a healthy 266/7.

  Ireland too got off to a poor start, being reduced to 11/2. They could never really recover from those early blows, and kept losing wickets at regular intervals even as the required run-rate increased by the over. Niall O’Brien, hero of the win over Pakistan, made a gutsy 63 while Andrew White scored a breezy 38, but they lacked support from the rest. Ireland eventually were all out for 218 in 48.1 overs, with Andrew Flintoff taking 4/43.

3) Stormont, Belfast, 2009 – England won by 3 runs (D/L method)

  Ireland came agonisingly close to recording a memorable home win over England. After the visitors won the toss, Trent Johnston removed Ravi Bopara and Jonathan Trott for ducks to have them at 6/2. Debutant opener Joe Denly made a patient 67 but at the fall of his wicket, England were still in trouble at 135/6. It took a 26-ball 36 from Luke Wright to boost the total, which came up to a modest 203/9. Johnston bowled superbly to collect 4/26 off 10 overs. Ireland must have surely fancied their chances during the interval.

Ireland-v-England---ODI-001   Ravi Bopara walks back after being dismissed for a duck by Trent Johnston in 2009. Johnston’s 4/26 went in vain as Ireland lost by just 3 runs (source – theguardian.com)

  However, rain between innings meant Ireland had to achieve a revised target of 116 in 20 overs. They seemed to be set for an upset win, placed at 64/2 in just 8.2 overs, with young Paul Stirling (30 off 26) looking dangerous. However, the much more experienced English attack proceeded to dismantle the middle-order, and Ireland lost 7/30 to be placed at 94/9 with two overs left. Trent Johnston tried his best in the end, but 17 off the final over proved to be a bit too steep. Ireland finished at 112/9, losing by a mere 3 runs.

4) Bangalore, 2010-11 – Ireland won by 3 wickets

  Ireland achieved what they could not in 2009, and that too on the biggest ODI stage of them all. In what has to be ranked as one of the greatest turnarounds in a one-day game, Ireland stunned England by 3 wickets in a World Cup clash. After deciding to bat, England’s top-order ran amok, with Jonathan Trott (92), Ian Bell (81) and Kevin Pietersen (59) all making merry on an easy wicket. England looked set for a mammoth score at 278/2 in 42.5 overs, but Ireland’s bowlers, led by John Mooney (4/63) chipped in with timely wickets to limit the total to a still huge 327/8.

  Ireland got off to the worst possible start, losing captain William Porterfield off the very first ball. Paul Stirling and Ed Joyce then guided them to the safety of 103/2 in the 21st over, at which point Greame Swann severely dented the chase in a matter of four overs, taking three wickets to reduce the Associate nation to 111/5, and a heavy defeat seemed to be inevitable. However, Kevin O’Brien, who walked in at 106/4, appeared unperturbed.

Brien-550   Kevin O’Brien takes off after reaching his record ton at Bangalore in the 2011 World Cup, which enabled Ireland to stun England by 3 wickets (source – ibnlive.in.com)

  What followed was sensational – he smashed the fastest World Cup hundred (in 50 balls) and shared a game-changing 6th-wicket stand of 162 with Alex Cusack (47). By the time O’Brien was out for a mind-blowing 113 in 63 balls (13 fours, 6 sixes), Ireland were only 12 short of victory, which they achieved courtesy a John Mooney (33*) boundary off the first ball of the final over, reaching 329/7 and resulting in the highest ever World Cup chase.This was indeed Ireland’s sweetest victory ever and perhaps the greatest ODI comeback of all time.

5) Clontarf, Dublin, 2011 – England won by 11 runs (D/L method)

  Local expectations were high as England travelled to Dublin for a one-off ODI a few months after the World Cup game. Incidentally, England were led by former Irishman Eoin Morgan. Ireland inserted England in, who managed a total of 201/8 in 42 overs, the innings being curtailed due to rain. Morgan himself made 59 while Jonathan Trott top-scored with 69. John Mooney picked up 3/32. Further rain meant that Ireland’s eventual target was a tricky 129 from 23 overs.

