When West Indies met their Waterloo in Ireland

Posted by on Tuesday, March 21st, 2017 in Cricket


Almost to the day, 154-years after Emperor Napoleon’s dreams of conquering the world were shattered on the once beautiful fields of Waterloo, Garry Sobers’ West Indian cricket team faced their own little Waterloo in the picturesque ground of Sion Mills in Ireland.


No one outside Londonderry in Northern Ireland had ever heard of Sion Mills before that day, but the astonishing events that took place in July 1969 ensured the cricketing world would remember the name for ever more.


Waterloo cost Napoleon and the Duke of Wellington and their allies a combined 65,000 men in casualties and losses. While the loss of life on the fields of Sion Mills was not as heavy (in fact everyone survived to tell the tale), the grievous harm done to the reputation and combined egos of the mighty West Indians, was no less devastating.


West Indies were in the process of rebuilding into what would later become a team to rival Bradman’s 1948 Invincibles. But at this stage, it was still work in progress and they had just lost the Test series 2-0 to England, with their last match at Lord’s ending in a thrilling draw, a match the visitors could on another day, have won.


As soon as the Test was over, the team, minus Sobers and Gibbs who were injured, had left for Ireland.


As Arunabha Sengupta recounted in his version of the match in Cricket Country, “Having ended the second Test, the team had made a dash from St John’s Wood to Heathrow to catch a late flight to Belfast. The drive to the Inter Counties Hotel in Lifford had been long. The restaurant at the hotel had already closed by the time they arrived after midnight. The team ate at a nearby late night restaurant and stretched out their tired bodies in their hotel rooms. The only drinking that had taken place that evening had involved the Irish.”


The sunny morning of the match brought little cheer to the weary West Indians when they got to the ground and realized that the overnight rains had left the ground and the pitch in less than ideal conditions for cricket.


Depending on whose account your chose to follow, the pitch was either diabolical or merely required a bit of application to bat on.


In his account Sengupta says, “On walking in, both the openers inserted a finger in the pitch. Both their fingers went in all the way. Batting was going to be a nightmare.”


Derek Scott, writing his account in Cricket Europe Ireland, says, “The wicket was not bad but due to rain it was damp and had a good deal of grass. The ball came through at varying heights but it was slow. The West Indies had come from fast conditions and played some fast wicket shots which got them out.”


They two accounts could well be talking of different matches given how divergent they are in their reproach of the pitch.


Without getting into a debate on the exact state of that pitch that July day in 1969, let’s just say the wicket was less than ideal, when Basil Butcher, captaining the side in place of the injured Sobers, agreed to bat, so that the nice crowd that had gathered with pints of Guinness in their hands, could enjoy watching the visitors make some runs in the swashbuckling style one had always heard about.


Dougie Goodwin and Alec O’Riordan opened the bowling for Ireland. Facing them were the two West Indian openers, Joey Carew and Steve Camacho.


Camacho faced up to O’Riordan and took one run off the first over.


West Indies, 1 for no loss.


In attempting to hook Goodwin’s first ball however, Camacho was caught at mid-wicket in the next over. In O’Riordan’s second over Carew also attempted an equally ill conceived hook, the ball got up too high and he lobbed a catch to square leg.


West Indies 1 for 2.


Foster came in at the fall of Carew’s wicket and was foolishly run out as Basil Butcher hit a ball to Hughes’ left at mid-off and called a run. Hughes fielded the ball and his throw to the wicket-keeper easily beat Foster who was not hurrying.


West Indies 3 for 3.


This brought in Clive Llyod.


Butcher and Lloyd got three singles. In 0’Riordan’s sixth over, one ball reared up and struck Butcher on the arm. He angrily slashed at the next and Duffy took a good low catch at gully.


West Indies 6 for 4.


43-year old manager of the West Indies team, Clyde Walcott, who had retired 10-years previously, had agreed to play the match for the sake of the spectators. He now came in, after exchanging some angry words with the departing batsmen, who he felt (perhaps justifiably so), had thrown away their wickets.


The out of practice but sensible and experienced Walcott stayed on the back foot as was proper on this wicket. In Goodwin’s seventh over Clive Lloyd misdrove a ball to mid-off where Waters took an easy catch.


West Indies 6 for 5.


In Goodwin’s next over, Shepherd played a bad cut shot at a short ball and Duffy took another good catch at gully to make the West Indies 8 for 6.


Walcott and Findlay were together for six overs; when the score was 12 Walcott had made all six runs scored since he had come in.


Not too bad for a retiree!


In Goodwin’s 11th over Findlay stepped out to drive and spooned the ball to mid-off where Waters almost fumbled the easy catch.


West Indies 12 for 8.


Ireland conceded a bye and then O’Riordan took two wickets with the last two balls of his 12th over. Walcott swung at him and Anderson caught a skier at cover. Next ball Roberts swung to leg and skied to the wicket-keeper.


Goodwin then bowled a maiden over to to Blair, but O’Riordan in his last over conceded 12 runs to Shillingford and Blair with both swinging their bats. This effectively more than doubled the score. With the fifth ball of the next over Goodwin bowled Blair and it was all over.


West Indies all out for 25.


