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West Indies 2009


By England Cricket Sportnetwork
February 21 2013

In March 2009, we flew out to join some of the other 8,000 England Cricket Supporters, as they invaded the island of Barbados to support the team, in their four match series with the West Indies. Relive our journey on what was a most enjoyable trip abroad watching the England Cricket Team...

We flew out to Barbados to join some 8,000 other English supporters as the England cricket team aimed to square the series with the West Indies, what they saw was a run fest for both sides and no England win, but that didn't ruin the enjoyment of another tour watching this great game, and joining in with the atmosphere of going abroad to watch England in action.

In Flight

A mid day flight out of Manchester meant a relatively early (7.30ish) departure from my base in Nottinghamshire (I don't want to disclose my full location for fear of any stalkers who may read this article), but I am guessing it could have been a much worse time to be preparing for our trip to the now fourth test between the West Indies and England, to be played at the Kensington Oval in Barbados.

Owing to the farce of the second test, where the sandpit of the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium had led to the abandonment of the match after just a few minutes, this now third test in Barbados had been put back to a fourth game, indeed the whole series was now a five match one, instead of the planned four.

One of the questions I was asked in the week before departing, was that we should have been out in the Caribbean already, as the third test was already in progress (The Antigua Recreation Ground re-arranged test), but I put this down to people not quite being up on the world affairs of this wonderful game we follow.

We had planned on booking with the Barmy Army and doing both the Barbados and Trinidad test matches, but given time restraints on the amount of days needed in holidays at work, the BA packages turned out to be out of the equation, so alternative operators were sought. We eventually had booked our trip with CricketHolidays.co.uk, which turned out to be a travel agency from Norwich which had run trips to the Caribbean for the World Cup in 2007, but was now looking to expand into the more lucrative overseas test market with trips for this tour to Antigua and Barbados (anyway, enough on them and our hostess Laurence for now, more on them later).

With England still one down from the Jamaica 51 all out scenario still fresh in everyone's memory that was on the trip with me, as we headed into the departure lounge in terminal 2 at Manchester Airport, we also wanted to try and forget the tactical mistakes made in Antigua, most notably sending in a night watchman at the end of day 3, when England were in effect 300-1.

Time wasted on the morning of the fourth day had led to the bowlers running out of time at the end of Day 5 at the Antigua Recreation Ground, and subsequently not squaring the series at 1-1 ahead of the Barbados Test. The perfect trip would of course finish in an England victory to send them off the final test in Trinidad level, and we could come back home in the knowledge that a predicted series win, would eventually bear fruit.

Having flown to Australia a couple of years ago now, the flight time of just over 8 hours, held no problems in terms of being bored for any length of time, although the 24 hour flight version had been something alien to us, so now 'seasoned' at travelling long distances, it was inevitable that once the complimentary bar opened, and some 200+ cricket fans wanted a beverage alongside us, that we would take full advantage.

Obviously this was all done in the name of research for this article, so I will have to now cut this paragraph short, as the freebies stopped just 2 and a bit hours into the flight, due to stocks running dry. Now I am estimating that a good 90% of the people on the flight, were heading to the test match, and upsetting so many people, so soon could have had an adverse effect on the good natured mood of everyone, but us cricket supporters are nothing but tolerable over the slightest misfortune, and we simply settled down to watch the limited entertainment on offer, via the in-flight system that Virgin were offering up.

After touching down on the Runway at Barbados, and being scanned for immigration irregularities, it was out into the night heat for the transfer to the hotel. Nothing unusual in that you may think, but always on my previous holidays or tours, once the moment had been reached, where I was re-united with my designer clothing, my suitcase normally has stayed with me for the duration of my holiday.

Not this time, as what appeared to be some local rogue removal man whisked it away within a minute of leaving the airport revolving door, saying he needed to shove it away in his van, whilst we caught a small bus to the hotel.

