With the test series over and my original return date pushed back two days, there’s more time to explore Grenada, which markets itself as the Spice Island.
It’s not hard to see why – nutmeg grows wild and on farms, cashews by the roadside, peppercorns in abundance, cocoa trees everywhere plus mango trees (two types – stringy and not-stringy), breadfruit trees, jackfruits, cinnamon trees, local fruits and spices – just to name a few. The whole island seems to be covered in lush green vegetation – either agricultural, home produced or rain forest but the level of rainfall is declining (so much so that crayfish no longer frequent Crayfish Bay) but somehow things flourish.
So it was that a small group of us set off for a tour of the island guided by a local travel guide and expert driver – you have to be here; narrow misses of other vehicles and pedestrians are millimetres thin, roads either go up or down – and you need an automatic otherwise you’d be constantly changing gear!
What follows are a few snaps of what we discovered:
As regular readers will recall and for the benefit of my new readers (welcome), at the end of each ‘foray’ into cricket tours and tourist venues, I try to summarise my thoughts and views on what I have experienced. So here goes but interspersed with some of my favourite photos! (Suggestions have been made that I enter some for competitions?)
Each of the islands – Antigua, Barbados and Grenada – has its own style and approach. Not having visited any of these countries before, it’s very much ‘a first impressions’ view.
Antigua portrays itself as a cross between a party island and a holiday destination with small intimate beaches and coves. Limited opportunities to see much other than the cricket ground(s) and the hotel/resort complex but the roads need a lot of work!
Barbados was brash, bold and with over 8,000 England fans including the ever-present barmies it turned, for me, into what cricket would be like in Benidorm! I’m not a great fan of the ‘in your face’ approach. However, again I was there only for a week with little opportunities outside cricket to explore properly so there’s probably more to see, outside of Bridgetown.
Grenada for me was the favourite. Everywhere is a photographer’s delight with so much to see. So much colour and vibrancy, spectacle after spectacle and a cricket ground with some of the most colourful views you’ll ever see. Admittedly there was more time to explore given England’s poor performance and perhaps this extra time has swayed my views.
But everywhere people were welcoming and so pleased that we’re visiting after their tourist industries – the drivers of their economy – just stopped with the pandemic. Each nation is getting to grips with reopening and there are teething challenges along the way, but accept that, as well as the regional culture and everything will be fine…eventually!
Whilst I’ve been to other faraway places to watch cricket, this was my first experience of a ‘big’ tour – ‘big’ in terms of numbers of people but also as major holiday destinations, with dare I say, more people interested in the sun/beach/pool aspect of their time away rather than the cricket. I know cricket is not top of everyone’s list but nonetheless those who were following the cricket were as intense, immersed and involved as ever.
The knowledge of my fellow tourists continued to surprise, delight and reassure me that the intensity and passion for test (proper) cricket continues to thrive across the ages.
Loud! Everywhere wherever music is played it’s done so at ear shattering volumes, so much so that on more than one occasion the ground several metres away shook from the noise. Health and safety or choice/preference/consideration for others nowhere to be seen; hearing loss businesses will do a roaring trade fairly soon! Ok, it’s called music but to me it sounds like a racket – yes, I know, I’ve been called an old git or f**t on many occasions and I need to ‘get down with the kids’ and I inhabit a parallel universe when it comes to popular culture but…
…It is part of the culture in the Caribbean and needs to be absorbed but the sheer noise level volume takes one by surprise. And writing of noise levels…with the England team and members of the media staying in the same hotel in Grenada, it’s clear from the ‘end of tour karaoke evening’ why the players and journos have chosen the careers they have 😱!
One other thread which has made this tour unique is the need to manage all aspects of the pandemic – additional testing before and during, different approaches in each nation but also the economic and operational impact of the re-opening of economies. Richer countries just went into deep freeze whilst those with fewer resources struggled to get by – and as a consequence are finding reopening difficult.
Perhaps some travellers have set higher standards and expectations and have found things wanting. ‘Travel broadens the mind’ and just underscores the rich variety of lifestyles seen around the globe; the best way with these things is just to ‘go with the flow’ and follow the Caribbean anthem – ‘don’t worry, everything’s…’
On the cricket pitch there has been plenty to savour, enjoy and to photograph/write about (and thank you dear reader – my blog site was viewed over 2,700 times last month) and off the pitch plenty to enjoy, discuss and laugh over.
Somewhat tongue in cheek, elsewhere I’ve described following an England tour to the Windies as a ‘tough job but someone’s got to do it’ – Tiring? Yes! Enjoyable? Yes! Would I do it again? In the blink of an eye!
Rather than roast on a beach covered in sunscreen like a Christmas turkey basting in its own juices, today saw an excursion into the ‘interior’ of Grenada and some of the spice gardens and floral gardens this island has to offer.