  The hosts struggled to keep up with the asking rate and also failed to manage a decent partnership – the highest being only 23 for the 4th wicket. Pacemen Jade Dernbach and Steven Finn, backed by a top-class fielding effort, ensured that Ireland were restricted to 117/8, falling short by 11 runs. Thus, Ireland’s wait for a maiden home victory over England became longer.

  Will that wait end this Tuesday? Let us hope so!

REVIEW – England superior, but far from ruthless

  In the end, an Ashes victory for England by a margin of three Tests was pretty much what many fans from both Australia and England had expected. Yet, though the margin might suggest a fairly one-sided series, the visitors had enough moments to indicate that the return leg would be much more competitive.

  It is fair to say that contrary to the beliefs of most cricket pundits before the series got underway, Australia were thoroughly outplayed in just one of the five matches, it being the second Test at Lord’s where a shambolic first innings batting display resulted in a 347-run thrashing for Australia. Otherwise, Michael Clarke’s men were almost neck-to-neck with England, having golden opportunities to win as many as three Tests.

  In the opening Test at Trent Bridge, Ashton Agar’s sensational 98 on debut nearly condemned England to defeat before the exploits of Ian Bell and James Anderson helped their side eke out a nerve-wracking 14-run victory.  In the third Test at Old Trafford, Australia almost staged a turnaround after the shellacking at Lord’s – they were denied a deserving win only because of the notorious Manchester weather. In the fourth Test at Chester-Le-Street , Australia put behind the disappointment of the Ashes being sealed after just three matches with another strong performance, until a frustrating collapse to Stuart Broad put paid to hopes of squaring the series.

  Australia’s primary, and perhaps only, strength coming into the series was their impressive pace attack. And in this regard, they repeatedly gave evidence of their ability to run through established top-orders. Peter Siddle was his usual tireless self, while the return of Ryan Harris was a big boost to Australia, and his haul of 24 wickets in 4 matches – bettered only by Greame Swann – was one of the few stand-out features of Australia’s luckless campaign. Harris averaged just 19.5 and struck at 40.5 – making him the best fast bowler of the series, overshadowing James Anderson, who took 22 wickets in 5 matches averaging nearly 30 and striking at 56. If fully fit, he can prove to be Australia’s trump card in Round Two.

Ian Bell    The understated Ian Bell scored three match-winning centuries to emerge as, by far, the best batsman of the Ashes series (source – theguardian.com)

  That Australia’s fast bowlers held an upper hand over England’s top three is shown by the numbers. Joe Root averaged 37.66, which drops to 19.9 if you remove his gutsy 180 at Lord’s. Captain Alastair Cook never really was his own self, averaging only 27.7 as against 127.66 in the 2010-11 Ashes. Jonathan Trott, who batted at the crucial No.3 position, was no better, averaging an ordinary 29.30. Fortunately, the shortcomings of the top three were camouflaged by the wonderful form of Ian Bell, who topped the run-charts with a tally of 562 at 62.44 with three hundreds to boot.

  It would not be an understatement to say that had Bell not performed the way he did, Australia would have been celebrating a historic victory instead of England. Sample this – Bell’s three hundreds all resulted in English wins, and not only that, he actually was the main reason why England managed to secure a 3-0 scoreline. First up at Trent Bridge, Bell scored a patient 109 in the second innings after Australia had got a surprise first-innings cushion of 65. He was at the crease for nearly 90 overs, and by the time he was out, England had stretched their lead beyond 300.

