Today’s events unfolded a little differently than I expected they would first thing this morning.
Off we set as per usual for the Sir Viv Richards Stadium at 8:30 on ‘Pearly’s Fun Bus’, but after the first session I fancied a bit of a change. The cricket was okay, but it was clear that the afternoon sessions would not drastically alter the state of play, or at least barring disaster they wouldn’t.
So we thought we’d step out of the stadium at lunchtime and take a half-day off from the cricket to enjoy this island some more. The morning session was hard work for England, as Blackwood continued to thrash and block his way through to a half century and beyond. Although there was the dismissal of Chanderpaul, caught at cover off Tredwell, to cause some optimism, it was clear that the game would simply bob along during the final two sessions
As it turned out, we didn’t miss a huge amount. England wrapped up the final 6 wickets in about 90 minutes and then set about setting up a total for hosts to chase. Root and Ballance ensured that England ended the day in command and set up what should be an enthralling day’s action tomorrow.
Instead of the cricket, we came back to the resort for lunch and tucked into ribs and chicken at the outhouse, with a stunning view out over the north-eastern coast of Antigua. The afternoon was occupied with spending time at the staggeringly beautiful Valley Church beach. Despite the lengthy taxi ride (how can an island so small take so long to cross?), we had a wonderfully calming afternoon. I am not usually a fan of beaches, British beaches simply don’t appeal to me. A mass of pasty sweaty tourists, horrible stony sand, and filthy water, is not my idea of a good time. And this is bearing in mind that I spend a lot of my time in Devon, where apparently we have some of the nicest beaches in the country. But this beach today was something else, I was able to enter the water up to my neck, and still clearly see my feet under the water. What are the chances of that in England?
The beach itself was made of smooth white sand, and didn’t hurt when you stood or lied on it, what a novelty! Once we returned from the beach, and checked the cricket score (3G is still some way off in many parts of this island), we were pretty happy with the choice we made.
On a side note, over my time on the island, I have met a significantly large amount of locals who are either actively staying away for the cricket, or even supporting England, simply because there are no Antiguans in the West Indies side. This is a stark reminder that the West Indies face a uniquely difficult challenge in the world of cricket. There are constantly attempting to bring together a set of disparate and proudly patriotic nations. These national differences, I have learnt, are often underestimated by other cricketing nations, when attempting to address the ills of West Indian cricket.