Joy must be on the faces of all those who are associated with the Spartan Club.
Following their capture of the Barbados Cricket Association’s (BCA) Elite division Championship last Sunday, Shamarh Brooks brought more glory to the famous Queen’s Park club yesterday by scoring a maiden century for West Indies against Afghanistan in the one-off Test in Lucknow, India, before Jason Holder’s team raced to a nine-wicket win this morning on the third day.
Playing in only his third Test after making his debut against India at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in North Sound, Antigua in August, the 31-year-old Brooks made 111 in a total of 277 all out in 83.3 overs as West Indies gained a 90-run first innings lead.
He batted for 252 minutes, faced 214 balls and struck 15 fours and one six against a testing trio of spinners in captain and leg-spinner Rashid Khan, left-armer Amir Hamza Hotak, who took five for 74 on debut and another left-armer, Zahir Khan.
It was a silky innings, typically of Brooks, with some fine strokes around the wicket. One, which stood out was a straight drive to the boundary off Zahir Khan in the 69th over, taking him to 86 as it bisected the fielders at long-off and long-on.
He had been dropped on 59 by wicket-keeper Afsar Zazai off Rashid but maintained excellent concentration to record a well-deserved ton.
Breaking up one’s night rest to watch the match from the start of play at midnight (Eastern Caribbean time) was worth it.
When Brooks reached his century at 4:05 a.m., I duly sent a WhatsApp message to Dave Marshall, the Spartan coach, who is also a former Spartan and Barbados leg-spinner.
Marshall responded: “Watched every ball. I spoke to Brooks by WhatsApp for nearly two hours today. He told me he is going to make a hundred on top of (Spartan) winning the Cup.”
Jason Holder described Brooks’ innings as “full of class”.
And to hear Brooks recalling advice on how to play spin bowling, given to him as a 13-year-old by the former Barbados and West Indies star batsman Sir Everton Weekes, was very touching.
“When I was 13 years old, the great Sir Everton Weekes told me that when you’re batting against spin, you have to get very close to it, or very far from it,” he said.
“On a pitch like this against their quality bowlers, I think it was just about trusting your defence. That was important. Looking to spend as much time as possible and just pick off the bad balls. Be happy with a single, look at some balls from the other end. Get accustomed to the pace and how much bounce and turn they’re getting on the pitch.”
In relation to the West Indies’ win, praise must also be showered on Rahkeem Cornwall, the burly 26-year-old Antiguan all-rounder, who had match figures of ten for 121, including seven for 75 in the first innings of only his second Test. He earned the Player-Of-The-Match award.
No one should seek to downplay the performance of the West Indies on the grounds that Afghanistan are a rookie team in what was their fourth Test match.
Brooks is revered at Spartan. He first played for the club in the First division Championship (rebranded as Elite division in 2012) as a 15-year-old schoolboy at The Lodge in 2004, and was then better known as an all-rounder, who bowled leg-spin.
In eight matches that season, he scored just 74 runs (ave: 8.22) and took 16 wickets at 27.81 runs apiece.
For the next three seasons, he represented Barbados Youth (formerly known as Combined Schools) before returning to Spartan in 2008 – the same year he captained the West Indies Under-19 team at the ICC Youth World Cup in Malaysia.
I vividly recall his maiden league century for Barbados Youth – an unbeaten 104 – against Police at Weymouth in 2005 (Round 4) in a total of 339 for seven declared as Barbados Youth triumphed by an innings and 11 runs with 7.3 overs remaining. He also had match figures of six for 75 including four for 48 in the second innings.
Eventually, his bowling declined significantly by 2012 but his batting maintained that touch of class, easy on the eyes.
Yet, as he admitted in an interview following his Test century, he “took a lot of things for granted” even after making his first-class debut for Barbados in 2007. He soon lost his place in the side for a couple seasons and “it was a wake-up call for me”.
“That is when my career really turned around and I started to be consistent and realised the importance of scoring runs.Since then I’ve never looked back.”
Say what you like about local domestic cricket but part of Brooks’ maturity was shown in 2015 when he scored 721 runs (ave: 86.00) including four centuries in the Elite division Championship.
That was the same year that his first-class career took off with three centuries: 124 v Windward Islands at Kensington Oval; 100 v Jamaica at Sabina Park; and 111 v Trinidad & Tobago at Kensington Oval.
Now he will be hoping that his Test career can follow a similar pattern with centuries.
Locally, Spartan grabbed the major domestic title on the final day of the ten-team competition after crushing fellow pre-series Cup contenders Wildey by 204 runs at Queen’s Park.
It was the 22nd top division title for Spartan – five of which have been shared – since the Championship started in 1892-93 and was known as the First division – and their first success since 2010 in a share with Sagicor Life UWI.
Boasting of five wins, Spartan ended with 119 points – eight more than second-placed Empire, their long-standing arch-rivals, who crushed demoted Crane Resort St. Catherine by an innings and 93 runs inside two days at Bank Hall in the last series.
Going into the last round, there were three Cup contenders – Spartan on 107 points, and Empire and Wildey with 92 each.
Spartan’s titles now read: 1899-1900, 1910-11, 1913-14, 1926-27, 1928-29, 1931-32, 1937-38, 1938-39, 1943-44, 1952 (shared with Carlton), 1953, 1955-56, 1963 (shared with Empire), 1967, 1968, 1972, 1979 (shared with Banks), 1990, 1994 (shared with BET), 2003, 2010 (shared with UWI) and 2019.
En route to lifting the Cup this year, Spartan underlined how vital it is to win matches. After the third series, they were in sixth position on 23 points but then reeled off four consecutive victories in earning 74 points to move to the top alone on 97 points – ten more than Wildey, with whom they had shared the top joint position at the end of the sixth round.
Apart from the victory against Wildey, Spartan’s other wins were: by 81 runs inside two days v Gladiola at Rices; by an innings and 36 runs v Wanderers at Dayrells Road; by 253 runs v Empire at Queen’s Park and by nine wickets v St. Catherine at Queen’s Park.
Spartan also boasted of the only batsman to amass over 500 runs for the season as experienced opener Rashidi Boucher scored 603 including two centuries, at an average of 50.25.
A warm welcome back to the Elite division next season must be extended to YMPC following their capture of the First division title. The Beckles Road team last played in the top league in 2011.
Regionally, Barbados Pride flattered to deceive after topping Group ‘A’ in St. Kitts, losing to West Indies Emerging Players by three wickets in the first semi-final of the Colonial Medical Insurance Super50 Cup at Queen’s Park Oval in Trinidad last evening.
The batting left a lot to be desired as they were bowled out for 119 in 30.3 overs after losing the toss.
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-and-a-half decades and is responsible for editing the BCA website (www.bcacricket.org). Email: [email protected]