  In the second Test at Lord’s, England were reeling at 28/3 on the first morning when Bell strode in. Again he scored 109, and again he steered his side to a dominating position which ultimately resulted in a crushing win. In the fourth Test at Chester-le-Street, Bell came in when England were three down and only 17 ahead in the second innings. He went on to bring up yet another century, this time a knock of 113. While Anderson, Swann and Broad deserve credit for their bowling feats in the first, second and fourth Tests respectively, it was Bell who laid the foundation in each of these wins, and was clearly head and shoulders above all batsmen from either side.

lat-2026-20cricket-20m-20130826115237285834-620x349   Australia could take plenty of inspiration from Ryan Harris  – the most effective fast bowler in the series – when they host England in the return leg (source – smh.com.au)

  England did have a chance to win the series 4-0 had it not been for a controversial decision by the umpires to take off the teams citing bad light in the final Test at the Oval. But this incident was nothing compared to the issue of DRS which dogged the series throughout, so much so that the avoidable howlers at times overshadowed the actual cricket on display. As I had mentioned in an earlier post, the responsibility of the DRS should lie entirely in the hands of the umpires and the system of limited reviews should be done away with. If this series does not prove to be an eye-opener for the ICC, nothing will ever be.

  Clarke, who won accolades for his captaincy at the Oval, must be pretty happy with the kind of support he at times got from his fellow batsmen. After a forgettable start to the series, Shane Watson ended the series as the second highest run-scorer after Bell, while Chris Rogers and Steve Smith too staked claim for a permanent spot in the Australian line-up, which is undoubtedly looking a bit more settled than what it was before the series. However, as it happened, three extremely poor performances by the batsmen – the first innings at Trent Bridge and Lord’s and the second innings at Chester-le-Street – ultimately cost them the series. 

  For England, except for Bell, no batsman will feel that he has performed to potential in this series. As for Cook, his captaincy has often been described as too defensive and his team’s approach too conservative, but as long as they are winning Test matches, I think English fans have no reason to complain. Those with a short attention span always have the option of watching any of the myriad Twenty20 leagues. 

  England surely deserved to celebrate after their series victory, but what followed a few hours after the Oval Test ended was disgraceful. A few of the English team proved how arrogant they are by shamefully urinating on the pitch of the oldest Test ground. Among those who were involved in the act were two of the best cricketers of our times – Kevin Pietersen and James Anderson – and also Stuart Broad, incidentally the son of an ICC match referee. Hopefully the concerned body does not overlook this ‘celebration’ and takes necessary action for the incident which has insulted the traditions of the game. 

  Over to Australia in November now, where I am sure a much more competitive series will unfold. Unless Cook the batsman decides to do a repeat of his last visit to Australia. 

Famous Test Matches – Zimbabwe v England, Bulawayo, 1996-97

  This Test played at the Queens Sports Club from 18th to 22nd December, 1996 was the first ever between England, the oldest cricketing nation and Zimbabwe, the then newest member of the Test fraternity.

  Zimbabwe had made their Test debut in 1992-93 and in the four years since, the African nation had been impressive, managing drawn series against Sri Lanka and New Zealand and a maiden Test match win over Pakistan in 1994-95.

  England were coming off a mixed home season, having beaten India but losing to Pakistan. They were then the only full member whom Zimbabwe had beaten twice in ODI cricket – at Albury in the 1992 World Cup and at Sydney in 1994-95. As was to transpire, the hosts blanked England 3-0 in the ODI leg of the tour after the Tests

  Alastair Campbell called correctly and understandably decided to bat on a pitch without much life in it. Stuart Carlisle was dismissed for a duck early on by Darren Gough, but Grant Flower and Campbell showed no sign of nerves as they rattled along at three-and-a-half runs an over.

  Shortly after lunch, Flower was out for 43 to debutant Chris Silverwood after having shared a stand of 127 with his captain, who followed soon after for a well-made 84. 39-year-old Dave Houghton then combined with wicketkeeper Andy Flower for a 70 run fourth-wicket partnership before three quick wickets ensured the day ended in balance, the score reading 256/6 with Flower on 58*.

  The lower order rallied around Flower on the second day, especially Paul Strang, who along with the keeper frustrated England with a 79-run stand for the seventh wicket. The innings finally ended at 376 with Flower making 112 – his third Test hundred.

  Silverwood and Robert Croft took three wickets apiece. In reply, England skipper Michael Atherton was removed early by leg-spinner Paul Strang before rain washed out the final session, England ending at 48/1.

