A look at the careers of Lance Gibbs and Joe Solomon
April 19, 1999
THE Guyana Cricket Board's second induction ceremony, to honour outstanding former Guyanese cricketers and administrators into its Hall of Fame, will be held at the Georgetown Cricket Club (GCC) ground, Bourda, today.
Those to be honoured are Basil Butcher, Roy Fredericks, Lance Gibbs, Rohan Kanhai, Clive Lloyd, Joe Solomon, Sir Clyde Walcott and Kenny Wishart.
Today, Chronicle Sports takes a look at the career of two of the stalwarts.
LANCELOT RICHARD GIBBS
Born: September 29, 1934, Georgetown, British Guiana
Role: Right-arm off-spinner
LANCE GIBBS was, perhaps, the finest player ever to spin a ball in Test cricket. Indeed, his skill was such that he achieved the unlikely distinction of overshadowing the quick bowlers on many occasions.
A product of the powerful Demerara Cricket Club, Gibbs began life as a leg-spinner but, after getting on the wrong side of Robert Christiani's bat, he became an off-spinner. He had an unorthodox chest-on action, while his great height allowed him to get extra bounce and spin from most pitches. This, and his variation of pace and flight, combined with pin-point accuracy, made him a formidable opponent.
Gibbs had a dream start to his Test career, heading the bowling averages with 17 wickets (23.05) in the home series against Pakistan in 1958; but was somewhat sidelined by the success of Hall and Gilchrist on the subsequent trip to India and Pakistan. But, he bounced back in the third Test of the memorable tour to Australia in 1960-61.
Finding his best form, Gibbs came close to a hat-trick as he collected three wickets in four balls to propel the visitors to a most comprehensive victory. He made no mistake however in the next game at Adelaide, snapping up the wickets of Ken MacKay, Wally Grout - who succumbed to Gibbs' guile for his third successive duck - and Frank Mission to complete the first Test hat-trick in Australia since 1903-04. That was one of the highlights of a remarkable series and, after playing in three Tests, Gibbs once again found himself at the top of the averages with 19 wickets at 20.78 each.
Although the Indian tourists were intimidated by the pace of Hall in 1962, the most comprehensive collapse was inspired by Gibbs in the third Test at Bridgetown. West Indies had secured a lead of 217 and, by lunch on the final day, the tourists were 158 for two and seemed content to settle for a draw, but Gibbs had other plans. In 15.3 overs after the interval, he entranced the batsmen and the crowd, as he bowled 14 maidens and collected eight wickets for six runs to bring off an incredible victory. Thereafter, Gibbs was acknowledged as the finest bowler of his type for over a decade.
He bowled well in England in 1963, including returning the match-winning figures of nine for 157 in the Test at Old Trafford, and then turned his match-winning style on the Australians again, this time at home in 1965. As so often, he was at his best in front of his home crowd, taking three for 51 and six for 29 in the third Test at Georgetown, with the second innings dismissal of Bill Lawry taking Gibbs past the coveted 100 Test wicket landmark.
As West Indies' leading wicket-taker - he took nine others in the rubber - Gibbs was instrumental in securing their first-ever series victory over Australia.
As the pace duo of Hall and Griffith began to lose some of their bite, Gibbs was used increasingly as a stock bowler. He bowled almost 100 overs more than Hall against England in 1966, topping the averages again.
Once more he bowled splendidly at Old Trafford, taking 10 wickets in the match and was instrumental in England's defeat in the fourth game at Headingley, where he took six second innings wicket for 39.
A solid series in India in 1966-67 was followed by another good performance against England in 1968. He was the leading actor in the fifth Test at Georgetown, which West Indies had to win to level the series. Gibbs brought them within a whisper of victory taking six for 60 but, in the end, he was thwarted by the fast bowler, Jeff Jones, who defended stoutly in Gibbs' last over to ensure that England clinched the rubber.
On West Indies' disappointing trip to Australia in 1968-69, Gibbs, along with Sobers, was the best of a poor bowling bunch and, after a modest showing in England later in 1969, the Guyanese was rested until Australia visited the Caribbean four years later. It was a distinguished return for Gibbs, who finished the series with 26 wickets.