Fair play, despite the reservations about waving goodbye to any change of clothes for the two week break, our suitcases were duly left in the reception area of the hotel later that evening. I am guessing at the time, but since found out that due to the small nature of the Island, and with it's narrow back streets and limited dual carriageways, any coach bigger than a 20 seater, would simply get stuck in between two rum shacks, and cause gridlock until removed.

The Warm Up

Rather in a selfish act, I was a little delighted of the abandonment in Antigua (obviously not with the disruption it caused to fans in Antigua at the time), given the moving of each test from the ones scheduled, it meant the warm up game in Barbados would now be started whilst we were flying, instead of finishing about an hour before we landed. In a nutshell, it transpired that our first day would be watching the fringe players get a run out against a Barbados X1 at the Windward cricket ground.

The first obstacle of the day was actually finding the damn ground, this proved more difficult for the taxi driver, more than most, and the 100 dollar quote for the journey, soon turned into double that amount, once he realized just how far the game was from our hotel base.

Taxis on the island do not have meters, so prices have to be agreed before departure, as in this case we soon remembered that when agreeing the 100 dollar fare, we forgot to request a return run to be included in the price, hence the doubling one feels.

It was a picturesque scene at the Windward cricket ground with England racking up 351-8 on the opening day, and then having the hosts 49-4 on day one of this two day warm up match, it meant that for a time at least we would see the likes of Amjad Khan and Adil Rashid bowling in England colours. Rashid for me is a bit of a mixed bag, I have seen him plenty of times for Yorkshire against my home side Notts, and he does bowl many a ball which can be cut, and this needs taking out of his game, as at International level, he could go for quite a few runs, the potential is there though, of that there is little doubt, but even during this warm up game, my opinion that I formed at county level, had only been reinforced here. Khan bowled with genuine pace during his spells, and could in time really force himself into the side.

A surreal moment came though when Ian Bell was asked to bowl his medium pacers, not long into the day, and from then on, I guess it was just a case for us, to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere around the ground, along with the 400 odd supporters, and of course, have a beer or two. With only two days to squeeze four innings into, a draw was only ever going to be outcome of such an exercise, but it lets you get up closer to the players, and really make you feel part of the tour, from an early stage of journey as well. England bowled out the home side for 245 and with not long to bat. made 142-2 themselves.

One point we did make, whilst watching the action, was the colour of the side screens at each end, these being a coloured version, got us to thinking, if Batsman can play with these in the background, why all the fuss during test matches when someone moves around, three miles behind the side screen?

As the game was out in the fields of the island, the wind generated from the wide open spaces, led to a belief that the sun wasn't all that powerful, the soreness felt the following morning proved otherwise, and once again teaches a valuable lesson in keeping lotion on all day.

Join the Queue

As we had been tied up at the warm up game the day previous (not under durest of course, but by choice), we had set aside the Tuesday to go into Bridgetown and up to the Kensington Oval to pick up some tickets, in readyness for the test starting on the Thursday. News had sort of filtered through to the Hotel the night previous that some people had been queuing for up to 5 hours on the Monday for tickets for the first days play.

We put that down to chinese whispers, and the fact that as some people in and around the hotel had spare tickets, we thought it could have been a scare tactic to push us into buying the left overs. With all that in mind, we joined the free excursion bus into Bridgetown (laid on by the hotel), and after being seconded by a local street seller to purchase a piece of tat, we took the 20 minute walk up to the ground.

Upon reaching the ground, a medium size queue greeted us, which sort of snaked around the red digicel canape, ah maybe just a hour to get through this we thought, given that there must have been no more than 300 folk in the enclosed area.

By now though, we were coming to terms with the whole Caribbean work ethic, which roughly translates to trudge along at a snails pace, and if anyone pops in for a chat, complete that conversation before seeing to any customers which happen to have been baking in the sun for too long.

With just three windows at the ticket office, one for party stand tickets, one for actual ticket sales, and the other for pick ups, we waited and waited for a good hour, and after only moving around three steps, we plumped for the nearest solution, yep the pub. It was there we decided to head back to the office and buy party stand tickets for 200 barbadian dollars.

