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North and West Coast South Coast Beaches

9th March 2017

West Indies v England One Day International, Minus the Cigarettes

His Excellency
The Right Honourable
Sir Garfield Sobers
    After an early start we headed up to the bus stop. A taxi, one of the 15-seater varieties, rounded the corner and a voice appeared from within, "Cricket!" Well, since we were heading to the cricket at Kensington Oval on the other side of Bridgetown, how could we refuse. "$15 each," said the young man who served as a conductor and customer grabber for the taxi. A done deal, and we piled in.
    It was full of Brits. One chap had his Norwich City football shirt on (a source of rivalry with Ipswich Town). He lived near Great Yarmouth. Another bloke came from Hull, and I have no idea where the rest came from.
    The driver had plonked me at the front of the bus next to him. Needless to say, on this one-day West Indies v England match, the roads were jam packed with folk trying to get to the ground for the 09:30 start. Our driver darted down back roads to avoid congestion, whizzed through Bridgetown, and delivered us to a drop-off point at the stadium. We all piled out, and took a long walk to the end of the queue, which was 95% British. Many were in garb representing cricket clubs or cricket package outfits that they had travelled with. A contingent of middle-aged gents, accountants Rex called them, were marching along, all dressed in Fred Flintstone attire. A couple from Gloucester were behind us, and a couple from Hampshire in front. It was a proper carnival atmosphere.
    After an age we reached the front where suspicious folk were frisked. Fortunately I was not regarded as suspicious, but arch villain Rex had the once over, and his cigarettes and lighter were confiscated. That was a crushing blow to Rex; first-aiders were soon in attendance.
    A second gate was the ticket check, and then we were inside the ground. A statue of His Excellency, The Right Honourable Sir Garfield Sobers, National Hero of Barbados, universally recognized as the world's greatest cricketer and in whose honour the Players Pavilion is named, dominates the entry to the Oval. An outstanding all-rounder, Sir Gary was also an excellent fielder. He represented the West Indies from 1953 until his retirement in 1974. In 2000, Sir Gary was named as one of the five Wisden Cricketers of the Century. Stands at the Ground are named after The 3 W's (Worrell, Walcott and Weekes), Wes Hall and Charlie Griffith, Desmond Haynes and Gordon Greenidge, and Sir Gary Sobers, among others.
A Selection of Stands
    Within minutes were seated up on the second floor in the Greenidge Stand, overlooking the pitch. Kensington Oval is Barbados' oldest cricket ground, having been established in 1882 when Pickwick Cricket Club leased 4 acres of pasture land from Kensington Plantation and started to develop it as a cricket ground with a clubhouse. The official capacity of the old ground was 15,000, although more were crammed in on occasions. The ground was closed down at the end of the 2004-05 season and demolished in order that a new stadium could be built at a cost of $135 million in time for the 2007 World Cup, with the capacity being raised to 28,000.
    The venue is steeped in history. It hosted the first England touring side (1895), the first combined West Indies side (against MCC in 1910-11) and was the scene of West Indies' first Test in 1930. The reason for this is mainly geographical; Barbados is the easternmost island in the West Indies and so the first port of call for travellers from Europe. That first Test produced records aplenty, with Andrew Sandham's 325, the first Test triple hundred (in 1920 Tim Tarilton had hit the first triple century in West Indies on the ground). Kensington Oval was also the venue for the World Twenty20 finals in 2010.
Our Vantage Point in the Greenidge Stand
    People were still pouring in well after the start of the game. We were surrounded by a motley collection of folk, many wearing attire reflecting their affiliation to clubs. A complete Yorkshire family, parents plus three daughters sat behind us. The spectators were predominantly middle-aged or older, with lots of couples. Some wives were content to read a book throughout the match, and some old men were happy to enjoy a snooze.
    Todays match was a One Day International (ODI) between West Indies and England. As opposed to a standard Test Match, the ODI is a form of limited overs cricket, played between two teams with international status, in which each team faces a fixed number of overs, usually 50. The Cricket World Cup is played in this format. The first ODI was played on 5th January 1971, between Australia and England at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. When the first three days of the third Test were washed out, officials decided to abandon the match and, instead, play a one-off one day game consisting of 40 eight-ball overs per side. Australia won the game by 5 wickets.
