Top Performer - Ottis Gibson

Oldest swinger in town

Ottis Gibson showed that age is no barrier as he took three wickets to help Durham to the Friends Provident Trophy

Andrew McGlashan

August 22, 2007

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Catch him if you can: Ottis Gibson removes Kevin Pietersen during his match-winning spell at Lord's © Getty Images
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Lord's thought it had seen some spectacular celebrations earlier this summer when Kevin Pietersen and Monty Panesar savoured their moments of success against India. Those, however, were outdone by the sight of 38-year-old Ottis Gibson sprinting towards fine leg from his follow-through, hotly pursued by his teammates. He proved it's not how old you are, but how old you feel.

What was even more memorable was that the same scene was repeated off consecutive deliveries as Gibson sent Hampshire's run-chase, in the Friends Provident final, into an early tailspin with his first two balls. With four weeks of the season still to play, and Durham also in the County Championship, Gibson admitted he "might need to shorten the celebrations".

You can't blame the man for getting a little carried away. It was Durham's first domestic final and the continuation of an extraordinary season for Gibson, who retired six years ago, only to be tempted back by Leicestershire before his move north. Earlier this season he bagged 10 for 47 in an innings against Hampshire and now he was putting in a Man-of-the-Match performance at Lord's.

After a brief flurry with the bat, which included sending the first two balls he faced for six and four, and then avoiding a Chris Tremlett beamer, his first two bowling deliveries caused a bigger sensation. "I decided not to bother with any looseners. Batsmen like to have one past off stump they can leave," Gibson said. Michael Lumb edged to Michael Di Venuto at second slip, then Sean Ervine repeated the dose.

Everything Gibson touched was turning to gold - or wickets. Almost. When Kevin Pietersen cracked a straight drive down the pitch, Gibson stuck out a hand and was convinced he'd got a touch as the ball demolished the non-striker's stumps with John Crawley miles out. Dale Benkenstein used one of his referrals but the pictures were inconclusive and Crawley survived.

Pietersen, though, didn't last much longer: Gibson trapped him plumb in front, removing the one man with the ability to turn the match on its head. Again, Gibson's teammates did well to catch up with their runaway bowler.

Gibson has already thrown his hat into the ring for the vacant West Indies job, a clear sign he enjoys a challenge

Gibson's success comes from good old-fashioned seam and swing bowling. When he was first picked by West Indies, on the 1995 tour of England in a side with Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh still at their best, he tried to be a typical West Indian bowler - fast and furious - but it didn't work. His international career was limited to two Tests and 15 ODIs and, in his own words, he "fell out of love with the game".

He opted for coaching and completed his qualifications with the ECB, working at the National Academy in Loughborough. Despite all his success this season Gibson still plans to call an end to his playing career (for the second time) in September. Coaching is an avenue he is keen on heading down again - but this time at international level. He has already thrown his hat into the ring for the vacant West Indies job, a clear sign he enjoys a challenge. His credentials are already strong and he still cares deeply about West Indian cricket.

"I've said publicly that I would be interested, and I think they've advertised it, but it's just a question of waiting," he said after the final. "They know I'm interested, I think applications close on August 31, so we'll see where we go from there."

Durham, though, have offered him another one-year contract, and Gibson has surprised us all before. But if 2007 does turn out, finally, to be his final season on the field, he couldn't have bowed out in finer style.

What the numbers say
202 at 28.36 - His wickets and bowling average in first-class cricket in the four years since returning to county cricket, two with Leicestershire and two with Durham

What they say
"Not bad for an old guy."
Paul Collingwood

Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer on Cricinfo

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Andrew McGlashan Assistant Editor Andrew arrived at ESPNcricinfo via Manchester and Cape Town, after finding the assistant editor at a weak moment as he watched England's batting collapse in the Newlands Test. Andrew began his cricket writing as a freelance covering Lancashire during 2004 when they were relegated in the County Championship. In fact, they were top of the table when he began reporting on them but things went dramatically downhill. He likes to let people know that he is a supporter of county cricket, a fact his colleagues will testify to and bemoan in equal quantities.
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