The queue was down to two for that window, and despite only knowing at the point it was all you can eat and drink for that price, it was the only way to guarantee us gaining entry for the first days play. We had seen plenty of other English supporters do the same during the morning, so we weren't going to be alone in that stand during day one.

Despite the reports of a 28,000 capacity in the ground, there still appeared to plenty of medium sized panic going around, that people wouldn't get in for the first couple of days. Ourselves were just convinced that the slowness's in getting the tickets sold, was causing all the problems.

Later on during that day, we met a guy who claimed to be a tout, who stated that on the morning of each days play, touts had access to plenty of tickets, and would sell them at not much more than cost price.

This cheered us up slightly, as it looked like after all, that at some point, we would be able to get our hands on tickets for days 2, 3 and 5. We were disappointed to hear though that all top tier seats around the ground had completely sold out, although again, we couldn't be sure if this was all hearsay or genuine fact.

Cricket Fans Race Day

Before departure we were informed that the Barmy Army had been heavily involved in putting together a sort of cricket fans day at the Garrison race course the day prior to the test match starting. We had initially looked at going to the race course for the Barbados gold cup event, which looked a rather prestigious event, but as that was to be held on the day prior to returning home, and this fans day would attract plenty of english support, we opted for this event.

Upon getting to the course, we were filtered into two queues, one that would pay the full 20 dollar entrance fee, and another that would see a barmy army queue, where people could get 5 dollars (about 2 quid) off the entrance fee.

This of course involved being affected by the local work ethic as described above, and took around 15 minutes to get the ticket we needed to get into the course. Some people saw the full price queue moving much quicker, and opted for that, this prompted a rather unusual response from one punter, who shouted "well how do we determine who is the barmy army or not", obviously unsure which queue to join.

2616_57589558151_4282020_n.jpgThe reply got me thinking somewhat, when one representive who appeared to be organizing the whole queuing malarkey, replied "we are all the barmy army, it is just a name". Mmmm, 'just a name' I thought, so the consistent selling of merchandize and tour operations that goes on, is just a name is it? Some would say it is an organization now, maybe even a corporate one at that.

But still, from my own personal point of view, having been thankful for my first England tour to Australia in 2006, with the Barmy Army, I have the up most respect for the effort that goes on to getting as many people out on tours, as the Barmy Army does so well, it was the response to the question which just left me a little puzzled, that was all. Certainly the excellent full colour brochure given out free of charge at the racecourse, with an interview with Courtney Walsh, and background information on each Island in the Caribbean, must have cost a fortune to produce.

One nice touch from the locals prior to the races starting, was the fact that everyone stopped what they were doing (not that the locals needed much prompting to stand around may I add) and stood to attention for the playing of the national anthem, just how it should be observed in my eyes.

Anyway, enough politics, us cricket supporters shouldn't get embezzled in any of that sort of thing, so with many a bet or two placed and a good 1000 strong English cricket support in the crowd, even the rain showers, couldn't spoil a good afternoon at the races, even the beer was at a good reasonable price. Those who were involved in getting this organized, deserve a great credit for such a good event.

The fact I won about 100 dollars during it, maybe helped a little in enjoying the day that little bit more. Horse racing has obviously caught on over there, as each race passed the enclosure, dozens of locals proceeded to tread onto the edge of the track, and urge their respective horse on towards the finishing line. It was during the racing, that we were handed fliers to a 'legends' twenty20 game featuring some of the giants of West Indian years past, and low and behold the event would take place at the Dover playing fields, which happened to be just over the road from our hotel, talk about a stroke of luck.

One thing of note worth making at this point, is that even the smallest playing fields on the island, have floodlights, now that is something that puts us to shame as a sporting playing nation. Most of the time, we seem to want to sell our playing fields, but here we have the West Indians putting up fields that can be used 24 hours a day, by a number of sports.