I can’t remember all the spices, fruits and flowers (sorry) so please just enjoy. It’s worth noting that the floral garden was created from a patch of rainforest just over 11 years ago by a crazy gardener and is just stunning!
As the Oscars reach their fever pitch screaming on early morning news channels here, the die hards were preparing for the worst from an England perspective. Cricket die hards are those who sit through rain showers for most of the day in an English summer knowing full well that the rain is not going to stop, but it just might and then there just might be play.
And so more than I expected arrived at the National Stadium in St George’s hoping for a miracle of two but knowing full well that this was to be the last Test match (part) day on this tour. Mad we may be, but we’re doing no harm!
And the inevitable happened – Windies win by 10 wickets with more than a day and two sessions to spare; but not without a bit of needle between Mahmood and the Windies quicks. Not clear what that was about but it looked more like rugby handbags than anything else.
By way of useless information – England last won a series in the Caribbean in 1967/8 – over 50 years ago and Englands latest series loss makes it five in a row – not seen since the dark ages!
More erudite and paid media types will pontificate on the inner meaning of each match and the tour but I’ll remember most the short pitched stuff to da Silva in Antigua and how he struggled, his ‘coming of age’ innings here in Grenada and before we wallow in the doom and gloom on the future of English cricket, the sheer brilliance of Stokes’ century in Barbados.
So for those on the same cricket tour thanks for the kind words about my words and photos over the past three weeks.
Readers who prefer the tourist stuff will be pleased as I’m getting out and about away from cricket before I leave Grenada and hopefully some snaps will be worthy of posting (be grateful I’m not inviting you round to see all my photos! I know you have more interesting things to do)
In other news the County Championship starts in eleven days time! Yippee!
After yesterday’s ‘full Meldrew’ on over rates, calm has descended (but the niggles are still there) as the Test and the series reaches ‘crunch day’. Today will decide the outcome of the series I’m sure. NB these ramblings are written contemporaneously with the play and not afterwards!
As things stand at the start of play, WIndies lead by 28 with two wickets remaining. As ever day three and the third innings are the most important of the match. A substantial lead by Windies – say 75 – puts pressure on England on a pitch which should be better for batting but as we’ve seen favours swing/seam one day and pace the next. Add in the occasional variable bounce and there’s spice in the game! Not as much as on the spice island of Grenada but it could be fun nonetheless.
A lead of 50 would be handy, anything less brings England back into the game and with the new ball still ‘fresh’…who knows?
That was embarrassing – for England and for the umpires! Lunch taken at 12:17 with Windies making 297ao da Silva pacing his innings to be 100no but was given out twice incorrectly by the umpires. The last being two minutes earlier when everyone had walked off and crossed the boundary line except the umpires who wanted to review the decision (da Silva did ask for a review but walked off nonetheless).
Prior to that England were embarrassing – both of the last two partnerships added far too many. The bowling was poor – Seales able to play very well and safely off the front foot being a prime example. Root’s thinking and strategy seemed all over the place…and a follow on from yesterday!
A lead of 93 has the power to embarrass further but let’s not detract from da Silva’s innings – dogged, determined, resourceful, limpet like when you add in the time he’s spent defying the England bowlers both here and in Bridgetown. And he also held the innings together when the wheels looked like coming off yesterday – so an excellent effort.
Oh dear…I’m not in Meldrew mode but there are several in the crowd who are! In 21 overs between lunch and tea England have managed to scrabble to 43/4 – Lees, the invisible fielder (when he fields the ball never comes to him however long the innings) is still there with 11no and Bairstow 3no. Mayers has taken 3 for 7 in 7 overs and whilst just over medium pace (the new Darren Stevens?) is being treated as unplayable by the English batsmen! He’s also a decent bat so could be the next DS!
Roots body language today and his strategy/tactics this morning suggests someone ready to throw in the towel. Stokes has a lot to do already in holding this team together plus everything else and the general consensus among the cognoscenti here that the captaincy would be too much! So then who?
Back in the match – England could lose six wickets in the last session but hopefully not. If England make 175/200 from here they will do well but I suspect it will all be over by this time tomorrow – or will it?
Wow! England really managed to lose the plot. More akin to going into a circular room and sitting in the corner! Mayers ran rampant through the side, Foakes decided that suicide was the best option, Lees struggled on but misread the line and Overton repeated the shot he got out to in the first innings but was caught instead!
England end the day at 103/8 – effectively 10 for 8. Tomorrow should be short, sweet and a merciful end to a poor Test which will overshadow the good work of the first two. Root has the demeanour of a beaten man and I suspect that either he will fall on his sword sometime next week or be relieved of his duties in the coming weeks by the new English management team. A sad end but in essence beaten by the system set up by the ECB to destroy the county championship and gradually tests since more money can be made from the shorter form of the game.
