VETERAN LEFT-HANDER NOW HAS MODERN-DAY RECORD
OF 21 CENTURIES
Floyd Reifer’s late return to form with the bat for the mighty Sagicor Life University of West Indies after a disappointing showing for most of the season by his usually high standards in the 2012 BCA LIME Elite (formerly First) division championship, which ends this weekend, sent me scurrying for my treasured books with statistics. The effort was well worth it.
Though wary that Reifer was on course for a few modern-day records, it was still vital to go through his statistics as thoroughly as possible. With the advent of the Internet, the current generation of cricketers hardly miss a chance to query their stats as well as those of others deemed to be top performers.
In the case of the 40-year-old Reifer, back-to-back centuries in the last two series of matches have lifted him to 21 – the most by a batsman in the top local domestic competition over the past three-and-a-half decades. And he is now only 20 runs short of amassing 10 000 runs in his 26-year career.
Perhaps with a sense of occasion, left-hander Reifer chose his 300th innings in his 207th match in the rebranded Elite division to hit his 21st century. It came on the opening day of the ninth and final series against Barbados Defence Force Sports Programme at the 3Ws Oval last Saturday.
In the past 35 years, no batsman has scored as many as 21 centuries in this island’s major league competition.
Former Barbados and West Indies batsman, Thelston Payne, also a left-hander, of Republic Bank St. Catherine, had held the record for the period under review with 18 centuries. His career started way back in 1978 and has brought him over 12 000 runs in 301 matches with an average in the mid-30s.
The 55-year-old Payne, now the coach of St. Catherine, recorded his 18th century 12 years ago when he made an unbeaten 102, batting at No. 7, in the second innings in a drawn opening round match against Spartan at Queen’s Park.
On that occasion and at the age of 43, Payne revealed to yours truly in an interview at his home in St. Philip that he would like to be still playing at the highest level of local domestic cricket until the age of 60. The fact that he still plays occasionally and turned out for St. Catherine in the first two series of matches this year is an indication that his dream is not over. ‘Paynie’ likes his cricket ‘real bad’ and always gives the impression that he is willing to play if needed.
Reifer’s achievement, however, must take the cake. After mustering only 164 runs including one half-century at an average of 16.40 in the first seven series this season, he suddenly changed gear with a swashbuckling 112 not out – literally and physically in the face of Payne – against St. Catherine at Bayfield in the eighth round on August 25.
That innings, on the second day, took 141 minutes off 100 balls and included ten fours and five sixes after his century came in 131 minutes off 90 deliveries with eight fours and five sixes. The effect was that UWI raced to 366 for seven declared in reply to St. Catherine’s first innings total of 139 all out, and went on to win by an innings and 136 runs – 24 minutes before tea on the third and final day.
It also ensured UWI of a fourth consecutive title – another modern-day record – after they were admitted to the First division championship in 2006.
Then last Saturday, Reifer, who is also the UWI coach, slammed 111 before he was run out in a UWI first innings total of 414 for nine after BDFSP, one of two teams now facing demotion – it will either be them or Seven Seas Police – gambled by putting UWI in to bat on a flat pitch.
Reifer’s innings lasted 88 minutes off 77 balls with nine sixes and five fours after bringing up his century in 78 minutes off 73 balls with eight sixes and five fours.
He now has 387 runs at an average of 35.18 for the season, striking 29 fours and 18 sixes – 204 runs in boundaries. Those stats again show how commanding he can be.
It was only the second time that Reifer has hit consecutive centuries at this level. The other occasion was in 2007 when he made 106 not out in the second innings against Carlton at Black Rock (now Desmond Haynes Oval) in the seventh and last round of the Zonal competition, followed by an unbeaten 103 in the first innings against St. Catherine at Bayfield in the play-offs.
Reifer’s career aggregate is now 9 980 at an average of 39.76. Of his 300 innings, 49 have been unbeaten, and apart from his 21 hundreds, he has 48 half-centuries. His fielding also stands out, especially in the slips with 191 catches including 11 this season.
Sixteen of Reifer’s centuries have been scored in the first innings. His team has won nine, lost two and drawn nine matches when he reached three figures and there is every reason to believe that UWI will also beat BDFSP this weekend with the likelihood of Reifer getting the 20 runs needed for 10,000.
Reifer is a former Barbados player and West Indies captain who played at the first-class level as recently as this year for Combined Campuses & Colleges. He started his First division career in 1987 for Combined Schools as a 15-year-old student at The Lodge, against Pickwick at Kensington Oval in the 10th and penultimate series. He batted at No. 7 and was bowled without scoring by burly fast bowling all-rounder Henderson Wallace, who is now a top regional and international cricket analyst on radio and television.
After struggling for runs for the first three seasons, Reifer gradually came into his own as captain of Combined Schools North in 1990 when he made 490 runs (ave: 27.22) with a highest of 96 in the first innings against the Barbados Cricket League on home turf at Society ‘A’ in the 11th series of the then 14-team competition, topping his side’s batting aggregates and averages.
Yet, Reifer did not hit his first hundred until 1992 when in his second season with Barbados External Telecommunications, later renamed Cable & Wireless BET, then BET, Cable & Wireless proper and now LIME, he again fittingly and do doubt with a sense of occasion, chose the Lodge ground and his former team, Schools North to slam 177 in the 13th and last round. He was also the BET captain that season and the only player in his team to score over 500 runs for the season as he finished with 579 (ave: 32.17).
Reifer’s highest score at this level is 265 not out for BET against Banks at Wildey in the 10th series in 1997. On 11 occasions, he has scored over 500 runs in a season with the most telling in terms of matches, average and centuries in 1996 when he made 657 from eight matches including three centuries – the most he has scored in a season – at an amazing average of 93.85. And he also held 12 catches.
Once he continues to keep fit, despite the talk in some quarters that he should give way to a younger player, Reifer seems intent on beating more ball and setting records that would be hard to emulate or surpass for quite some time.
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 Division 1 championship for three decades and is responsible for editing the BCA website (www.bcacricket.org).