Inside the Elite Division
with Keith Holder
Date Published: 2013-05-30
Empire again brush aside old rivals Spartan (Since 2000, 4-0 in League, 9-1 in 50-over; 2-1 in T20)
Bridgetown, Barbados, May 30 - (www.bcacricket.org) - It did not have the atmosphere of decades ago with big crowds, endless arguments and the inevitable firing of a grog, but ICBL Empire's seven-wicket win over long-standing arch-rivals Super Centre Spartan in the second series of the 2013 BCA LIME Elite division championship further underlined their dominance in major clashes between the teams since 2000.
That it came on home turf at the cosy Bank Hall ground on the third and final day, May 26, as Empire were climaxing a week of activities to mark their 99th anniversary year, made the victory even more special.
Now hold it. Truth it, Empire can boast of having Spartan's number in the modern era. The stats and facts bear strong testimony.
It was the fourth time in the period under review including a hat-trick that Empire had won - and comprehensively, too - the so-called local derby. And Spartan are still searching for a league win in what for donkey years was known as the First division championship - now rebranded Elite from last season after three years of promotion and demotion which led to a settled number of ten teams from a hefty 16.
When one embraces the Sagicor General Super Cup (50-over) championship, which goes in its 39th year in October, and the Sagicor General Twenty20 tournament, currently being contested for the sixth season, Empire are undoubtedly a far better team than Spartan in all three versions of the game.
Empire's other 'derby' wins since 2000 were 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.
It has really been a wonderful period for Empire in their major clashes with Spartan in the last three-and-a-half decades. After all, prior to their 2005 success, Empire had last beaten Spartan only once in a Division 1 match - way back in 1978 - by six wickets at Bank Hall.
Spartan won twice - in 1982 by an innings and 66 runs and in 1990 by two wickets - both also at Bank Hall, the latter year long remembered for a very large crowd as spectators found every available vantage point with the balcony on the pavilion being a sight to behold.
It meant that Empire's 2005 success had broken a 15-year drought of outright wins between the teams.
As far as the Sagicor General Super Cup is concerned, Empire have defeated Spartan nine times in their last ten clashes since 2000.
Those victories 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 again at Bank Hall in the second round in 2005; by 43 runs at the same venue in Round 4 in 2006; by three wickets in the final at Black Rock (now Desmond Haynes Oval) the same year; 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 2008. Spartan’s only victory 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.
What has made Empire's dominance over Spartan in the one-day version even more marked is the fact that Spartan are the most successful team in the history of the tournament (formerly known as the Fire Cup between 1975 and 2003) with eight titles in ten finals.
But whereas Empire have won four Sagicor General one-day cups in six finals since 2000 - the most by any team - (2001, 2005, 2006 and 2008), Spartan have managed just two finals with one piece of silverware (2002). The 2006 final featured Empire and Spartan - only the third time they had met in the final since the inaugural year in 1975 when Spartan won and in 1990 when Spartan had the honour of lifting both the First division and limited overs titles.
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.
And as far as the Sagicor General T20 is concerned, there have been three clashes with Empire winning two - by 30 runs at Queen's Park in 2009 and by 35 runs in the quarter-finals at Bank Hall in 2010. Spartan triumphed by four wickets with one ball to spare at Queen's Park in 2008.
Now Spartan know that they have a lot of catching up to do. It is a very daunting task.