This particular field was all marked out for either cricket/football or Athletics. Again there was some rather rogue rumours doing the rounds on the way to the game, to the tune of such that Ian Botham would turn out for the International X1 team against the West Indian Legends, these proved to be false, and it was more a case of Old West Indians against players who recently played for the side. Instantly recognizable as the crowd thronged on the sidelines, were Joel Garner, Jimmy Adams and Desmond Haynes for the legends, and left arm seamer Ian Bradshaw and England bowling coach Otis Gibson for the opposition.

The traffic problems which seemed to blight our return back from the races, had an adverse effect on the start of the game, which was delayed by about an hour, as half the players were not there on time, and probably stuck behind us in the queues of vehicles back from Bridgetown. Although we didn't stay for the duration of the game, Sky Sports News were on hand to interview both Joel Garner and Sir Garfield Sobers, all played in the background to the wildest and wackiest commentator I have ever heard. I tried to catch some of his banter on video, but the guy was brilliant and had the crowd in stitches for most of the game.

The game did provide a few minutes of fame for one of the party I had travelled with, when returning from dinner at the hotel, he was too busy looking where he was walking, adjacent to the field of play, when he was took out by a towering six from Joel Garner. The commentator, obviously concerned with the mans welfare, proceeded to chant "he's down, he's down" before asking the crowd to join in. The chap was ok, just a bruised rib to show for his moment of fame.

Day 1 at the Kensington Oval

Cricket starts at ten o clock on the various islands that make up the West Indies, this is due to a quick sun setting time of around 5.30, so play would never go past 6 o clock, as is the norm in England.

With that in mind, we were still a little surprised at the 8.15 pick up time, for what was in essence just a 20 minute drive into Bridgetown and onto the ground. We soon realized why though, as just 10 yards from the hotel, we came to a complete stop in hideous traffic gridlock, and it took around half an hour, just to get to the junction at the top of the road.

All in all, the journey took around just over an hour to complete, so in hindsight it was just as well we did the early start routine. The ground was a hive of activity, but seeing as we already had our party stand tickets, we headed straight to the gate to gain access. I must admit to being pleasantly surprised at what the Party Stand actually brought you for your 200 dollars.

We were presented with sun lounger each (admit tingly this was an extra 10 dollars), but along with that, came your food vouchers. It wasn't exactly all you can eat as first thought, but three meals for the day would surfice, and would undoubtedly help alongside the numerous amounts of alcohol that was about to be consumed.

2616_57353638151_6193538_n.jpgAfter pitching against the last available sun umbrella, it was off on the journey of beer flowing expeditions, and once the loud roar of the crowd had given us the news we all wanted (Strauss wining the toss and choosing to bat), it was a settle down to watch cricket, laid on a sun lounger, on a beach, in completely surreal circumstances. Normally, you would sit on a plastic chair all day, and suffer tremendous backside ache, but this was certainly the way to watch cricket, and comes highly recommended.

The Kensington Oval is a wonderful arena, following its redevelopment for the World Cup in 2007. A new Greenidge and Haynes stand was directly over from the Party Stand, whilst the '3 w's' stand to our right was even more impressive, and now featured the Joel Garner end. Each stand was packed out with strong English support, which was estimated at over 8000 my some media reports, but for an away test match, no other nation comes close to this level of support.

Some Leicester lads were perched on the table next to us, and despite several boasts during the day that they were drinking everyone under the table, the sight of the supposed ring leader, sprawled out on my lounger with an hours play still to go, will serve him right for making such a boast. The atmosphere generated from the party stand was a more than friendly one, and provided a good back drop for a warm day, and England racking up 301-3 during the day.

Food consisted of some stale flavoured scrambled egg with similar tasting brown bread. Dinner was a much more accomplished chicken (or fish) with all the trimmings and was very edible. I did have some issues with the last voucher of the day though, for having been late in collecting ones tea, until well after most other people had.

