A fourth-place finish at the 2005 ICC Trophy (as the World Cup Qualifier was then known) in Ireland handed Bermuda a historic spot at the 16-team 2007 World Cup to be played in the Caribbean. After having narrowly missed out on qualifying for the 1979, 1983 and 1996 editions of the World Cup, the Bermudans had finally achieved their dream of making it to the big stage.
Moreover, this success also guaranteed the tiny country – with a population of around 65,000 – ODI status for the next four years. A year prior to the World Cup, Bermuda travelled to the West Indies to partake in their first ODI series – a short triangular affair that featured Canada and Zimbabwe as the other two teams.
The tournament was christened as the ICC Associates West Indies Tri-Series, and all four games were played at the Queen’s Park Oval in Port of Spain. The second game of the tri-series, on May 17, 2006, marked Bermuda’s inaugural ODI fixture. The newest ODI side was up against Canada, who had lost to Zimbabwe by 143 runs in the first game.
Though Bermuda had lost to Canada by five wickets in the third-place playoff of the 2005 ICC Trophy, they were confident of succeeding, as Clay Smith suggested on the eve of the landmark match. Smith, the Bermudan captain, was nursing a knee injury and was standing in as the team manager. In his stead, Janeiro Tucker led the team out, won the toss, and decided to field first in overcast conditions.
South African-born medium pacer Saleem Mukuddem became the first Bermudan to take an ODI wicket, when he had Geoff Barnett caught by Azeem Pitcher with the score at 16. Barnett’s fellow opener, John Davison, got off to a typically brisk start – he had famously scored a record-breaking ton off 67 balls against the West Indies at the 2003 World Cup. Davison raced to 22 in 15 balls, and was looking ominous.
But this was not to be Davison’s day, as he was bowled by pacer George O’Brien in the seventh over with the score at 32. O’Brien added the wicket of Stewart Heaney to his kitty, soon after which left-arm spinner Dwayne Leverock – who would go on to achieve cult status with his stunning catch against India at the World Cup – had Haninder Dhillon out leg-before. The score read 51/4 in the 14th over at this point.
To worsen things for Canada, their wicketkeeper-captain Ashish Bagai was caught behind by Dean Minors off Mukuddem four runs later. Hasan Durham, another left-arm spinner, also got into the act, collecting the scalps of Donovan Maxwell and Sanjayanan Thuraisingam, while Janeiro Tucker did his bit by castling Sunil Dhaniram with his medium pace. Canada was now reeling at 91/8 in the 34th over.
It was left to George Codrington, on ODI debut, to steady the sinking ship. Batting at number eight, the 39-year-old struck an unbeaten 45, easily the highest score of the innings, to enable Canada to reach 157/9 after 49 overs (one over was lost due to rain). He shared in stands of 30 with Kevin Sandher for the ninth wicket and 36* with Henry Osinde for the tenth wicket to lend some respectability to the total.
In a collective bowling display, the five bowlers shared the wickets between them. O’Brien, Mukuddem, Janeiro Tucker and Durham took two apiece, while Leverock returned stingy figures of 1/14 from his ten overs, five of which were maidens. Bermuda endured a poor start as well, losing Daniel Morgan to Thuraisingham in just the second over. The Canadians were by no means out of the contest.
The chase soon turned into a challenging task for the debutants. Mukuddem and Pitcher departed in successive overs to make the score 26/3. With the score at 32/3 in the 17th over, a second rain shower forced the players off the field. By the time play resumed, Bermuda’s target had been revised to 150 from 44 overs. Kwame Tucker was immediately bowled by Sandher, leaving the score at a perilous 32/4.
Davison’s off-spin proved to be particularly difficult for the Bermudan batsmen to negotiate. Having earlier removed Pitcher, Davison accounted for Irving Romaine, just when the batsman had motored his way to a promising 25, with the score at 55. Janeiro Tucker tried to break the shackles with a flurry of fours, but it did not last long, as Davison caught him off his own bowling to reduce Bermuda to 73/6.
Durham’s run-out, which made the score 89/7 in the 30th over, did not help the Bermudan cause, and the game now appeared to be slipping away from his team’s reach. Lionel Cann, batting at number nine despite primarily being a batsman, came out to join Minors, who had arrived at the crease at the fall of the fifth wicket. Davison (3/18) soon finished his quota of overs, thereby giving the duo a breather.
Minors and Cann set about chipping away at the target, their assurance growing with every over. Minors played the anchoring role with a cool head, while Cann provided him with the ideal support, notching singles and doubles with regularity to put pressure on the fielders. The breakthrough ultimately proved elusive for Canada, as Minors struck Thuraisingam for the winning four with nine balls left.
Bermuda’s three-wicket win meant that they became only the fourth team to win their very first ODI, after Australia (against England in 1970-71), New Zealand (against Pakistan in 1972-73) and Zimbabwe (against Australia in 1983). Minors, who was named Man of the Match, scored 46* from 90 balls with five fours and a six, while Cann hit 32* from just 28 balls. Their unbroken stand of 64 consumed 80 balls.
Bermuda were beaten by Zimbabwe by 194 runs in the last league game, before losing the final by 83 runs to the same opposition. Romaine led them at the 2007 World Cup, where they lost all three matches, to Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh. As of today, they have played 35 ODIs, with five of their seven wins coming against Canada. Their most recent ODI was against the Netherlands in 2008-09.