With the absolute hammering that the Australians dished out to us down under in 2017/18 fresh in the memory, I was eager to get back on the horse and follow my beloved English cricket team away from home again.
The opponents this time were the much maligned minnows of West Indies. It couldn’t be worse than the last tour…..could it?
My father is a man of routine and creature comforts. If you give me any day of the week, I could probably give you a decent guess as to where he is and what he is doing. However, given that I’d spent the best part of the last twelve months swanning around the globe, I was eager to push him out of his comfort zone and tick off a bucket list item at the same time with a father and son trip to be part of the Barmy Army in none other than Barbados.
You’d think that getting tickets to something like this would be the easy part, especially with the Barmy Army kindly giving out a code for the third party vendor which meant that one could buy tickets a day early. Perfect. What wasn’t perfect however, was the realisation that once I’d booked my tickets that any other sod using the same code could log on and print them for themselves. Cheers for that one chaps.
Thankfully, I managed to get onto the Indian ticket retailer who at the third time of asking, managed re-issued my tickets, despite initially trying to give me ones in a completely different section. Useless.
With this hiccup out of the way, it was time to get on the flight and go through the usual requirements that accompany travel with any middle aged Brit; namely getting to the airport as early as humanly possible, and repeatedly discussing if we had a transfer booked despite the fact that our AirBnb was only a ten minute drive away.
Given that I’d spent the last two months being cold, cramped and miserable on my central line commute, the beaches of Barbados were a welcome change. However, after spending years living in Australia and then rolling into trips to Sri Lanka, Thailand & The Philippines I really was a bit spoiled when it comes to beach life and I’d certainly go back to one of those places before returning to the Caribbean.
The culture was lacking a touch as well; everything seemed to be geared towards British and American tourism, although we did at least have a touch with our accommodation being close to a relatively quiet bit of beach.
Being the overly prepared Brits that we are, we made sure our accommodation was only a ten minute drive away to the ground. So naturally our journey there on the first day took two hours as a result of a car accident blocking the main road and we missed the first hour.
Late and flustered, we eventually made it to the packed stadium and looked for our seats, number 31 and 32 half way back in the stand. However, as we emerged through the staircase, we noticed a slight problem. All seats to the right were numbered 1-28, and all seats to the left were 36-60. It seems that we’d been given two of the only eight seats in the ground that don’t exist. Fantastic.
With the local steward as high as a fucking kite and generally lacking both the attitude and cranial capacity to help me, we decided to squat in some seats nearby. Fortunately we didn’t have to sit there long as it started raining shortly afterwards so it was time to trot to the bar.
My father was also unimpressed that he couldn’t bring his cigarettes into the ground, but thankfully managed to find a home for them in a nearby bush behind a statue of Garfield Sobers. Sadly, the West Indies did not manage to channel their inner Sir Garfield as a dour day finished with the hosts 264-8.
We woke up on Day 2 with optimism. The weather forecast was good, nobody had kicked us out of our illegally pillaged seats the day before, and only two West Indies wickets were required before we could sit back and enjoy England batting for 150 overs on what looked like a belter.
At drinks an hour after the lunch break, we were 49-7 after 21.2 overs.
We were eventually rolled for a pathetic 77 all out on the cusp of tea after batting for less than a session. Game, all but over.
They say Bajan’s like three things; cricket, smoking weed, and talking about smoking weed. And whilst I can’t say I’m a fan of the second and third item on that list, my love of cricket more than compensates for it, so off we trotted again for another day of punishment.
In spite of our abject batting the day before, we actually finished the day restricting the West Indies to 127-6 and therefore still having a glimmer of a chance should we be able to take four quick wickets. So the wide brims and wide smiles returned.
Standing in our way was number 7 and 8; the captain Jason Holder and wicket keeper Shane Dowrich, fresh from a duck in the first innings and someone who I regularly describe as the worst top 7 batsmen in world cricket.
The two lower order players batted for six hours and took them to 415-6 dec, 202 not out for Holder and 116 not out for Dowrich. And whilst there was no fat lady to begin singing as our hapless openers trudged out with an hour to survive, we did at least have Freddie Mercury leading the chants from the stands.
A generous declaration from the West Indies meant that we started the day requiring a mere 628 runs to win, just a further 551 on our first innings effort.
Day 4 was actually the most enjoyable day as it was the one that we didn’t have a ticket for, so I managed to get back to the beach for a dip in the sea before heading to a pub for kick-off.
Thankfully we found a place in the shade which served plenty of banks’ beer, and we settled in for a prime spot to witness part time off-spinner Roston Chase run through our side to take 8-40 on a pitch which didn’t turn an inch and looked so flat that I wouldn’t have been surprised if it had been dug out the day after and used as a runway for our return flight to Gatwick.
And with that, our week in Barbados had come to an end. And whilst we were plagued by mis-fortunate throughout and witnessed probably the worst English hammering in recent memory, it was still a great trip and hopefully one that will whet my Dad’s appetite for a trip to the Gabba in a few years time when we are back home.