By Keith Holder

Bridgetown, Barbados, November 5 – (www.barbadoscricket.org) – Glowing tributes have been paid to Marcel “Bill” Murrell, the former Central Cricket Club president, inspirational captain and revered swing bowler, whose life was celebrated with a service of thanksgiving on November 4.

Those who were privileged to play with and against Murrell said he was unquestionably one of the greatest-ever local cricketers in the lower divisions of the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA).

As a schoolboy at Foundation in the 1970s when the standard of play in the Intermediate division was very high, I had the fortune, though some would say misfortune, of coming up against Murrell. What we encountered was an exhibition of high-class swing bowling in losing by seven wickets at Vaucluse in the second round of the 1974 season.

Murrell was then aged 42 but he moved in the field like a 21-year-old, as he and rookie Roland Toppin (now Dr. Roland Toppin, the Chief Executive Officer at the BCA) wreaked havoc with the ball.

Captained by the gifted left-arm fast bowling all-rounder John Corbin and including several talented players, two of whom – Corbin and another all-rounder Vibert Carter, a top order batsman and leg-spin bowler – went on to represent the Barbados Under-19 team in the West Indies Youth Championship the following year (there were three Foundation boys all told in the national Under-19 side in 1975 – the other was elegant batter Nigel Chase, a left-hander), Foundation had a taste of excellent swing bowling from the start of the season against St. Catherine as Trevor Clarke (affectionately known as T. Clarke) grabbed five for 20 to set the stage for a resounding victory by an innings and 72 runs at Bayfield.

But if we thought that was a baptism of swing bowling, what Murrell and Toppin produced in sunny conditions at that picturesque ground on a hill in St. Thomas was a true lesson of coping with the ball “swinging all over de place”.

Thanks immensely to Bruce Cosens, a former long-standing teacher/cricket master at Foundation who has amazingly kept the school’s scorebooks dating back to the 1970s and presented me with some of them, I can delve into details.

After winning the toss, Foundation were bundled out for 72 in 29.5 overs with Richard Hurdle hitting the topscore of 22 including five fours at No. 4, while Carter, who batted as low as No. 7, scored 19 (Carter opened in the second innings).

Toppin, then a sixth form student at Harrison College, snatched eight for 25 off 15 overs, having bowled the first over of the match, with Murrell at the other end.

Central replied with 188 all out off 45.5 overs, built around a second-wicket partnership of 112 between Lawson Forde (35) and Trevor Alleyne, who led the way with 72. Keith “Peanuts” Ifill, a classy batsman and wicket-keeper, made 49 at No. 5.

Carter, introduced as the last of six bowlers, took seven for 36 off 13.5 overs.

Foundation made 156 off 78.1 overs in the second innings after being 62 for five. John Corbin scored 41, Errol “Mac” Browne lashed 35 with four sixes as the pair added 49 for the seventh wicket and wicket-keeper/batsman Trevor Corbin (the twin brother of John Corbin) 26.

Murrell was magnificent, grabbing seven for 29 off 25.1 overs.

Central knocked off their target of 41 in 10 overs.

For the records, however, Foundation hit back against an all-White Windward team in the third series, triumphing by three wickets on home turf at Church Hill.

It was a match I will always cherish as I played a key role with knocks of 38 and 50 not out, batting at No. 3 in both innings. (It perhaps paved the way for my appointment as captain of the Foundation Intermediate division team in 1975 and 1976).

The Windward team boasted of the likes of two fine medium-pace bowlers in Harold Farmer and all-rounder Lloyd Seale, then better known in football circles as an outstanding, former Barbados goal-keeper.

Vibert Carter had a fine, all-round match, scoring 87 and 15 and taking seven wickets for 66 runs including five for 22 in the second innings.

In the first innings, Carter and yours truly added 105 for the second wicket. (See summarised scores of the Foundation matches against Central and Windward at bottom of the story).

Following are tributes to Bill Murrell, who died on October 23 at the age of 89. Murrell was also Senior Partner of M.E. Murrell & Company, Accountants:

 Dr. Roland Toppin (former Central team-mate) – I feel a great sense of sadness at the passing of Bill Murrell, one of the mentors of my youth. The Toppins and the Murrells lived about 100 yards from each other in Grazettes and, being good friends, we were always “in one another’s house”.

Bill was one of my father’s dearest friends and, during my father’s illness before his death, Bill and Sonia visited him regularly on Sunday mornings to bring some measure of cheer to him. When I heard that he was not in the best of health, I started to make plans to visit him on Sunday mornings as well but unfortunately COVID-19 prevented that.

Bill Murrell taught me how to bowl, as I was more of a batsman in those times. I remember batting one evening in the nets at Central and one of the fellows bowled me a bouncer, which I prevented from crashing into my face, with my left elbow. I immediately walked out of the nets, went to Bill and told him I wanted to be a fast bowler. So he showed me how to bowl an out-swinger, in-swinger and, of course a bouncer.

Then he told me to measure out a run. So I went down by the pavilion to push off from there. He looked around and said “what are you doing down there?” and instructed me to come back and mark out 10 to 15 paces. I did that and as I was running in to bowl he stopped me and said, “let me see what you are planning on bowling.” Of course it was the bouncer. He told me to try and learn to bowl first before thinking about bowling bouncers.

Bill was a fantastic bowler who was deadly accurate and “came at the wrong time”. There is no doubt that his place in one of the more contemporary West Indies teams would have been assured.