Back in the groove, Gibbs spun England to defeat in the first Test at Port-of-Spain in 1974 and continued his match-winning ways in India, when he ran through the home side's batting in the second Test in Delhi to finish with figures of six for 76. He completed a magnificent series by taking seven for 98 in the first innings of the fifth match at Bombay.
On the 1975-76 trip to Australia, the years of toil began to show, but he kept his place in the team in the hope that he would surpass Fred Trueman's world record haul of Test wickets. This he did when he had Ian Redpath caught on the first day of the final match at Melbourne and, for a while, remained the leading wicket-taker with 309 victims.
Gibbs' contribution to West Indian cricket is perhaps best summed up by his cousin and long-time colleague, Clive Lloyd. He said: "There was never a more wholehearted cricketer for the West Indies, nor an off-spinner in anything like his class. He was by no means a mechanical spinner, instead was always thinking about the game, working an opponent out, assessing his strengths and weaknesses and laying the trap for him.
A fierce competitor, he would be giving total effort, no matter if the pitch was flat and docile, no matter if the total was 300 for two and the sun scorching, no matter if his finger had been rubbed raw."
Teams: British Guiana, Guyana, Demerara, West Indies, Warwickshire, Rest of World XI, Commonwealth XI, South Australia, C. Hunte's XI
First-class debut: 17/2/54
British Guiana v M.C.C.
First-class record: 1,024 wickets (27.22) and 1,729 runs (8.55)
Test debut: 5/2/58 West Indies v Pakistan
Test record: 309 wickets (29.09) and 488 runs (6.97)
JOSEPH STANISLAUS SOLOMON
Born: August 26, 1930, Corentyne, Berbice, British Guiana
Role: Right-hand batsman, right arm leg-spin bowler
JOE SOLOMON ensured that his batting and bowling contributions to West Indian cricket would be marginalised when he secured the first tie in the history of Test cricket by running out Ian Meckiff in the first Test against Australia at Brisbane in 1960.
Nonetheless, he was a gifted all-rounder who was selected for the 1958-59 tour to India and Pakistan and could be relied on to buttress the middle-order batting when the better-known names had failed. He made 45 and 86 on his debut in the second Test at Kanpur and an unbeaten 69 in the next game at Calcutta, sharing in a century stand with Sobers in even time. His 100 not out in the fifth match at Delhi, together with several other unbeaten innings, helped the Guyanese to head the batting averages in India; and he maintained his momentum in Pakistan, scoring 66 in the defeat at Karachi and 56 in the win at Lahore.
After an experiment at opening the innings against England in 1960 had failed, Solomon returned to the middle order with more success for the subsequent series in Australia. He made 67 and 45 at Brisbane, before his fielding transformed the game.
A century partnership between Alan Davidson would coast to victory, but two throws of pinpoint accuracy from Solomon changed the course of the match. On the first occasion he ran out Davidson, with just one stump to aim at; and with the scores level threw out last man Meckiff in almost identical fashion from the dramatic final ball of the match.
Solomon rarely showed that sort of flair as a batsman in a Test match, feeling obliged to play a more defensive role, which often proved invaluable for the West Indies; while his bowling was precise more than penetrative. He was more fluent as a batsman for his strong Berbice club, and made his highest first-class score of 201 not out for them against England in 1959 - 60.
The Guyanese toured England in 1963 and scored 56 at Lord's and 62 at Headingley, while his 76 against Australia in the first Test at Kingston in 1965 helped the home side to a decisive victory. Although his cricket was never as gregarious as many of his contemporaries, Solomon could invariably he relied upon to plug any gaps in the batting or bowling departments when the more extravagant players disappointed.
Indeed, the value of his contributions was most keenly felt after he left the Test scene and, for a couple of years, there was no obvious candidate for the West Indies to turn to when stars failed to shine.
Teams: British Guiana, Guyana, Berbice, West Indies, C. Hunte's XI
First-class debut: 11/10/56 British Guiana v Jamaica
First-class career: 5,318 runs (41.54) and 51 wickets (38.23)
Test debut: 12/12/58 West Indies v India
Test career: 1,326 runs (34.00) and 4 wickets (67.00)