The last time West Indies’ middle-order collapsed like dominoes

By Zaheer Clarke

Published December 4, 2017

West Indies’ middle-order collapsed against New Zealand, losing 5 wickets for 22 runs. West Indies’ middle order has had worse collapses in 1957 and 1986. The next time should be 2047 or later. 

Neil Wagner (left) unleashed a flurry of short balls that left the West Indies line-up reeling on December 1, 2017, during the 1st Test between New Zealand and West Indies in Wellington.
©Getty Images

In cricket, the opening batsmen bat at positions one and two, the middle-order is considered to be from positions three through seven, while the tail begins from positions eight to eleven. Last Thursday, at the start of the first Test match between New Zealand and the West Indies, the West Indies team lost their middle-order for a startling 22 runs. It was atrocious, ridiculous and calamitous.

Analysts and statisticians like myself pointed to this being West Indies third-least runs added in Test cricket history for the loss of wickets three through seven in an innings. In an ungodly fashion, West Indies’ middle-order, which was coasting at 79 runs for the loss of two wickets after losing their second wicket at 75 runs, later became unhinged and buckled to 97 runs for seven wickets. It was unbelievable and cringeworthy. West Indies later crawled to 134 runs before being all out in 45.4 overs. It was a wretched performance by the team. To be frank and disappointed, short-pitched bowling, which was once the staple of West Indies cricket, was the ultimate demise of the West Indies middle-order, with Neil Wagner bagging seven wickets for 39 runs. Continue reading

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Will these changes rescue Test & ODI cricket?

By Zaheer E. Clarke

Published October 23, 2017

The ICC has given the green light for the long-awaited Test Championship, an ODI league and the trial of four-day Test matches. Will these changes revive Test and ODI cricket from the stranglehold of T20 cricket?

The ICC has finally given the green light for the Test Championship and the ODI leagues in cricket.
(Source: ICC)

Seventeen months ago, I wrote a column highlighting six things we must do to rescue Test cricket. Among the things listed included playing four-day, not five-day, Test matches along with a greater thrust to more day-night Test matches. In columns thereafter, I bewailed the stuttering steps and delays by the International Cricket Council (ICC) in implementing a World Test Championship, one that would add greater context and greater meaning to Test cricket as it fights for survival with the T20 leagues across the world. Thankfully, it seems my cries have been heard.

Last week, the ICC announced widespread changes to the future of Test and ODI cricket. The changes included the long-anticipated Test Championship league, the ODI league and the trial of four-day Test matches. Continue reading

International cricket, a welcomed return to Pakistan

By Zaheer E. Clarke

Published September 18. 2017

With a World XI team playing a three-match T20I series in September, Sri Lanka due in October and the West Indies due in November, regular international cricket is set to return to Pakistan after years of absence.

A Pakistani fan holds a placard aloft to welcome international cricket in the country, Pakistan v World XI, 1st T20I, Independence Cup 2017, Lahore, September 12, 2017.
©AFP

On March 3, 2009, the cricket landscape in Pakistan changed forever.  Sri Lanka and Pakistan were engaged in a three-match ODI and a two-match Test series in January to March of that year. In the first Test, two Sri Lankans, Mahela Jayawardene and Thilan Samaraweera, scored double centuries in their team’s first innings total of 644 runs for seven wickets declared. Pakistan replied with a mammoth 765 runs for six wickets declared, with Younus Khan scoring 313 runs, becoming Pakistan’s third triple centurion. The match ended in a predictable draw.

In the second match, Sri Lanka batted first again and scored 606 runs before being all out on the second day. Samaraweera once again scored a double century. By the end of the second day, Pakistan was coasting at 110 runs for one wicket in 23 overs and four balls. Continue reading

I disagree with Tony Becca’s conclusion

By Zaheer E. Clarke

Published September 12, 2017, in the Jamaica Observer

While Tony Becca and I agree on not knowing whether Kieron Pollard bowled a deliberate no-ball, we disagree on whether Evin Lewis could have reached his century.

Tony Becca (left) is a veteran sports journalist and an esteemed opinion columnist. He has covered West Indies cricket with great ardour for several decades.
(Photo credit: Jamaica Gleaner)

Every weekend while growing up I had to read the Tonys — Tony Becca, Tony Cozier and Tony Deyal. For me, respectively, they are the transition, vocabulary and satire gods among Caribbean columnists. Unashamedly, I am overly biased towards them, since they all loved cricket — my favourite sport — and wrote about it with immense ardour on all occasions.

When I first considered becoming a sports columnist, Becca was one of the first writers I studied fervently. Eventually, Becca’s writing style and strengths subconsciously intertwined with mine and became a component of my own. Week after week I would groom my writing into a mould comparative to him, Cozier, Deyal, and others. Continue reading

West Indian ‘schoolboys’ humble mighty England

By Zaheer E. Clarke

Published September 4, 2017

Described as ‘schoolboys’ playing against men after the first Test, West Indies beat England in the second Test to register their first Test match victory in England in 17 years. 

West Indies huddle up during nets.
(Source: Reuters)

Two weeks ago, West Indian cricketers were quickly labelled as ‘schoolboys’ unfit to play Test cricket. This occurred after West Indies’ unholy capitulation to England by an innings and 209 runs in the first Test match of the series at Edgbaston. The defeat was West Indies’ sixth worst over their 89-year history in Test cricket. Almost instantly, the whispers of an urgent need for a two-tier system in Test cricket overflowed the commentaries in the newspapers, on the radio and on the telly.

West Indian and English legends lamented the inglorious surrender by the current West Indies team. For several of them, it was diametric to the legacy of the 1980s West Indies team, which domineered world cricket.

“This West Indies lot are the worst Test match team I have seen in more than 50 years”

– Geofrrey Boycott

Continue reading