I suspect my blog tomorrow will be short but let’s not forget the two Windies stars of Mayers and the rich form – batting, keeping, catching, run outs etc – which is da Silva. Gold medal performances from each!
A day more concentrating on the test rather than the scenery…but nonetheless it cannot be ignored for its sheer beauty and brilliance!
A less than auspicious start by England – nothing really troubled the bats in the first hour to drinks but when Stokes got one to do a bit more, the shape of the session changed. Brathwaite was taken lbw by Stokes as I’ve said and then Overton and Mahmood (who’s having the best time at this stage) found the right line and length to bring the short ball into play.
Campbell was hit on the head – or rather failed to duck/sway in time, Brooks looked uncomfortable against these two and with lunch looming Blackwood and Bonner took the chance to practice their world class time management skills – and who wouldn’t? – to steer WIndies to 71/3 at lunch; each on 1no. Only 25 overs in the session so don’t get me started on over rates as blood will boil in already warm temperatures!
I knew it would! As soon as I wrote that at lunch I knew by tea it would be nagging and gnawing at me all afternoon and England did not disappoint. They’ve managed to bowl 51 overs in 4 hours (rate less than 13 when the requirement is 15). With 39 overs to go in 150 minutes maximum we’re going to get short changed again and the paying public will not see tests as value for money! Perhaps that explains why the ground is less than a third full and then thanks to a large England contingent.
The cricket media will say it’s disgraceful and something must be done…until the next time a team is so slow and so we go round and round. As for the speed of play this afternoon I’ve seen milk turn faster!
During that session WIndies crawled to 134/7 losing 4 for 63 in the afternoon. Holder had a rush of blood and was caught by Jonny in the outfield and Bonner got himself in a tangle giving a catch.
Not exactly sparkling cricket but then this is a test! It’s setting itself up nicely for a low scoring game – not quite what the pitch prognosticators (self included!) had envisaged for today.
This is now really starting to get me annoyed.
As I write this it’s 5.12pm – past ‘scheduled’ close of play and three minutes since the last ball was bowled…we’ve had light meters, new ball brought on, fields set and reset, discussions by the truck load – and I’m paying to watch this! In over 40 years in management and governance I’ve attended minuted and completed committee meetings which haven’t taken this long. For the sake of test cricket, somebody do something and soon!
I promise I shall have calmed down by tomorrow!
In other news, WIndies have taken the lead as England struggle to find Plan B since Plan A has stopped working! Why flog your quick bowlers when there’s less than 10 overs to the new ball and you introduce Leach for over 77!
Overall both innings followed the same pattern but England wickets fell to lateral movement but WIndies to the fast short stuff. What does the pitch hold in store for tomorrow?
At stumps WIndies lead by 28 with da Silva being limpet like (again) 54no but if it goes much slower the match will stop altogether!
Two weeks today I’ll either be shivering atop the Lord’s pavilion or staring all agog for the new season at the concrete of the multi storey car park adjoining the Chelmsford county ground. But for the moment I have THIS!
The National Stadium in St George’s Grenada is a feast for the eyes – and a photographers delight as is all the island. Photos do not necessarily (or at least mine) do justice the the picturesque quality of the view. The ground nestles at the end of a steep/sided valley which is awash with greenery. Both sides of the valley have, somehow, properties clinging to their sides, each painted a vibrant colour to make this one of the finest views from a cricket ground and roads which seem almost vertical from here but still the traffic manages.
In terms of the cricket it doesn’t have the kudos of those with better views – Lord’s, Adelaide Oval, Worcester, Newlands etc – but it is one the most beautiful grounds around.
I know a few of you prefer my photos to my words…so here’s a few to give you a flavour of the day!
If only the same could be said of the Third Test being played out in front of me. A more lively looking pitch encouraged Brathwaite to bowl first and at lunch England have struggled against some fine bowling to 46/3 off 27 overs; Crawley, Root and Lawrence back in the hutch. Maidens galore so it’s not been easy.
There’s a much more relaxed approach here than in the other two venues, and, admittedly smaller crowds but the stadium has the feel of the Oval on a quietish county championship day except for the four police officers guarding the pitch at lunch time and a carnival band processing the boundary!
By mid afternoon it was clear the haunting torment from Australia had not gone away. The WIndies quicks managed to get the ball to swing (dare one say ‘reverse’ after only 30/35 overs) and coupled with the lack of English footwork (more akin to week one on Strictly) wickets fell so that by tea England had crumbled to 114/8 – or 68/5 in that session! Wickets were shared around in that session except for Mayers who wasn’t asked but then wasn’t needed!
