Even before he made his ODI debut, West Indian fast bowler Fidel Edwards had earned plaudits for his performances in the three Tests he had played. A promising youngster from Barbados, Edwards was seen as a future pace bowling hope for the West Indies to take forward the legacy of his fiery predecessors.
Edwards made his Test debut at the age of 21 in the second Test against Sri Lanka at Kingston in 2003. In his very first innings, he recorded figures of 5/36 which paved the way for the West Indies’ series-clinching seven-wicket victory.
Then in his next Test, against Zimbabwe at Harare, he picked up 5/133 and was the only bowler with respectable figures as Zimbabwe racked up 507 in their first innings. The West Indies were set 373 to win in the fourth innings and were on the brink of defeat at 207/9 when last man Edwards joined Ridley Jacobs at the crease with almost twelve overs to go.
The two defied the hosts and escaped with a draw. Edwards scored a heroic 1* from 33 balls. The West Indies went on to win the second Test and the series. Thus in his first two Tests, Edwards had played a part in two series wins for his team.
The ODI leg of the Zimbabwe tour began a few days later. Zimbabwe were leading the five-match series 2-1 when the teams squared up at the Harare Sports Club for the fourth ODI on November 29, 2003. Faced with a must-win situation, the visitors brought in Edwards into their ODI eleven for the first time.
Zimbabwean captain Heath Streak won the toss and confidently put the West Indies to bat. The Windies batting had been poor in the defeats in the second and third ODIs, in which they mustered only 125 and 208 respectively. The onus was on the batsmen if the West Indies had to come back in the series.
Openers Wavell Hinds and Chris Gayle did not disappoint. They added 96 at more than six an over before Gayle was out for a quickfire 51 off 34 balls. Rain in the later stages of the innings meant that the West Indian innings had to end after 45 overs.
The score read a sturdy 256/3, with Hinds remaining unbeaten on a career-best 127. The Zimbabweans had a tough challenge – their target was revised to 223 runs from just 32 overs, i.e a required rate of nearly seven an over.
Debutant Edwards seized the moment with a high quality exhibition of pace and swing. Off his first ball, he uprooted Barney Rogers’ woodwork to become the third West Indian bowler and 18th overall to take a wicket off his first ball in ODI cricket.
In his second over, Edwards snapped up two wickets in two balls en route to a double-wicket maiden. Off the second ball of the over, Vusi Sibanda was caught behind by Jacobs while Craig Wishart was out leg before the very next delivery.
By the end of the fourth over, Zimbabwe were reeling at 10/3. Edwards’ figures read 2-1-2-3 at this point. He made sure his third and fourth overs too had at least one wicket each. Off the fourth ball of his third over, he removed Mark Vermuelen thanks to a catch from Shivnarine Chanderpaul.
Then off the fourth ball of his fourth, he claimed his fifth wicket in the form of Stuart Matsikenyeri, who was out caught by Edwards’ mentor and fellow Barbadian Corey Collymore. The hosts were in tatters at 23/5 after eight overs. Edwards’ numbers at this stage were devastating – 4-1-7-5.
The match as a contest was over, and the only point of interest was that how many more wickets could Edwards add on his dream ODI debut. Gayle dismissed Streak to make it 47/6, at which point Tatenda Taibu (66) and Sean Ervine came together.
The pair attempted a fightback with a valiant 99-run stand for the seventh wicket, but due to Edwards’ sensational opening burst, it was far too late in the day. Off the second ball of his final over, which was also the final over of the innings, Edwards added one more to his kitty by clean bowling Taibu.
Zimbabwe ended at 150/7, losing by 72 runs on the D/L method. As for the series, the West Indies won it with a convincing eight-wicket win in the decider the very next day.
Edwards’ final bowling analysis were 7-1-22-6 and he was named man of the match. With his last wicket, he became the record-holder of the best bowling figures on ODI debut, and also became the first – and till date, only – bowler to take six wickets on ODI debut.
He broke the record of Australian fast bowler Tony Dodemaide, who had taken 5/21 on his ODI debut against Sri Lanka at Perth in 1987-88. Edwards also became the second bowler after Dodemaide to take a five-wicket haul on both Test and ODI debut.
However, Edwards is the first to take five wickets in the first innings of his first Test as well as in his first ODI (Dodemaide had taken 6/58 in the second innings on his Test debut, against New Zealand at Melbourne in 1987-88).
Before Edwards, five bowlers – Sri Lanka’s Shaul Karnain, Dodemaide, South Africa’s Allan Donald, Canada’s Austin Codrington and Sri Lanka’s Charitha Buddhika – had taken five-wicket hauls on ODI debut.
Since then, two others – Zimbabwe’s Brian Vitori and Bangladesh’s Taskin Ahmed – have joined the list, bringing the membership of this exclusive club to eight. Edwards’ figures tops them all, being the only six-wicket haul in the list.
Edwards could never really capitalise on this fantastic start to his international career. Throughout his decade-long career, he has been dogged by inconsistency and injuries. His current bowling averages are 37.87 in 55 Tests and 30.20 in 50 ODIs, underlining the fact that he has not been able to realise his potential to the fullest.
He has not played an ODI for the West Indies since the 2009 England tour, while his most recent Test appearance came against Bangladesh in 2012-13.
The only other time he has taken five wickets in an ODI was against England at Lord’s in 2007, when he took 5/45. In Tests, he has recorded twelve bags of five wickets or more.
All the same, Edwards’ eleven-year old record will not be too easy to break.
Match Scorecard – http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/64851.html