A stunning turn of events which had the crowd on their feet and cheering their two boys. The entire innings had lasted 86 minutes.


O’Riordan had astonishing final figures of 13-8-18-4 and Goodwin 12.5-8-6-5.


Ireland opened their batting 25-minutes before lunch and quickly hit up a 125 runs for the loss of 8 wickets before declaring and leaving West Indies 95-minutes to bat again.


Either the wicket had dried sufficiently for the West Indians to be able to bat normally again, or the ignominy of having scored the lowest total of any team (in any form of cricket) against Ireland, was playing on their minds.


West Indies scored 78 for 4 in heir second innings before the team’s called it a day, leaving Ireland the winners by virtue of their first innings lead.


Captain Butcher led from the front, scoring a chance less half century. But as Sengupta recounts, the team was not about to forgive Butcher for his decision to bat first on that pitch: “Maurice Foster called Butcher a submarine captain because he preferred to bat under water. Carew disagreed, saying Butcher was not fit to captain a submarine.”


A match that has gone down in West Indian cricketing history as a match they would rather forget.


The last word on the West Indian performance, aptly enough, came from LD Roberts, a correspondent of Jamaica’s Gleaner, who, seeing the West Indian flag flying upside down at the ground, remarked, “Half-mast might have been more appropriate.”



15 responses to “When West Indies met their Waterloo in Ireland”

  1. Naresh says:

    Very interesting to know that the mighty Irish laid the lowly Windies low 😉
    Reminds of Mumbai’s Kanga League during the 70s and 80s. Ive watched games with test cricketers playing, where a team found it tough to chase down 30-40 runs. Soggy or drying wickets require a kind of skill that is not normally found, definitely not amongst the stroke makers from WI.

  2. Asif karmali says:

    Tanked deliberately or match fixing would be our immediate reaction had this happened currently. But here it appears that the Windies were beaten fair and square thanks to a daft decision to bat first.

    Domestic sides do spring surprises. Aussies have traditionally struggled against Mumbai.

    • Anindya Dutta says:

      Actually Butcher didn’t even look at the pitch. He knew the local crowd had come to watch them bat, so he readily agreed to bat first. I don’t believe there was an actual toss of the coin even!

  3. Ritesh says:

    Super piece. Reminds me of a match i had played as a club cricketer. We had the best Club Team in the state and had as many as 5 Ranji Trophy players in our playing 11. It was the final of an inter club tournament, We won the toss and put the opposition in. It was a 40 over match. Our opposition was quickly 26/5. Those days there was a TV program called Star Trek which was very popular and it was at 1130am We started talking as to get them out quickly and lets go and see William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy.
    Then came a chap wearing a single Pad and chappals. Yes, Chappals ( slippers). He kept the chappals behind the wicket, made a big namaskar to the Sin and took his guard. we were looking at the slippers and he said “Bhai,( Brother) is it not allowed? We said ok no issues. He started his innings and hit everything possible with a simple technique. Pitched up , he hit them at will anywhere he wanted. Pitched a bit short, he went back and hit it hard with fearsome thumps. Incredibly he hit a 100 and his team reached 180
    Then came our batting. Our star player who had played India U19 , Ranji and Duleep Trophy hit a cover drive . One of the fielders pit his put out and stopped the ball. In the twinkling of an eye he picked up the ball and threw down the stumps. Run Out. Wickts then fell at regular intervals. We actually lost the match by 7 runs.

  4. Chinmoy Jena says:

    The Windies have this uncanny habit of losing to weak teams.During the 1966-67 tour of India they had lost to a weak Combined East and Central Zone team by an innings!They had won the 3-match test series 2-0 and were unbeaten otherwise. The Ireland of 1960’s beating them is a revelation.

  5. Anindya Dutta says:

    Camacho had made 67 and 45 in the Lord’s Test, and Llyod had made 70 just the day before. I think they were just exhausted after the series and were expecting an easy day out. Then got a sticky wicket and two guys who knew exactly how to bowl on it! And boom!

  6. Ramaswami kalidas says:

    Very interesting. Never knew about this.whatever the conditions hard to imagine a team which had Lloyd,butcher,Walcott in its ranks could crumble for 25.

  7. Debashis gope says:

    Wonderful article. Never heard about it the team like West indies were dominated by team like Ireland. Enjoyed like anything sir. Waiting for more to come.

  8. Kersi Meher-Homji says:

    Anindya, I hugely enjoyed the fall from grace account of the mighty Windies. They thought they could walk on water but could not.
    The Irish eyes must have twinkled!

    • Anindya Dutta says:

      Thanks so much Kersi! As regards the post match impact:

      Derek Scott in ‘Cricket Europe Ireland’ recounts: “Next day the London Times had a front page column on the match, the Mirror a colour front page picture of Goodwin and O’Riordan and Roy Ulyett drew a cartoon in the Express. BBC Northern Ireland televised the play live and their tape was in much demand for National News and Sports programmes for some time afterwards.”

      West Indian keeper Michael Findlay later gave an honest explanation of their performance. “There were all sorts of stories that the team had enjoyed too much Irish hospitality the night before but that wasn’t the case. The fact is that we were all at sea on a pitch that had us all playing our shots far too early and we just couldn’t cope.”

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