18-22 Dec 1996:  Andy Flower of Zimbabwe on his way to scoring a century during the first test match     Andy Flower scored an important 112 to help Zimbabwe build a competitive first innings total in their first Test match against England (source – sportskeeda.com)

  On the third day, Zimbabwe never let England gain control despite NIck Knight’s 56 and a third-wicket partnership between Alec Stewart and Nasser Hussain which fetched 68 runs. At 180/4 – three of the four wickets falling to Strang – another wicket would have given Zimbabwe the command.

  At that stage however, John Crawley joined Hussain and the duo allayed all apprehensions by guiding the visitors to a healthy 306/4 at the close of play, with Hussain on 101* – his third Test hundred – and Crawley on 51*.

  Hussain and Crawley stretched their fifth-wicket partnership to a most valuable 148 on the fourth day, before Heath Streak accounted for Hussain (113). Though no more substantial number of runs were added, Crawley managed to get his second Test century, staying on till the end until he was last out for 112 to give Strang (5/123) his fifth wicket.

  England’s total was 406, the lead being only 30. Their fast bowlers then struck early to remove both openers, the score reading 6/2. The spinners Croft and Phil Tufnell then came into play, and they did not allow any batsman to settle down. Zimbabwe finished the day at 107/5, ahead by just 77.

  It further became 111/6 as the final day began, but current Zimbabwe coach Andy Waller – making his debut aged 37 – stood up to the task. He found a willing ally in Guy Whittall and the two put on 67 for the seventh wicket. Waller was out for 50 while Whittall made 56, helping his team to score of 234.

  Tufnell was the pick of the bowlers with 4/61. The hosts had been successful in not allowing England a quick finish on the final day, and the equation for the visitors was now a challenging target of 205 in a minimum of 37 overs, which meant they had to chase at more than 5.5 runs per over in order to win.

  Even though Atherton was castled by Henry Olonga to make the score 17/1, Knight and Stewart made their intentions clear. At the tea break, England were 36/1 in only five overs, which surely suggested that victory was what they were looking for. Post tea, Knight and Stewart continued the onslaught as Zimbabwe were running out of ideas.

  The hosts then went into an ultra-defensive mode and began to bowl wide down the leg side. Yet, as the final 15 overs started, England needed 87 more with nine wickets intact. With 51 to win off eight overs, Stewart (73 from just 76 balls) fell victim to Strang following a miscued pull shot. Two balls later, Hussain got out for zero.

Heath-Streak-pats-Nick-Kn-007     Heath Streak pats Nick Knight moments after Zimbabwe and England played out a first-of-its-kind draw at Bulawayo (source – theguardian.com)

  England gunned for the target despite Zimbabwe’s increasingly negative tactics, but wickets began to fall. Crawley and Graham Thorpe came and went, with the total now 182/5. The final two overs asked for 21 more runs from England. Knight was still there, and along with Gough, eight runs were managed off the penultimate over.

  The final over remained, 13 runs still required. Streak was given the ball and Knight was on strike. Streak started off with a dot ball before Knight scampered for two off the second delivery. 11 off four. The third ball resulted in a much-needed six over square leg. With five to get, Streak bowled the following ball wide down the off side.

  But Ian Robinson chose not to call it wide, casting further doubts on his decision-making in the game. Two more came off the penultimate ball and now three were needed to win. All nine fielders were on the boundary edge. Knight, later named Man of the match, ran two more, but fell for 96, way short of the crease while dashing for a non-existent third run.

  Exactly 37 overs were bowled, and England finished at 204/6. For the first time in Test history, a game was drawn with the scores level in the fourth innings. It has since happened once, when India and West Indies drew the Mumbai Test in 2011-12. Zimbabwe managed to hang on to a draw by the skin of their teeth.

  A furious David Lloyd, England’s coach, later remarked that ‘we flippin’ murdered them’, as he firmly believed that the opposition had been thoroughly outplayed. He added that if Zimbabwe were elated at saving the Test, it was a false elation.

