Linton was among ‘derby’ stars
George Linton went to his grave on Wednesday not only as one of the most outstanding local club cricketers but also with a unique record over the last 35 years in the famous derby which features Empire and Spartan.
As promised a couple weeks ago when I paid tribute to the former successful Spartan captain, leg-spinning all-rounder and Barbados player, who died on August 14 in his sleep at home at the age of 58 following an illness, “more has to be written about George Linton”. So, as the song says, “here I come again”.
It was stated then that during his wonderful career for Spartan, which started in the mid 1970s, between 1980 and 1997 when he hung up his boots at the BCA Division 1 level, Linton took 606 wickets at the remarkable average of 11.56 in 123 matches, missing only the 1995 season. Of that number, he hauled in 361 between 1988 and 1994. His best figures were nine for 65 in the first innings against St. Catherine at Bayfield in 1989 in the sixth series.
While I have placed emphasis on Linton’s career in the First division (rebranded Elite division in 2012) championship and also touched on the Sagicor General Super Cup (formerly the Barbados Fire Cup) which is the top one-day tournament, his former Spartan team-mate Clayton Johnson, in a tribute during the funeral service at Dumanis Outreach Ministries, reminded the hundreds present that Linton also had a very productive career in the lower (Intermediate) division competition with over 300 wickets after his Division 1 career ended.
In 1982 when he played only four Division 1 matches as he started the first of six straight years as a professional cricketer in Britain, Linton produced one of the best ever all-round performances against Empire. Playing at Bank Hall, he spurred Spartan to a resounding victory by an innings and 66 runs. He scored a century (106 not out) in Spartan’s 341 all out, which was their highest total of the season, and finished with match figures of ten for 143 (seven for 89 and three for 54) as Empire were dismissed for 184 and 91.
No other player has produced such an outstanding all-round performance in the derby since.
That season (1982) was a fairly challenging one for both Empire, who finished eighth (31 points) and Spartan 10th (26 points) in the 12-team competition, which was won by Wanderers with 69 points, under the captaincy of the outstanding swing bowling all-rounder Stephen Farmer. Banks, led by batsman Arnold Gilkes, were a distant second on 46. In fact, Wanderers have not captured that much-coveted title since.
Spartan were then captained by batsman Richard Lorde. Apart from Lorde and Linton, other stalwarts who turned out for the Queen’s Park team in 1982 were former West Indies players – leg-spinning all-rounder David Holford, off-spinner Tony Howard and opening batsman Alvin Greenidge – as well as former Barbados middle order batsman Emmerson Trotman.
Former Barbados opening batsman Marvin Alleyne was the captain of the Empire side that season. They also boasted of two former West Indies players in off-spinner Albert Padmore and batsman Carlisle Best – both former Barbados captains – in addition to another ex-Barbados player in leg-spinning all-rounder Sherlon Greaves.
In the period under review, Spartan defeated Empire only once since – by two wickets in a 1990 top-of-the-table 11th round clash at Bank Hall when they went on to capture the title as well as the Barbados Fire Cup. Linton, who had captained the side in the first three Division 1 matches, also played in that game but bowled only 1.5 overs (11 balls) in the second innings, picking up one for ten – the wicket of Scofield Hewitt, who top-scored with 34.
That was a thrilling match watched by an extremely big crowd. Empire were bowled out for 88 in 21.2 overs in their first innings after they were sent in, with Jeremy Alleyne (24) and Emmerson King (11) being the only double-figure contributors.
Spartan used only two bowlers. Ottis Gibson, the former Barbados and West Indies fast bowling all-rounder, who was recently fired as West Indies team coach after being in that job since early 2010, took six for 41 off 11 overs and former Barbados fast bowling all-rounder Franklyn Stephenson, who also excelled for Nottinghamshire in the English County championship, four for 41 off 10.2 overs.
Spartan were reeling on 59 for eight by the close of the opening day and were soon dismissed for 61 in 20.1 overs on the second day. There were only two double-figure contributors as well – all-rounder Dexter Toppin (27) and Roy Alleyne (16), with the pair adding 37 for the sixth wicket after coming together with the score on 13 for five.
Empire fell for 101 off 29.5 overs in the second innings. Apart from Hewitt’s 34, the others in double-figures were Michael Inniss (22), Roland Holder (13) and Victor Walcott (10).
Medium-pacer Toppin was the main wrecker with five for 26 off nine overs while Stephenson took two for 27 off 13 overs.
Chasing 129 to win, Spartan went to stumps on 36 for one off 11 overs and eventually got home in 42.2 overs with the match ending at 4:11 p.m. Skipper Livy Puckerin led the way with 31 at No. 4 and was joined by the three batsmen who went to the crease before him in reaching double-figures – Feliston Gilkes (17), Robert Headley (15) and Gilkes’ opening partner Philo Wallace (13).
Pacer Victor Walcott took four for 26 and swing bowler Delroy Walrond, three for 28.
The teams were:
Empire – Michael Inniss (captain), Ricky Hoyte, Roland Holder, Sherlon Greaves, Jeremy Alleyne, Emmerson King, George Codrington, Samuel Skeete, Scofield Hewitt, Victor Walcott and Delroy Walrond.
Spartan – Livingstone Puckerin (captain), Philo Wallace, Feliston Gilkes, Robert Headley, Roy Alleyne, Ronnie Griffith, Dexter Toppin, Franklyn Stephenson, George Linton, Henderson Springer and Ottis Gibson.
The strength of both teams was underlined by the fact that there were 14 players who would eventually all play first-class cricket, and equally divided. Empire boasted of Inniss, Hoyte, Holder, Greaves, Alleyne, Skeete and Walcott, while Spartan had Puckerin, Wallace, Linton, Stephenson, Toppin, Springer and Gibson.
Since that 1990 clash, Empire went on to win the derby five times – 2005, 2006, 2007, 2013 and 2014.
In 1981, Linton top-scored with 77 in Spartan’s 182 for nine in a no-decision at Queen’s Park with rain washing out play on the last two days.
Linton had a five-wicket haul in 1988, picking up five for 42 off 20 overs in Empire’s first innings of 161 all out in 50.3 overs at Bank Hall. He scored 30 not out as Spartan responded with 237 for four declared off 62 overs on the second day but after declaring overnight, they then found the going tough as Empire batted the entire last day to amass 334 for two off 67 overs, led by a century (139 not out) from Roland Holder and supporting knocks of 79 from Michael Inniss and 63 not out by Jeremy Alleyne. Linton took one for 74 off 20 overs – the wicket of Carlisle Best for 32.
Apart from the double in 1990, other major silverware for Linton came three times in the Barbados Fire Cup – 1982 when Spartan defeated Maple by seven wickets with Linton scoring 24 not out; 1985 with Maple again the victims in the final by 67 runs (Linton scored 17 not out and took three for 27 to earn the Man-of-the-Match award) and as captain in 1988 when they beat Carlton by eight wickets. That 1988 success was the fifth of what is a record eight titles for Spartan in the tournament, now in its 40th year.
Going through the derby clashes, however, there are some memorable performances from other players, which deserve highlighting sometime in the not too distant future.
But the bottom line is that George Lester Linton made his mark in a big way in local domestic cricket. May he truly rest in peace!
Keith Holder is a veteran, award-winning freelance sports journalist, who has been covering local, regional and international cricket since 1980 as a writer and commentator. He has compiled statistics on the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) Division 1 (now Elite) championship for over three decades and is responsible for editing the BCA website (www.bcacricket.org). Holder is also the host of the cricket Talk Show, Mid Wicket, on the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation 100.7 FM on Tuesday nights.