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Rediff.com  » Cricket » When Ireland sent the West Indies crashing for 25!

When Ireland sent the West Indies crashing for 25!

Last updated on: July 03, 2017 20:49 IST

'Local legend has it the West Indians were plied with copious amounts of Ireland's favourite Guinness whisky the night before the match in 1969, though no one is willing to go on record about it!' says Gulu Ezekiel.

IMAGE: Ireland fans celebrate their team's victory against Pakistan at the 2007 World Cup in Jamaica. Photograph: Central Press/Getty Images

Ireland -- along with Afghanistan -- the latest entrants to the rarefied world of Test cricket will no doubt be celebrating the good news with gusto.

The majority of cricket fans associate Irish cricket with their stunning defeat of Pakistan in the 2007 World Cup group game at Kingston, Jamaica.

Every Irish cricket lover would no doubt consider their defeat of England in the 2011 World Cup at Bengaluru as their greatest moment when they chased down the massive target of 328 thanks to Kevin O'Brien's blazing 113, the fastest century in World Cup history.

But how many are aware that almost 50 years ago -- July 2, 1969 -- the unheralded Irish skittled out the mighty West Indies for a miserable 25 -- yes, 25!

Perhaps the lowest score by a Test side in any organised game of cricket.

The game in question is part of Irish folklore and Ireland has certainly been a long wait for Test status since that amazing day at Holm Field in the tiny Ulster town of Sion Mills in Northern Ireland.

The West Indies were touring England under the captaincy of the immortal Garry Sobers -- he was rested for the match and they were captained by Basil Butcher -- and had just the day before narrowly escaped defeat to England at Lord's in the second Test, having lost the first at Old Trafford in Manchester.

IMAGE: The West Indies team in action during a Test in England in 1969. Photograph: Central Press/Getty Images

It was a tough ask for the West Indians to fly straight after the end of the Test from Heathrow to Belfast and some of the biggest names stayed back in London with Sobers.

Team manager Clyde Walcott -- one of the legendary 'Three Ws' of the West Indies -- took the field at the age of 43 and was second top scorer with 6.

In his autobiography Sixty Years on the Backfoot, Walcott describes the humiliation in a chapter entitled 'Skirmish at Sion Mills':

'It had been raining and the pitch was wet. Butcher won the toss and decided to bat.'

This surprised some of his teammates, but the fatigued players were in no mood to field.

Dougie Goodwin

The match was a two innings a side game scheduled for one day and it was agreed before the toss that whoever took the first innings lead would be declared the winner.

However, it did not have official status and is not part of the records of players on either side.

'Wickets tumbled like wheat stalks under a combined harvester,' wrote Walcott and it took the last wicket to nearly double the score from 13/9 to 25 all out in 25.3 overs!

Wisden Cricketers' Almanack described the pitch 'as damp and definitely emerald green (the Irish national colours).'

Though not of official status, the full scorecard was published in the 1970 edition 'as Ireland's performance deserves a permanent record... in some ways, it provided the sensation of the 1969 season.'

Opening bowlers Alec O'Riordan (4/18) and captain Dougie Goodwin (5/6) bowled unchanged to scythe through the batting line-up which included four 'ducks'.

"It was one of those days," Goodwin (now in his 80th year), above, left, told me back in 2007 when I contacted him for my book The Penguin Book of Cricket Lists, "every ball that Alec and I bowled seemed to get a wicket."

For the record, Ireland declared their first innings at 125/8 and the West Indians saved some face with 78/4 in their second innings, Goodwin returning the remarkable match figures of 7/7 in 14.5 overs!

Ireland had also defeated the West Indian touring team, both on their maiden Test tour of England in 1928 and again in 2004.

Postscript: Local legend has it the West Indians were plied with copious amounts of Ireland's favourite Guinness whisky the night before the match in 1969, though no one is willing to go on record about it!

Gulu Ezekiel is a sports journalist and author.
Dougie Goodwin's photograph: Gulu Ezekiel

Gulu Ezekiel