The Cricket Game in Guyana

The Bourda Heroes

   

            By far the best-known sports arena in Guyana is the famous cricket ground in Bourda ward of the capital Georgetown. It is the home of the Georgetown Cricket Club (G.C.C.) which was founded in 1858, 149 years ago, and is the longest surviving cricket club in the entire Caribbean.

            Initially, the G.C.C.did not posses a ground. By a special arrangement with the Town Council, the club used the Council’s ground, the Parade Ground, for practice and matches. Difficulties, however, developed between the Club and the Council especially over which party was responsible for the maintenance of he ground and its preparation, particularly for regional intercolonial matches.

            These difficulties prompted the G.C.C. to acquire its own ground by purchasing and developing a piece of land. The new facility immediately replaced the Parade Ground as the venue for all first-class cricket matches, beginning with two games between British Guiana and Barbados in September 1887 which the home team won by 108runs and six wickets. 

            From the 1960s other venues, initially Rose Hall in Berbice, began also to be used for first-class matches. Bourda, however, has remained the only venue for Test cricket, which was first played there in 1930.

            The long history of first-class and Test cricket at the ground has been distinguished by numerous outstanding performances by players who may be regarded as its heroes. These performances occurred in each of the five main chronological periods into wich this history may be divided.

 

The early years, 1887-1909 

            The earliest heroes at Bourda are hardly remembered. The first two were the Guyanese all–rounders Edward Wright and Hampden King, who were both superb batsmen as well as penetrative pace bowlers. Their brilliance was instrumental in British Guiana winning the regional intercolonial tournament for the first time in 1895 at Bourda, imposing heavy defeats on Trinidad and Barbados.

            The third hero of this period was the Trinidadian skipper and fine middle-order batsman, Bertle Harragin. His knocks of 73 and 53 in 1901 and a century (123) in 1907 enabled his team to defeat British Guiana by 75 runs and nine wickets in two games at Bourda.

            These early years of cricket at Bourda were followed by a period dominated for the most part by one man, Cyril Rutheford Browne.

 

The Browne era, 1910-1939

             Browne, a Barbadian by birth, was a bowling all-rounder. He bowled quick leg breaks and was a hard-hitting attacking lower-order batsman. Browne is remembered for a scintillating innings of 70 not out which he played against England in February 1930 in the first Test played at Bourda. He reached fifty in only 34 minutes, one of the fastest half-centuries by a West Indian in Test cricket.

            The Browne era had at least two other Bourda heroes, namely, the middle-order Guyanese batsman Peter Bayley, and Chatterpaul Persaud. In a game against Barbados in 1937, Bayley (268) and Persaud (174) shared a record fourth-wicket partnership of 381 runs.

 

The war years and their aftermath, 1939-1955

            Matches at Bourda during and immediately after the war were distinguished above all by the attractive productive bathing of the stylish Guianese middle-order batsman, Robert Christiani, the country’s most respected cricketer until his retirement in 1954. Christiani scored three centuries at Bourda; 128 and 149 against Barbados in 1944 and 1946 and 181, his highest first class score, against Jamaica in 1947.

            In the early 1950s two other Guyanese batsmen, the openers Leslie Wright and Glendon Gibbs, also scored three centuries at Bourda in intercolonial matches.

 

The immediate pre- and post-independence era, 1956-1975

             These years were an important era in Guyanese cricket because if three major related developments. Firstly, the country regained ascendancy in regional cricket for the first time since 1937. Secondly, for the first time Berbice became a force in national cricket. Thirdly, British Guiana began to make an unprecedented major contribution to West Indies cricket.

            These developments were closely linked to the emergence and development, in the mid and late 1950s, of four players who were all Bourda heroes: the off-spinner, Lance Gibbs, and the three Berbician middle-order batsmen, Rohan Kanhai, Basil Butcher and Joe Solomon. Their contribution was continued or extended by the advent, in the 1960s and early 1970s, of three other Bourda heroes, the left-handed batsman, Clive Lloyd, Roy Fredericks and Alvin Kallicharran.

            The most successful Guyanese batsmen at Bourda in this era was Butcher, who scored seven hundreds there, two more than Solomon, Fredericks and Kanhai. His success, however, was surpassed by Garfield Sobers who was the most outstanding batting hero at Bourda between 1956 and 1975. In this period he scored seven hundreds there, two in intercolonial games and five in Tests, including a century in both innings (125 and 109 not out) in a Test against Pakistan in 1958. Sobers has the record for the highest number of runs and centuries in Tests at Bourda (853 runs, average 94,77).

 

The last thirty years, 1975-2005

             There were several heroic bowling performances at Bourda in this period. Among them were the feats of two Guyanese off-spinners, Clyde Butts and Roger Harper. In intercolonial matches there, Butts had the best innings analysis, 7 for 40 against Trinidad and Tobago in 1993, while Harper had the most impressive match analysis, 11 for 102 against Barbados in 1984. On five occasions in such games at Bourda in the 1980s Butts captured at least five wickets in an innings.

            In recent times Bourda’s main heroes have been the two local stars, Carl Hooper and Shivnarine Chanderpaul. Hooper’s renown is largely the result of several good all-round performances which have contributed immensely to Guyana’s success. Particularly impressive were his feats in regional tournament in 2001 when he scored 954 runs, including 4 hundreds and 4 fifties, in 12 innings at an average of 95,40 runs an innings, took 11 catches and captured 25 wickets at 25,42 runs each.

            Chanderpaul’s acclaim has been due mainly to his productive batting, especially in Tests where he has scored several centuries. In 1998, for example, he scored 118 against England, the first Test hundred by a Guyanese at Bourda in 25 years. Chanderpaul’s most memorable innings at Bourda, however, is probably his uncharacteristically aggressive hundred against Australia on the first day of the initial Test of a series in 2003. Made off only 69 deliveries, it is the third fastest Test hundred ever in terms of balls faced.

            In short, the famous Bourda cricket ground has had heroes throughout its history. Because of its reputation as “a batsman’s paradise” it should not be surprising that most of its heroes are batsmen. The relatively small number of excellent performances by bowlers is therefore all the more laudable.

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