Throwback Thursday: Joel Garner
Mention the name ‘Big Bird’ and the eyes of Somerset supporters will light up as they are transported back to the late 1970’s and early 1980′s as memories of Joel Garner come flooding back.
Joel Garner was a key component of the Somerset team that lifted five one-day trophies in as many seasons and his very presence in the side gave the team a distinct advantage.
The Barbadian was 25 years old by the time he arrived to play for Somerset, by way of Littleborough CC in the Lancashire League, and on his debut against Australia at Bath he took a wicket in his first over to help his newly adopted county to a historic victory.
Everyone who watched Joel Garner during his playing career with Somerset will have their own special memory and after watching Big Bird produce one match winning performance after another, you thought that things couldn’t get any better, but they most certainly did in 1979.
In the 60 over Gillette Cup competition that season Somerset got a bye in the first round and then beat Derbyshire at Taunton by eight wickets to set up a home quarter final with a strong Kent side.
In front of a packed County Ground the home side won the toss and chose to bat first. However against a Kent side that included Graham Dilley, Derek Underwood, Bob Woolmer and John Shepherd they found themselves in trouble at 95 for 5 before eventually being all out for 190 in the last over. An unbeaten 50 from Graham Burgess was the highlight of the innings whist Ian Botham made 29.
There were fears that Somerset’s total was not enough, but they didn’t need to worry because the big West Indian seemed to mesmerize the Kent batsmen and they were quickly reduced to 19 for 4, all falling to Garner.
Kent struggled to reach 54 for 6 before they were bowled out for just 60 in only 28.4 overs with Garner ending with the breathtaking figures of five for 11 from 9.4 overs which earned him the Man of the Match award.
In the semi-final against Middlesex at Lord’s he took 4 for 24 off 10.5 overs to help Somerset to a seven wicket victory and a place in the final.
It was almost as if Big Bird was on a mission to earn silverware for Somerset because against Northamptonshire in the Gillette Cup Final at Lord’s on Saturday September 8th, he produced an even more devastating bowling performance.
Somerset posted 269 for 8 from their 60 overs after being put into bat thanks to 117 from Viv Richards who produced one of his best one-day performances and batted through 53 overs without giving a chance before he was out. Other contributions came from skipper Brian Rose who made 41, Botham who made a quick 27 and Garner himself who hit an unbeaten 24.
Big Bird then swapped the bat for the ball and accounted for Wayne Larkins followed soon after by Richard Williams as Northants found themselves 13 for 2. Geoff Cook and Alan Lamb fought back strongly and added 113 from the next 13 overs and Northants eventually reached 170 for five needing 100 for victory from 12 overs. That was a very big ask in those days, especially when Somerset had Joel Garner in their ranks.
Northants were all out for 224 in 56.3 overs, with Big Bird ending with 6 for 29 from his 10.3 overs as Somerset won the first ever trophy in their history.
Joel Garner was something very special and the kind of bowler who only comes along once in a lifetime. He was a match winner and went on to play a vital a part in the clutch of trophies that Somerset won during the Glory Years.