Dined last night at a local authentic family run restaurant and at the end of the meal the chef/owner appeared to greet his diners. He clearly does this so often that his son/waiter just brings a chair for dad to sit on. The look of disdain on the sons face says it all – on the lines of ‘he’s off again, more work for the rest of us!’
Alighting on English cricket supporters the topic soon moved to todays match. Clearly he knows his cricket and this ground – his forecast is for England to ‘get walloped’ – on the basis of the first serving, he’s not far off!
The evening session started with Woakes falling for the second ball and it looked all over but Mahmood and Leach decided otherwise and slowly counterattacked to stymie the WIndies. Mahmood finally fell to the penultimate ball of the day for 49, a partnership of 90 and England ending on 204ao
Both sides would have accepted that given the twists and turns of the day. Ended the day with a ‘liquid marijuana’ cocktail just for good measure!
Perhaps the chef this evening – a different one – will offer another opinion with the sweet course?
The first session punctuated by rain saw England determined to push on to see if they can optimise their advantage. By lunch the lead is 281 with a nominal 51 overs plus the last hour of 15 but England only have four wickets left so need to be careful. Lawrence and Crawley making 40s, the rest really crashed and burned with 7 or 8 fielders patrolling the boundary to keep the rate down.
With rain around, the rest of the day could be on/off and with an inexperienced attack 300plus could be achievable if WIndies so desire. I suspect that once the declaration comes WIndies will close the game down but who knows? The weather is cooler than expected and with cloud around could help the bowlers but I’m not convinced.
The morning session saw England on the attack so the photos will concentrate on that.
With most of the tour group processing to Grenada in the next few days, the talk today has been on rapid antigen test results – their outcome determines whether you travel or stay! Almost all to date are negative which is reassuring. And mine’s due just as the match could reach a climax!
It seems that England declared at lunch – the crowd only found out when the WIndies bats appeared after lunch! The PA system is at best inadequate but also impossible to compete against the decibel-wrenching ‘disco’ throughout the lunch break and between overs. Apologies to any younger readers for the word ‘disco’ I’m not ‘up with the current terminology’
WIndies set 282 off a maximum of 65 overs at 4.33 per over but I suspect the first few minutes will set the tone for the afternoon. A loss of three wickets fairly cheaply puts England ahead but the resolve and resilience I talked about earlier is going to be needed by both sides!
For the record, the match is drawn and my test result is negative so sorry…more ramblings and photos from Grenada later this week and perhaps the odd tourist stuff too? 🤔
Meant to mention that yesterday was Fancy Dress Friday (there was so much else going on) so these didn’t make it to the final version of the blog…so to bring a smile to faces, you don’t normally see this fancy dress at Lord’s (ok, the egg and bacon colours in the Pavilion are their own choice)!
We all have good days and bad days and days when we’d rather not be at work but doing something else. This morning both sides were clearly in the latter. At 351/5 some 63 runs had been scored for one wicket off 34 overs (session extended due to rain/breaks). Slow it may have been but neither side made an effort to dominate the match. To be true, it was dire watching even for us hardened cricket nuts.
The only positive is that if you have young children or grandchildren who misbehave or refuse to do as they are told, threaten them with being forced to watch that session of play. It beats the Eurovision Song Contest as a form of admonition hands down.
Of the players the two busiest were Ollie Pope as 12th man frequently coming on and off the ground with drinks, towels, more drinks, protective gear etc (I hope he’s paid the same as the players) and Jonny Bairstow who had what seemed to be a productive session organising a fun time later with those in the party stand. Let’s hope for a better afternoon!
The afternoon starts well with a wicket second ball (but the team still needed a drink just after they’d had their lunch!) and Brathwaite crawls to 150 and then out for 160 in an innings of close to 12 hours. Did he once play for Yorkshire to learn how to be that patient?
Wickets begin to fall so that at tea, WIndies are 396/8 just 111 behind. England could make a good fist of forcing the game forward and set a tricky score of 250/275 to face but I fear the lack of penetrative attack by England will mean by this time tomorrow (Covid fit to fly test time) a long well-fought draw will be called.
My camera decided this afternoon that it was too tired to take too many photos, so those from today are from the morning session.
By close a nailed on draw looks the only result; WIndies closed at 411 – 96 behind, leaving England a theoretical 17 overs to either push on and set up a run chase tomorrow or settle for the draw. As I said, it looks nailed on at 40/0
This match alone is worth £19m to the Barbadian economy and with 20,000 in attendance for each of the four days, coffers are being filled but the quality of the play has been questionable on occasions – the paying public deserve better pitches for better matches. At least Cricket West Indies have the courtesy to say that they cannot be responsible for the quality of the play – perhaps that’s something the ECB can consider for England?
But I suppose with all this money around, someone is not having a bad day at the office!