Bill Murrell was like a second father to me and I will dearly miss him. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

 

Keith “Peanuts” Ifill (former Central team-mate) – It was truly an honour playing for Central Cricket Club in the late 1960s with players such as Marcel “Bill” Murrell.

I encountered wicket-keeping to some two-way swing bowling from this outstanding bowler, Bill. He was a master at setting up batsmen in those days: two out-swingers followed by a big in-cutter or two in-swingers, then the out-swinger, inducing an edge to the ‘keeper or slips. Then came his favourite chirp, “Pipip! Pipip!

Most batsmen in the Intermediate division were always at sea against Bill’s swing. His best bowling performance that I witnessed came against Wanderers at Dayrells Road. We were led by about 150 runs on first innings at teatime on the second day. Bill had a pep talk with us in the dressing room and hyped us, predicting we were going to win the match. His bowling was exceptional that day. He took eight for spit and we won the match by two wickets.

Bill was a pillar at Central Club – player, captain, president and gentleman.

May his soul Rest in Peace and Rise in Glory.

Anthony Bryan (former Windward Club player and president) – I played a couple times for Windward against Bill Murrell. I used to open the batting and Bill was an opening bowler for Central.

Bill was a sharp swing bowler. He was quite immaculate in his length and scarcely gave away runs.

As a player and a person, he was a gentleman. He was never prone to coarse language for aggression. He was a fierce but keen competitor.

Bill Murrell actually played football for our Windward Club as a goalkeeper in the 1980s.

Richard Hurdle (former Foundation School and Central all-rounder) – As I recall playing for the mighty Foundation School against Central in the Intermediate division in 1974, Bill Murrell was an outstanding bowler and catcher in the slips.

His performance in that match against Foundation was evident in us losing. When I played for the Central Club, Bill was in the latter years of his career and he passed on his knowledge.

When the guys were practising, he gave instructions on how to grip the ball, delivery and body action. 

As a captain, he was a tactician. He knew a lot about the game.

Leon Greaves (formerly Antrobus) (former YMCA captain and fast bowling all-rounder) – When I started playing BCA Intermediate division cricket for the YMCA, Bill Murrell was playing for Central. I remember hearing the other established players in the YMCA team like Sam Wilkinson, Darwin Goodridge and the late Neville Roach talking about how good a bowler Bill was.

When I finally got to play against him, it was evident that Bill had perfected all the skills a bowler needed. He was fit, he could swing the ball both ways, he got bounce off a disconcerting length, and he was a thinker and a tough competitor. May he rest in peace.

Summarised scores of Central-Foundation and Foundation-Windward Intermediate division matches in 1974:

At Vaucluse: Central won by 7 wickets.

Foundation 72 (29.5 overs) (Richard Hurdle 22, Vibert Carter 19; Roland Toppin 8-25, Arthur Alleyne 2-11) and 156 (78.1 overs) (John Corbin 41, Errol Browne 35, Trevor Corbin 26, Cyril Best 12, Christopher Lashley 11; Bill Murrell 7-29, Ivan Cox 2-33).

Central 188 (45.5 overs) (Trevor Alleyne 76, Keith Ifill 49, Lawson Forde 35; Vibert Carter 7-36) and 47-3 (10 overs) (Keith Ifill 13 not out; Errol Browne 2-9).

Teams:

Central – Harold Mottley, Lawson Forde, Trevor Alleyne, Neville Smith, Keith Ifill, Randall Phillips, Marcel Murrell, Arthur Alleyne, Milton Crichlow, Ivan Cox, Roland Toppin.

Foundation – Cyril Best, Keith Holder, Trevor Corbin, Richard Hurdle, Christopher Lashley, John Corbin, Vibert Carter, Errol Browne, Eustace Callender, Michael Armstrong, Trevor Eastmond (now well-known comedian).

 At Church Hill: Foundation won by 3 wickets.

Windward 189 (51.2 overs) (Brian Ward 67, Richard Marshall 41, Gerry Seale 22 not out; Errol Browne 6-56, John Corbin 2-31, Vibert Carter 2-44) and 133 (33 overs) (Lloyd Seale 64, Stephen Corbin 32; Vibert Carter 5-22, John Corbin 2-27, Errol Browne 2-48).

Foundation 182 (71.4 overs) (Vibert Carter 87, Keith Holder 38, Trevor Corbin 15, John Corbin 12; Gerry Seale 6-24, Lloyd Seale 2-35, Richard Marshall 2-36) and 141-7 (45.3 overs) (Keith Holder 50 not out, Richard Hurdle 24, Errol Browne 23, Vibert Carter 15, John Corbin 13; S. Corbin 3-31, Richard Marshall 2-33).

Teams:
Foundation – Vibert Carter, Cyril Best, Keith Holder, Trevor Corbin, Richard Hurdle, Mark Forde, John Corbin, Errol Browne, Mr. Reginald Allsopp, Eustace Callender, Michael Armstrong.

Windward – Richard Williams, Stephen Corbin, Brian Ward, Lloyd Seale, R. Shepherd, Richard Marshall, Richard Johnson, Mark Goodridge, Gerry Seale, Tony Davis, Harold Farmer.

Mr. Bill Murrell                                       Dr. Roland Toppin

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 (rebranded Elite in 2012) Championship for four decades and provides statistics and stories for the BCA website (www.barbadoscricket.org). Holder played cricket for Foundation School in the BCA Under-15 and Intermediate Competitions, captaining the team at both levels. He also represented YMCA (Email: Keithfholder@gmail.com