West Indies Tour Diary – Day 7

After nearly a week over here in the Caribbean, it was time for the serious business to begin. Today was the first day of the first Test between England and the West Indies.

I won’t bore you all with a match report, you’ll either have already read many, or not be interested at all I’m sure. Besides, keep an eye out on twitter and hopefully you’ll see my report online in a few places.

My day started at the crack of dawn this morning, our 8 o’clock transfer to the ground needing to be caught. So we wolfed down a quick breakfast, and headed out to reception to await our lift. After some mild confusion, always to be expected with Antiguan organisation, we found ourselves on a minibus being driven by an amiable local called Pearly, and judging by his beaming smile, that could easily be where he gets his name. A 25-minute journey on the uneven roads of western Antigua ensued. Note to self: avoid sitting above the wheel arches on roads that we last resurfaced when the British were still here in the 1950’s. But the ride was comfortable enough, and soon we were at the ground to take our seats.

The Sir Vivian Richards Stadium really is in the middle of nowhere, acting as a colossal roundabout for inland traffic bombing about towards the busier coastal areas. It consists of two modern stands, interspersed with two green grass banks square of the wicket. We took our seats in the North Stand, primarily for the shade it afforded us, but also because it gave us a privileged vantage point at about a straight mid-on position. To begin with it was clear that the English fans were in the majority around the ground. During the morning session I would go as far as to say, 90% of the spectators were supporting the visitors.

But as the afternoon drifted by, and aided by a few West Indian morning wickets, and a half day’s national holiday, the locals soon began to drift through the gates. By the middle of the afternoon, the ground really did have a great atmosphere. Before coming out here, I was a little worried as to whether this modern out of town ground would provide me with an authentic taste of cricket in the Caribbean. But I needn’t have worried. Not only were there dancing girls, beach chairs, and a Rasta DJ, one side of the ground have been turned into what looked like a mass family barbeque. An array of gazebos hid a plethora of tasty treats. Jerk chicken, rice and peas, BBQ ribs, rotis, all easily available; and cheap too. Two of us ate a decent size lunch and had a beer each, for just £10 all in. You’d struggle to get much more than a bag of chips for that in some English and Australian grounds!

The view from our seats was not just limited to the cricketing action, as we were able to see for miles in three directions. The fact that we couldn’t see the coast on an island 8 miles one way, and 11 the other, proves just how out of town this ground is. Behind the scoreboard large transatlantic flights and smaller local airliners drifting in between the mountain to land at V.C.Bird international airport.

As the day passed by, and as England entered a more commanding position within the game, the crowd became even more vocal and the steel band continued to play. The weather was beautiful, the beer plentiful, and England finished the day on top. Can’t complain really….

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