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.

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       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.

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         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

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