2616_57353683151_5958359_n.jpgThis left just a chicken roll as the final option on offer. This was ok, until I realized that the chicken in question, already on the roll when I had bitten into it, had all the bleeding bones on, now my teeth aint the most stable of things these days, but luckily the took kindly to the crunching asked of them, until I could correct the situation.

Out in the middle, the ton by Andrew Strauss was an obvious highlight, and the ease in which him and Alastair cook put on 229 for the first wicket, ought to have given us some clues as to the nature of the wicket, and how the game would pan out. It was a surprise then, when Strauss was cleaned up by a Powell in swinging yorker, and England, having been 221-0 at tea, lost three wickets (Strauss, Cook and Shah), before finishing on 301-3. I must admit to being surprised with the lack of noise coming from what was a packed Hewitt and Innis lower section, where the Barmy Army was all congregated.

After all, we had wanted tickets for all five days in that section, but couldn't get them, and would have expected to be sat in awe at the atmosphere from the other side of the ground. Indeed I would say that the noise and atmosphere we had in the Party Stand, surpassed that of the area with the Barmy Army. A tiring but enjoyable day had ended with England firmly on top, mind you the pitch looked a very easy one to bat on, and that opinion was formed from a very early stage, possibly best, given the amount of freebies we took advantage of.

One noticeable thing from day one, was that nowhere on earth could the ground accommodate 28,000 supporters. We worked out that the beach we were situated on, would have to see temporary seating, as would the other side of the scoreboard, next to the media centre. I would plump for 15 or maybe 16,000 could squeeze into the place in it's current state, and that would mean a good 1000 or so being on the beach alongside us.

Day 2 at the Kensington Oval

At 200 dollars and some serious damage done to the liver, there was no chance of doing the Party Stand for all five days, so having rolled up in the slow moving traffic on Day 2, we tried desperately to get tickets for the Barmy Army section, but the nearest we got, was two stands down in the Hall & Griffith stand. This cost us 45 dollars, so around £16 or thereabouts.

This was situated next to the players pavilion, and did provide an excellent viewpoint, even with the sun in your face for the 3/4 of the day. It also gave some welcome and quiet relief from the amount of booze that had been consumed on day 1 of the test match, and enabled us to have a day sat watching all the action on the field, instead of just parts of it. We were all hoping England could go on and make 600 plus, and really put the West Indies under pressure.

2616_57589588151_6365456_n.jpgThe beer that we did buy, was five dollars per bottle, whilst the food was quite expensive at 20 dollars for a fairly decent helping, so in a nutshell it was starting to make our day in the party stand of 200 dollars, sound good value. The second day belonged to Ravi Bopara, who hit his maiden test ton, with a stylish 104, although he did receive a barrage of short bowling from Fidel Edwards, which kept us entertained throughout.

The rate in which Bopara and Ambrose (113 run partnership) got their runs enabled England to race to 600-6 and then declare, and provided good entertainment between lunch and tea. It left the West Indies to face 22 overs, and they had reached 85-1 by the close of play, the wicket of Chris Gayle providing a loud cheer, even though it took the ridiculous referral system to get it.

The atmosphere from the Barmy Army section was much better on Day 2, with about a good hours singing and dancing taking place after tea. Freddie made us all aware of his impending departure when he came onto the players balcony and waved at our section of support, indicating he was off back home.

Despite England's runs and the wicket of Gayle, we still knew this was a batting paradise, and Sarwan and Chanderpaul were to be gotten out yet. I must admit to not being used to sitting at cricket, without a fair consumption of beer all day, but this was one such occasion, as the previous days escapades had certainly caught up with me. It was with the first part of that statement in mind then, that I was delighted with the suggestion of day three in the party stand to help us put up with the expected Windies piling on the runs on this placid surface.

Day 3 at the Kensington Oval

And so it was with good anticipation that we headed to the ground for the Saturday at the test.