  Interestingly, match referee Hanumant Singh fined Streak 15 per cent of his match fee for inferred criticism of the umpires – the bowler had said he was lucky not to have been called wide in that last over.

  As for the series, it ended in a 0-0 result following another draw at Harare. Disappointingly, England have never since played a Test series in Zimbabwe, although they have been hosts twice – in 2000 and 2003.

Match Scorecard

Record Book – Ireland’s earliest moments in the sun

  In an earlier post, I had described the Netherlands’ surprise seven-wicket victory in a one-day game over Australia during the Antipodeans’ 1964 tour to England. A similarly sensational result occurred five years later, the teams in question being the touring West Indians and greenhorns Ireland.

  Ireland had beaten the West Indians by 60 runs back in 1928 in a first-class game as part of the West Indies’ inaugural tour of England, but that visiting side was still finding its feet in the cricketing world. By contrast, the 1969 West Indians consisted of names such as Clive Lloyd, Clyde Walcott, George Camacho and Basil Butcher.

  In addition, those who were rested from the game against Ireland included the likes of Garfield Sobers, Roy Fredericks and Lance Gibbs. The West Indies were 1-0 down in the three-Test rubber with a match to play (they eventually lost 2-0) when they arrived at the Holm Field in Sion Mills to play the Irishmen on the 2nd of July in a match designated as a ‘one-day two-innings match’.

  The coming of a top Test side was undoubtedly a major event for the Irish folk, and establishments around the small ground were shut for the day. Butcher, leading the visitors, won the toss and strangely, elected to bat on an emerald green pitch.

  What followed was surely one of the West Indies’ most embarrassing moments in their cricket history. Batting was always going to be an arduous task on this track, yet that was no justification for a team comprising of six Test players to be shot out for a startling 25 runs.

77308

       The Jamaica Gleaner reports on the West Indians’ shocking collapse at Sion Mills in 1969 (source – jamaica gleaner and espncricinfo.com)

  Yes, you read it right – the West Indians could manage all of 25 runs in 25.3 overs in their first innings, with the pace duo of Alec O’Riordan and captain Douglas Goodwin bowling unchanged, scalping 4/18 and 5/6 respectively. In fact, a total of 25 must have seemed like a luxury, as the scoreline read a pathetic 12/9 at one point.

  Grayson Shillingford, who came in at number nine, top-scored with 9*. Later in the day, another scarcely believable event took place – Ireland had declared against the West Indians with a lead of 100! Bolstered by David Pigot (37) and O’Riordan (35), the hosts shut shop at 125/8. 

  Goodwin struck early again in the second dig to have the West Indians 1/2 before Butcher (50) took his side to 78/4, whereupon the match ended. As per the pre-match deal, the Irish first-innings lead was enough for them to be declared winners. Years later, Ireland’s Liam Murphy said it was all skill, but added: ‘We had got them well pissed on Guinness until the early hours the night before.’

  In subsequent years, Ireland were understandably on the receiving end whenever the touring West Indians played them, the matches either ending in an easy Windies win or a rain-affected draw. However in 2004, memories of Sion Hills were revived on 17th June at the Civil Service Cricket Club in Belfast.

  The West Indies were scheduled to play two 50-overs games against Ireland as a pre-cursor to their ODI triangular series also involving hosts England and New Zealand. In the first of the two games on 16th June, the visitors scored a comfortable 96-run win riding on a Brian Lara hundred.

inpho_00123035-600x402

         Ireland’s Trent Johnston celebrates a West Indian wicket during the tour match in 2004 which was won by the Irishmen by 6 wickets (source – cricketireland.ie)

  In the second game on the following day, the trend looked set to continue as the West Indians amassed 292/7, with Dwayne Bravo crashing 100* off 65 balls to rescue his team from 133/5. However in reply, the Irish openers, captain Jason Mollins and Jeremy Bray, defied the odds to put on 111 in in an utterly professional manner.

  Mollins scored 66 from 58 balls while Bray – later to become Ireland’s first World Cup centurion – made 71 from 87. After both of them were dismissed, wicketkeeper Niall O’Brien kept up the pace of the chase. He went on to steer Ireland to a big upset win, remaining unbeaten on 58 off 57 balls and adding an unbroken 57 with Andrew White.