Some of the Action
    The implication of the game being wrapped up within a single day was that teams would be prepared to take risks, adding a layer of excitement to the sport. The fact that England had won both the first two ODIs in Antigua put the crowd on edge; could they also win this final game in Barbados?
    Rex had done an excellent job in trying to educate me in the sport. Cricket was not one of my passions, and I had never watched a proper match before. However, with such a jovial, infectiously enthusiastic crowd, it was easy to get sucked into the spirit of the occasion.
The Big Picture
    After each over, music was played while the field rearranged itself. Ever present T.V. cameras would pan around and catch spectators enjoying themselves during these moments, large screen projectors relaying the images to the crowd. On the opposite side of the pitch, the Party Stand where folk had no protection from the sun, the Barmy Army were gathered. A couple of lads in that group, sporting well developed beer bellies, would dance around comically on an impromptu stage, wearing just their shorts. Their antics were hilarious, and they received great cheers from the rest of the stadium. Their strutting soon became a regular feature during the match.
The Party Stand
    To add to the occasion, Rex and I sampled a Banks beer, then another, and then another. The day was mellowing out well.
    England finished their innings 328 all out, with centuries from Alex Hales and Joe Root. A 40 minute break would ensue before the West Indies would be out to bat.
    Rex was missing a smoke, so he set off during the break to rectify the situation. He wandered off to the exit gates and fell into conversation with a chap who originated from Lytham Saint Annes, one of the Barmy Army brigade judging by the T-shirt. The fellow had joined Cunard for a while before he settled in California. He now ran a staff agency for care homes, and was doing very well for himself. He was passionate about European football, and was always watching it on Sky. Rex referred to him as a chatterbox - strange, I always thought Rex was the chatterbox.
    Rex then fell in with a couple of ticket touts, to whom he explained his withdrawal misery. A friend of one of the touts told him not to worry, and he would go off and bring some cigarettes into the ground. However, this chap was frisked, and the security called in the police, who promptly marched the chap off. To this day Rex still doesn't know what the problem was nor his fate.
    The West Indies team sadly failed to make a come-back during their innings, and were all out for 142. Some spectators were disappointed in the game, expecting a better fight from the West Indian team. Despite not understanding the game and its tactics completely, I really enjoyed the whole occasion.
Future Players
    We didn't hang about for the team captain interviews, but joined the happy throng snaking their way back along the roads into central Bridgetown. It was indeed a happy throng, and even the Bajans could smile about the result. The traffic was of course chaotic, and did not stand a chance at pedestrian crossings.
    We picked up the bus depot by Constitution River, and a wiry chap collared us for a bus down to Maxwell; we were grateful. It was a usual 15-seater minibus, but soon 22 souls were crammed into the vehicle. A British lad in his 20s was excitably recording the interior of the cab during the journey on his iPad, his dad squashed from all angles on the row of seats in front. Reggae music blasted out. More passengers were picked up and others alighted as we proceeded down to Maxwell.
    Our bus slowed down to a stop in the middle of its lane, and an oncoming bus stopped alongside. A few words were exchanged between drivers, and the driver of the oncoming bus passed a spanner over to the driver of our bus, and we resumed our journey, all executed in a calm, laid back manner.
    We gave a shout to the driver as we approached our drop-off point, and the wiry lad leapt out and held the door open while we extracted ourselves out of the vice-like grip of the sardine tin inside. Once out, the vehicle lurched off down to Oistins.
    It had been an excellent day, and I'm glad that I attended a cricket match at least once in my life. I will forever have fond memories of the occasion.

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North and West Coast South Coast Beaches
Last updated 14.5.2017