It will be a very special derby featuring ICBL Empire and Massy Stores Spartan at Queen’s Park over the next two weekends.
Empire, the Bank Hall club now celebrating its 100th anniversary, go into the fourth series in the BCA Elite Division Championship tomorrow as leaders on 39 points – 12 ahead of second-placed Spartan.
Therefore, it is the key match as well in every sense of the word. This series continues on Sunday and ends next Saturday.
In fact, it is the only round in the ten-team championship which has been slated with the first two days running in succession. Traditionally, matches are scheduled to start on Saturdays with the last two days being played consecutively (Saturday and Sunday).
The history of the two clubs has been well documented. For the records, Spartan were founded in 1893, so they can argue that it is also a special year of sorts – their 121st anniversary.
Since the battle for supremacy in the top local championship started in 1892, Spartan have won 21 titles (five shared including one with Empire in 1963) and Empire 20 (including three shared).
Well-known local entertainer Richard ‘Dick’ Stoute, himself a former First division cricketer for Carlton, feels so passionate about this particular match that he proposed during the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation’s cricket programme, Mid Wicket, on Tuesday night that legends Sir Everton Weekes and Sir Wesley Hall, who played for Empire and Spartan respectively, meet the teams following the toss and later reminisce on clashes of yesteryear. It is a wonderful idea, which the hierarchy of both clubs should follow up.
Now one gets the feeling that Empire are on a mission to make this season a most memorable one by capturing the Elite Division Championship, having been starved of the major title since 2004.
With victories by an innings over ESA Field Pickwick and Brathwaite Construction/Republic Bank St Catherine – both before tea on the third and final day, there is tremendous confidence in the Empire camp. Pickwick lost by an innings and 62 runs at Foursquare Oval, while St Catherine went under by an innings and nine runs at Bank Hall.
By the way, the second series, which was originally set for June 21, 28 and 29, was rescheduled because of a late decision to move the third and final Test between West Indies and New Zealand from Providence in Guyana to Kensington Oval. That round will now be played on October 18, 25 and 26.
There is a big psychological advantage for Empire over Spartan in relation to major matches since 2000, embracing the Elite Division (rebranded from First division in 2012) and Sagicor General Super Cup (50-over) championships.
As far as the league competition is concerned, a seven-wicket win in the second series at Bank Hall last year was the fourth time in the period under review, including three on the trot, that Empire had beaten Spartan with the Park men still searching for a victory.
Empire’s other victories were all by big margins as well – by nine wickets at Queen’s Park in 2005; by ten wickets at Bank Hall in 2006 and by 121 runs at Queen’s Park in 2007.
Prior to 2005, the last time Empire had beaten Spartan in a Division 1 match was in 1978 by six wickets at Bank Hall.
Since then, Spartan won only twice – by an innings and 66 runs in 1982 and two wickets in 1990 – both at Bank Hall.
That match in 1990 attracted an extremely big crowd and was also a top-of the-table clash in the then 14-team competition. It was the 11th series and Spartan were the front-runners on 53 points with Empire second on 47. Spartan went to take the title with 69 points and Empire finished second on 54 points. Spartan also performed the ‘double’ that season by lifting the Barbados Fire Cup (now the Sagicor General Super Cup).
After 1990, there were no outright wins in the Division 1 championship between the teams until Empire’s success in 2005.
In relation to the Sagicor General Super Cup, Empire have beaten Spartan nine times in ten matches since 2000. Those wins were: by four wickets off the very last ball at Bank Hall in 2000 as they chased 229 in a rain-hit semi-final which was reduced to 38 overs a side; by 107 runs in a quarter-final at Queen’s park in 2001 after amassing 338 for nine; by six wickets in the semi-finals at Bank Hall in 2003; by 54 runs at Bank Hall in the second round in 2005; by 43 runs at the same venue in Round 4 of 2206; by three wickets in the final at Black Rock (now Desmond Haynes Oval), also in 2006; by one wicket with two balls to spare in the opening round at Queen’s Park in 2007; by 62 runs in the fourth round at Bank Hall in 2008; and by 42 runs in the semi-finals at the Brewery, again in 2008.
Spartan’s sole win during that period was by 18 runs in the quarter-finals at Bank Hall in 2004 when 508 runs were scored for the loss of 16 wickets.
The only other Super Cup match between Empire and Spartan since 2000 was a preliminary scheduled for 2010 but rain prevented a ball from being bowled at Queen’s Park.
Spartan, however, are still the most decorated team in the history of the Super Cup (known as the Fire Cup between 1975 and 2003) with eight titles in ten finals although since 2000, Empire have won four titles – the most by any team – and five all told, the second most.
In the Sagicor General Twenty20 tournament, there have been four clashes with an equal share of wins. Empire triumphed by 30 runs at Queen’s Park
in 2009 and by 35 runs in the quarter-finals at Bank Hall in 2010, while Spartan won by four wickets with one ball remaining at Queen’s Park in 2008 and by way of scoring more ‘four’ boundaries (13) compared with (12) after the scores were tied at the end of the match and Super Over at Bank Hall in 2013.
Arguably, the Empire-Spartan derby no longer attracts big crowds but it is still special. And this one looks like a real battle in the making.
(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.)