  The hosts reached 295/4 in 46.5 overs to win by six wickets. A side consisting of Brian Lara, Chris Gayle, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ridley Jacobs were soundly beaten by a bunch of amateurs. For the record, the West Indies finished runners-up to New Zealand in the subsequent tri-series while they were blanked 4-0 by England in the Test series.

  As for Ireland, they gleefully added 2004 to 1928 and 1969, thus completing a trio of wins over the West Indians. They were already earning a reputation as giant-killers, having beaten the Zimbabweans by ten wickets in a 50-overs tour game in 2003In 2005, Ireland qualified for their first World Cup (2007) and went on to create history by beating two Test nations in the showpiece event.

  Nine of the eleven who played in the 2004 game were part of the World Cup squad. As far as ODI cricket is concerned, Ireland have played the West Indies in three completed one-dayers and have lost all three games despite having a very good chance to win at least two of them. The two teams are scheduled to meet next in a 2015 World Cup fixture.

Match Scorecards1969, 2004

IN FOCUS – Zimbabwe continue to grope in the dark

  Ten years have passed since the unfortunate racism crisis hit Zimbabwean cricket, but there seems to be no end to its troubles even today. Myriad number of problems and obstacles continue to hinder the revival of cricket in this impoverished nation, which had produced a team well-equipped to beat the best of opposition in the late nineties.

  Alas, the high hopes provided by the likes of Andy Flower, Grant Flower, Heath Streak, Henry Olonga and Neil Johnson have proved to be nothing but a mirage. The latest story of lament from the Zimbabwe camp is the retirement of 24 year-old fast bowler Kyle Jarvis. Arguably the most impressive of the current crop of Zimbabwean pacemen, Jarvis’ international career was just taking off, having made his Test debut in Zimbabwe’s comeback match against Bangladesh in 2011 and being touted as a ray of hope in Zimbabwe’s cricketing future.

  But just two years later, the dream has proven to be tragically short-lived. Citing job security as the reason, Jarvis took the decision to move to the much more stable environment of the county circuit for good. Yet another homegrown talent wasted, yet another promising career nipped in the bud. The downward spiral of Zimbabwean cricket has been amply underlined by many such premature retirements and transfers in the last decade because of salary disputes, corruption, instability and the disgusting politics played by Robert Mugabe, the man who has striven to ruin his nation’s future in almost every sector, from sports to economics to human rights.

kyle_jarvis_630     Kyle Jarvis became the latest victim of Zimbabwe’s rotting cricket system, as he had no choice but to announce his retirement at the age of 24 (source – ibnlive.in.com)

  Just a few days before Jarvis’ decision, the Zimbabwean players had teamed up to protest against their board over payment issues, and had boycotted their training sessions ahead of the upcoming  home series against Pakistan. For a change perhaps, one cannot blame the player for turning his back on international cricket for the sake of financial benefits. Instead, sympathy has been the widespread reaction to Jarvis’ retirement, for he simply did not have a choice – playing for his country would have frustrated him further, and the never-ending politics would have consumed his highly impressive talent. As has happened, he has become the latest victim of the incompetence of the bunch who are running (rather,’ruining’) Zimbabwean cricket.

  We have already seen the best of cricketers from Zimbabwe abandon their homeland in the hope of experiencing greener pastures. Zimbabwe-born Gary Ballance played for his country in the 2006 Under-19 World Cup, but he did not think twice before shifting base to England at the first available opportunity, and today is a Yorkshire regular. In April this year, Craig Ervine too got fed up of his country’s cricket system, and refused a national contract in favour of club cricket in England. The diminutive wicketkeeper Tatenda Taibu saw his future in the clergy, and quit the game last year at the age of 29. Not to mention the host of players – mostly white – who retired from the game, never to return, in the player walkout of 2004.