In England these are particular renowned for either dressing up, or party type days. Abroad is no exception to the rule, as we saw countless guys dressed as women, as we headed out of the hotel. It was also welcome relief to avoid all the gridlock traffic that we had experienced during transportation to the first couple of days play. In fact it was a 20 minute shuttle run straight to the ground, and gave us all hope that we could end up with a prime spot for the sun lounger in the party stand.

2616_57589538151_217700_n.jpgWhat we hadn't sort of counted on, was that as this wasn't a working day in Barbados, the locals would use the opportunity to actually bother with the test match, there were numerous locals scattered around as we entered the stand, as well as a fair amount of English support, much more than were in the stand on day 1. The only spot therefore available was right out in the sun, which was already very hot, even for 9 o clock in the morning. Indeed the West Indian players were feeling it, and were warming up topless as they played football near to the front of the party stand. It was interesting to note that whilst you thought the home side would be practicing their batting skills, that they chose to play football, and in the far background, it was indeed England practicing with the willow, very strange.

At 85-1 and a flat track, we all expected to the Windies to bat all day, and for us to enjoy the sunshine and atmosphere all day of the party stand. We declined to offer the Leicester lads the opportunity to gain revenge for winning the drinking stakes during Day 1, mainly as their partners were now in toe, and it would have been unfair to show anyone up in front of their spouse. Instead of the huge amounts of bottled larger from day 1, a couple os us decided to try many a vodka run, which became all the more easier to control, as the heat became impossible to sit out in, for more than 10 minutes at a time, god only knows how the English fielders got in during day 3, in that soaring heat.

Solace was find in the shape of the bar at the far end, where shade was more than welcoming for the supporters in the sun. As predicted, the Windies were to bat all day, and they finished on 398-5, with Sarwan proving to be a complete git and not get out, finishing on 184 no out at the end of the day. The atmosphere inside the stand was even better than the first day, as I mentioned a few more English were around, and a number of familiar barmy army faces had used the day to come and party along as well, this truly was my best day of watching test match cricket, even with the Windies piling on the runs. Yes, we were watching a draw unfold, but the banter and friendliness of the locals alongside the English support, was something else, superb stuff.

Recovery Day

Waking up for day 4 of the match presented may a new problem,  a couple of us were waking after the free transfer from the hotel had already left, and also feeling fully the effects of the vodka runs the day previous. Not to mention the effects of the heat as well during the afternoon of the previous day, so with heavy heads, and not wanting to sit in the stand and watch Sarwan reach nearly 300 (and possibly beyond we thought at the start of the day).

I am sure that even if the party stand was on offer for day 4, we wouldn't have made it in time to get a decent spot. With all that in mind, we took the decision to have a day off, rest up on the beach, and leave everyone else to it, so that we did. With the West Indies getting up to and passing England's 600-6, the home sides 749-9 declared meant the game had fell into the batting showcase we had probably expected since the opening day. Sarwan finally fell for 291, just as he was looking set to beat Lara's world record 400 score.

Day 5 at the Kensington Oval

Despite some negative comments around the resort at the end of day 4, which besides mentioning Sarwan and the Windies getting 149 ahead of England, most were that the game would just trundle along towards a draw, but having missed the previous day, we were always going to sit in the Monday morning rush hour traffic, and miss only one day of action.

After all, this was the only test we would be attending, so three days only was never going to be an option. As well, the recovery day had worked really well, and we were all refreshed for the day ahead, and we wanted to cheer England on in the morning, just in case there was any minor hiccups along the way. England have in previous years, not been able to just bat, for battings sake. In other words, to save a game, England have collapsed on the morning of the 5th day before (Adelaide anyone?), but surely not on this feather bed, this would be easy meat.

And so, with typical Monday morning rush hour traffic on the island to contend with, we took the hour long arduous journey for the last time to the Kensington Oval. Luckily the queue for last day tickets was minimal, and the prices were slashed dramatically. Finally we managed to get a ticket for the Hewitt and Innis stand, for just 20 dollars as well (around £8) so was quite pleased all round.

