Tuesday 14 February 2012

Valentine's Day

In 1950 the West Indies toured England. Surprisingly they picked two unknown spinners in their squad, Sonny Ramadhin (a right arm off-spinner who had a ball that spun the other way - would now be called a doosra) and Alf Valentine (a classical slow left arm bowler). They had each only played 2 first class matches before getting picked for the tour. It was a bold piece of selecting.

On the 8th of June they both made their test debut.

England won the toss, and chose to bat. They made a reasonable start, and were on 22/0 when Hutton got hit by a sharp delivery and had to retire hurt. The next over Goddard brought on Alf Valentine.

33 overs later it was lunch. England were 88/5 and Valentine had 5/34.

He went on to take 8 wickets in the first innings, as England were rolled for 312 inside the first day. He picked up 3 more in the second innings to complete 11 for the match.

The 8th of June turned out to truly be Valentine's Day, his 8/104 is the 2nd best 1st innings bowling figures by a player on debut, and he went on to be one of only 15 to take a 10 wicket bag on debut.

Was it a turning track? Jim Laker (possibly the best spinner in the world at the time) was playing for England, and took 1 wicket for 86 runs off 31 overs. This suggests that it was probably not a particularly helpful track for the spinners.

That day changed the focus of West Indian cricket for the next 30 years, before a similar revolution heralded the start of the 4-pronged pace era.

Before the 2nd world war, 37.3% of West Indies overs were bowled by spinners. Ramadhin, Valentine and later Lance Gibbs had such an impact that over the 30 years after this match 48.6% of West Indies overs were bowled by spinners.

Their next three matches saw three West Indies wins, and spawned this classic Calypso song Cricket, Lovely Cricket.

I hope everyone had an enjoyable Valentine's Day

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