  Even though Zimbabwe have not really been in good form – they were rolled over by India in the recent ODI series – of late, that is no justification to treat players so shabbily. If there is one thing that brings a bit of joy to the long-suffering people of Zimbabwe, it is the game of cricket. And as representatives of the nation, the Zimbabwean players should at least be given the respect they deserve, if not an immediate salary hike. Admittedly, their salary is an issue which is really dicey, given that Zimbabwe Cricket is in immense debt notwithstanding the fraction of revenue earned courtesy the series against India. At the same time, one cannot blame the players for shifting base, particularly in cases of fast bowlers like Jarvis, who have a relatively short career span.

  The latest example of a seasoned player being treated without dignity was Ray Price. One of the best spinners to have emerged from the country, Price was one of the few bright spots for Zimbabwe over the last few years thanks to his accurate and effective bowling spells in limited-overs cricket. He was included in the squad against India at the last minute but then was not given a game, prompting him to announce his retirement midway through the series.

Brian-Vitori-Zimbabwe-2013_2980924     Brian Vitori gets bowled in the fourth ODI against India last month. Despite a meticulous training schedule, Zimbabwe were beaten 5-0 (source – sportinglife.com)

  The Zimbabwean team had reportedly trained like never before ahead of the ODI series against India, but when there is negativity all around the players, their confidence is bound to be affected. A player, no matter how hard he trains, will be in the right frame of mind to deliver on the field only when he is motivated, and this motivation comes from the respect and encouragement he is given, and to an extent the financial benefits he expects. However, Zimbabwe Cricket has failed to realise this fact time and again, and expecting the situation to drastically improve would be indeed be wishful thinking.

  Had it not been for the politics, the racism, the indifference of the board and the tyranny of Mugabe, we would have had a world-class Zimbabwean team today, built on the legacy of the nineties’ batch. The sad irony is that two of the world’s top three teams today – England and India – are being coached by former Zimbabwean internationals who gave their all on the field. Along with the missed opportunity of developing Kenyan cricket, the ICC’S ineffectiveness in the Zimbabwean crisis should rank as one of its two most glaring failures in the past decade.

  I would not be surprised if other players follow Jarvis’ footsteps, given the many opportunities that today’s cricketers have around the world. Yet, I sincerely do hope that some day, cricket in Zimbabwe will flourish again and will regain the respect of the cricketing world.

RECORD BOOK – The most frequent triple centurions

  Only a handful of batsmen have managed to score at least three triple hundreds in first-class cricket – eight to be precise. The exclusive list includes three Englishmen, three Australians and a West Indian and an Indian each.

  Among the players in this club, only three have managed to score a triple-hundred in a Test match. In Tests, the record for the most triple-hundreds is two, which is shared by Donald Bradman, Brian Lara (West Indies), Virender Sehwag (India) and Chris Gayle (West Indies). Out of these, however, only two (Bradman and Lara) have managed at least three triple-hundreds in first-class cricket overall.

  Bradman unsurprisingly leads the list with a record 6 triple centuries, given his penchant to churn out big knocks time and again. The ‘Don’ scored his maiden triple-hundred – an unbeaten 340 – for New South Wales against Victoria at Sydney in 1928-29, the season during which he made his Test debut. A year later, he smashed an unbeaten 452 – a new world record at that time – for New South Wales at Sydney, this time the hapless opponents being Queensland. His third triple ton was his first in Test matches – he cracked 334 against England at Headingley during the 1930 Ashes.

052330-don-bradman      The greatest ever : Sir Donald Bradman made a record six triple centuries, of which two came in Test matches (source – news.com.au)

  The world’s greatest ever batsman then had to wait for four years before he notched up his next triple hundred – he displayed his liking for Headingley again as he scored 304 there in the 1934 Ashes, becoming the first batsman to make two triple hundreds in Tests. By 1935-36, he was playing for South Australia, and he continued being a run machine for them too, as he made his final two triple hundreds that season – first stroking a 357 against Victoria at Melbourne, followed by a 369 against Tasmania (who, at that time were not part of the Sheffield Shield) at Adelaide. Having looked at these amazing scores, it is no wonder that Bradman finished his first-class career averaging a staggering 95.14, which like his Test figure of 99.94 is an all-time record by quite some distance.