Again though, the vast majority of the atmosphere created on the day was done by the locals, and the local drummer was joined on the final day by a conductor come trumpeter who put the Barmy Army to shame in the afternoon by actually getting the Greenidge & Haynes stand to join in with the Barmy Army song (on two separate occasions).

Maybe it was the sparse crowd all round, but the singing from the BA was minimal at best, with just a spluttering of individuals trying to lift the crowd. Cooks ton provided the highlight on the field, as England safely batted out the draw, without the nerves setting in, even with a couple of wickets falling along the way. 279-2 being the final score when the players finally shook hands. Cook had finally turned one of his many 50's into a century, and gave us all the chance for a standing ovation.

An early finish was always on the cards, the only downside was that any transfer back to the hotel wouldn't be forthcoming, and so a prolonged wait at the roundabout meeting point was the last abiding memory of the last days action. In enabled reflection on the four days we had been to the Kensington Oval, and the over riding thought I guess was the whole atmosphere thing.

Having been in the MCG with 30,000 English supporters, and now in Barbados with 8,000 plus, maybe too many supporters provides overkill for the singing to really get going. The Barmy Army really seem to come into their own at the remote outposts, just as they seem to be doing in Trinidad, as I write this.

Certainly thinking back to Melbourne in 2006, and even Sydney to a degree a little later in that Ashes series, there appeared to be two groups of singing on that occasion, and to a smaller extent, even here, in Barbados. You had the section where the hardcore Barmy Army seemed to be sitting, and then a section in the Party Stand, and both never really were in harmony.

I am not sure if that is the view that came across on the television or not, but with such a huge English contingent at the ground, I was certainly expecting a bit more in terms of the overall atmosphere. Without a doubt though, the two days we had been in the Party Stand, were the two best days of the four day excursion to the game, and now rank as two of the best days I have ever had watching this beautiful game. One of the better highlights of the day though was to follow later that evening, during one of our many treks onto the hub of nightlife on the island, into St Lawrence Gap, where a number of players from both sides were to be found in the Irish bar, later on during the evening.

Word of their presence, obviously spread, and the place was soon thronging with many a request for pictures following. To their credit, not one player objected as supporters and players alike mingled and enjoyed the nights festivities.

Final Thoughts

The wind down then began the day after, enabling further reflection and one last invite from our tour operator (Cricket Holidays) and our host Laurence, for us to join him at his hotel for a hour long drink to for thank you and a goodbye from him.

Now, I am not to one to gauge negative comments from what happened next, or to critize someone who had organized excellent transfers to the hotel from the airport, or to and from the ground, so I won't.

But will say that the walk though the acres and acres of land and past the three large swimming pools (Compared to our two toddler only pools), and the six restaurants (compared to our one little chef) of the hotel, given to the party from Gatwick, which landed three days prior to ours, made me wonder where the large bullseye sign was at the end of the path 'look at what you could have won guys'.

It may have been a free upgrade etc, but I wasn't going to let politics get in the way of a good Jim Bowen reference to finish this article.

It was during the day after the final days play, of the news that the Sri Lankian team had suffered the horrendous terror attack in Pakistan, which resulted in the deaths of some of their police guard, and injuries to the some of the test team. It got us all thinking of just how lucky we were to be able to have a drink next to the West Indian & England players the night previous, and how such an occurrence would not be likely in future.

It was that sort of event, that separated cricketers out from certain other sportsman, especially footballers. Such a tragic event had taken place elsewhere in the world, yet it was this wonderful cricket family we were involved with on the tour, that still felt the vibrations of the fall out of such a horrific attack. Cricket has the strength to recover, and tours such as these we have been so lucky to be involved with, must go on.

The real last word I feel however, must really go to the flat pitch in Barbados, and can we really expect that after winning in Jamacia, the West Indians haven't gone out and made sure each wicket (Antigua being exceptional circumstances) was as flat as some of the local Bank's beer.

Administrator - England Cricket Sportnetwork

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West Indies 2009
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