  Next on this list are two great batsmen of Bradman’s time – Bill Ponsford and Walter Hammond. Ponsford at his best could rival Bradman when it came to scoring heavily – he is only one of the two men to have scored two quadruple hundreds in first-class cricket (the other being Lara). Ponsford’s maiden triple century was a whopping 429, which broke Archie MacLaren’s record (424) of the highest individual score in first-class cricket. This innings came while playing for Victoria against Tasmania at Melbourne in 1922-23. In fact, all of his four triple tons were scored for Victoria, and all at Melbourne. Then in 1926-27, he scored 352 against New South Wales before making 437 (against Queensland) and 336 (against South Australia) in 1927-28 – the former instance being a new world record before Bradman broke it with his 452*.

  Hammond’s first, and ultimately highest triple hundred came in a Test match – he scored an unbeaten 336 for England against New Zealand at Auckland in 1932-33, an innings which was at that time the highest in a Test match. His remaining three triples were made for his county Gloucestershire – he scored 302* against Glamorgan at Bristol in 1934, 317 against Nottinghamshire at Gloucester in 1936 and 302 against Glamorgan at Newport in 1939.

  Moving further, there are five men who have scored three triple-hundreds in first-class cricket. The legendary W.G Grace is one of them, but none of his three instances came in a Test match. He scored his first two way back in 1876, first making 344 for the MCC against Kent at Canterbury and then followed it up with an unbeaten 318 for Gloucestershire against Yorkshire at Cheltenham a week later. After a gap of twenty years, he managed his third triple ton at the age of 48, scoring 301 for Gloucestershire against Sussex at Bristol in 1896. Next on the list is Greame Hick, who despite his phenomenal first-class feats, never became a great Test batsman. His three triples were all made for Worcestershire – being an unbeaten 405 against Somerset, Taunton 1988; 303* against Hampshire, Southampton 1997 and 315* against Durham, Worcester 2002.

SPT-GCK-200804- England v West Indies 4th Test Picture Graham Chadwick LaraBrian Lara holds both, the record for the highest first-class as well as highest Test scores, and the only one ever to have made a quintuple ton (source – dailymail.co.uk)

  Up next is Brian Lara, one of the greatest modern-day batsmen. His three triple hundreds are unique, because two of them came in Test matches – both of them being world records – and the one that was not made in a Test was a quintuple hundred – the only such instance so far in first-class history. In 1993-94, Lara broke Garfield Sobers’ long-standing Test record of 365* by making 375 for the West Indies against England at St John’s. Just weeks later in the 1994 season, he rewrote the record books again, this time the score being an astonishing 501* for Warwickshire against Durham at Edgbaston, in the process obliterating Hanif Mohammed’s first-class record of 499. A decade later, in a delightful coincidence, Lara regained the Test record just six months after losing it to Matthew Hayden (380) by smashing Test cricket’s first and only quadruple – an unbeaten 400 – once again against England and also at St John’s in 2003-04.

  The recently-retired Michael Hussey too has three triple hundreds, all of them while playing for Northamptonshire in successive seasons – starting off with 329* against Essex at Northampton in 2001, then a 310* against Gloucestershire at Bristol in 2002, and finally a career-best 331* against Somerset at Taunton in 2003. The latest entrant into this eight-member list is also perhaps the unlikeliest – the current Indian all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja, who is only 24 at the moment, thus allowing him a lot of scope to move further up on this list.

  All of Jadeja’s triples have been scored for his state team Saurashtra. The first instance came in 2011-12, when he stroked 314 against Orissa at Cuttack. The next two both came in the 2012-13 season which went by – the scores being an unbeaten 303 against Gujarat at Surat and a career-best 331 against Railways at Rajkot. In the process, he became the fourth batsman (after Grace, Ponsford and Bradman) to make two triple centuries in one season. Also,  his three innings have come in a span of just 13 months, the smallest such period in this list.