15 Feb 19
talkSPORT are in the West Indies to bring you exclusive coverage of England’s tour.
After the Test series came to an end, the team explored the sights in Antigua and Saint Lucia ahead of the one-dayers, which kick off on February 20.
Jon Norman gives us the lowdown on what they’ve been up to…
The picture postcard view of Antigua from Shirley Heights
England’s cricketers had plenty of soul-searching to do after the Antigua Test while the men from the Caribbean had just as much celebrating to do. For the rest of us it presented the chance to do something different.
Not that Sunday sundowners at Shirley Heights is ‘different’ in this part of Antigua. It’s ‘the thing to do’ with its spectacular views over English Harbour, Falmouth Bay and Nelson’s Dockyard.
The only previous time I was here was on a tour by South Africa. There might have been 200 people enjoying the views and the classic, Caribbean barbecued chicken and ribs, This time there were over 4000. There are MANY supporters on an England tour.
The talkSPORT team enjoy a break from the cricket in Antigua
Archaeological research tells us that the original inhabitants of the island date back as far as 1775 BC – the Siborney people, literally “Stone People”. They were gradually overtaken by the Arawaks, originally from Venezuela, a peaceful tribe which thrived on the local diet of fish and lived harmoniously until the 13th century when the warlike Caribs arrived and slaughtered most of the men and carried off their women and children to be slaves. (This is what you read in all local history literature.)
But in 1493 the seeds of the real slave trade were sown when Christopher Columbus landed here and officially named the island ‘Antigua’ after the Church of Santa Maria de la Antigua in Seville. In 1632 the English established their first ever settlement outside Europe and, a brief cession to France notwithstanding, it remained under British rule until it became an ‘Associate State’ in 1967. Full Independence was not granted until 1981.
Admiral Lord Nelson was ‘senior officer of the dockyard’ from 1784 to 1787.
The stunning harbour was, esentially, a docking station for the slave trade from which such a vast percentage of the current population descend.
Yet there has never been a desire, never mind an understandably aggressive desire, to rename or even rebrand these places. It feels quaint, but odd.
Antigua offers up so many stunning views
Slavery was officially abolished in 1838 but the vast wealth from the sugar plantations, created on the backs of the African slaves, continued for another century. And most of the slaves, and their descendants, were free in name only.
Today English Harbour is a playground for the super-rich. The top six yachts moored in the harbour valued in excess of $1.6 billion. The ‘cheapest’ was $185 million. Apparently it has only eight en-suite bedrooms, only one swimming pool and no cinema, so it’s understandable.
One of the many multi-million pound yachts in English Harbour
Few islands in the Caribbean extend the hand of welcome and friendship quite like Saint Lucia. Not only have the people from the Tourist Board offered to provide all our transport on the island for the next nine days, but they hosted a function in talkSPORT’s honour at the St. Lucia Yacht Club having arranged a ridiculous sunset.
Local media were also invited and they weren’t about to miss the opportunity to have their photographs taken with Steve Harmison and Darren Gough. “So, are they famous cricketers?” the function host asked. “I’m not so big on cricket but they are lovely people!”
Darren Gough and Steve Harmison are not exactly well known in Saint Lucia!
She did, at least, know who Darren Sammy was. The most famous cricketer to have emerged from Saint Lucia and, of course, the patriarch of the national stadium. It’s in stark contrast to the Kensington Oval in Barbados, which has run out of stands, suites, gates and other things by which to honour their heroes, but Sammy was (and still is) a much finer cricketer than people give him credit for – and he captained the West Indies in all three formats, including a win-loss record of 28-17 in T20s and a World Cup victory.
Darren Sammy is a two-time T20 World Cup winning captain
The stadium was purpose-built for the 2007 World Cup and is functional if, as with several others in the region, a little ambitious with its seating.
Even the 8000 traveling England supporters will only half fill it. But Saint Lucia Cricket has also over-extended the hand of friendship by providing us with two commentary boxes AND a corporate suite for the Test match.
Looking good from above @darensammy88! #WIvENG pic.twitter.com/RhiWMQ8JDf
— England's Barmy Army (@TheBarmyArmy) February 9, 2019
On the way back from the stadium to our residence in Rodney Bay (ten minute drive and almost the same jogging, given the roads) is one of the finest road cuisine sites in the country.
J’s ‘Wrap Citi’ isn’t just a clever play on words, the rotis are cause for salivation from 50 metres away. Once you’ve had your first, it doesn’t matter how far away. I’ll still be thinking of the curried chicken roti in Cape Town next month.
The TS team won’t be forgetting about Saint Lucia – and the chicken – anytime soon
Affable vice-captain Jos Buttler doesn’t seem capable of ‘bristling’ but he came as close as he can when asked about coach Trevor Bayliss’ assertion that the batsmen may be ‘confused’ by their aggressive tactics in ODI cricket.
“I can’t agree with that,” he said, obviously aware that his words might make headlines the next day. “It’s about playing the situation and conditions, getting it right on the day. I think we’re all capable of batting the right way for the right format.”
As each hour goes by in Saint Lucia it’s becoming increasingly difficult to imagine becoming frustrated with anything. It’s far from perfect, but the people looking after us are ridiculously relaxed and calm. I left my wallet in the hotel before leaving for the ground and the taxi driver said: “No problem. You can pay me when we see each other again – in anther life is also fine. I may need it more then…”
Joe Root’s media requirements before a Test match are formidable. Three one-on-one interviews with Sky, talkSPORT and the BBC are followed by the written press gathering, which resembles a scrum given the preference in these parts to conduct the press conference on the outfield rather than a more formal setting. All the journos need to be close enough to ask their questions and hear the answers so it’s not as ‘aggressive’ as it might look.
“We may have made the odd wrong selection on occasion for the first two Tests,” said Root with presidential tact and understatement – especially as he wasn’t responsible for them. “But we have one more chance to put things right and show how we are capable of playing, and we intend to take that chance.”
Joe Root has a tough job on and off the pitch
One of the brightest moments of humour on tour occurred towards the end of our stay in Barbados for the first Test match when Steve Harmison was invited along to a ‘Barmy Army’ function at a local hostelry – private room and all.
Far from the happy-go-lucky, randomly gathered together bunch of eclectic supporters which their appearance may suggest, the Barmy Army is a highly organised and equally highly commercially inspired organisation. It has in excess of 25,000 subscription-paying members and does a fine trade in merchandise. They also stage and host many functions on tour for which members (and other guests) pay additional fees.
So former England players like ‘Harmy’ are in high demand for question-and-answer evenings and, they hope, a few lemonades with the members afterwards. Fortunately his event occurred on the fourth evening of the Barbados Test, after England had lost and there was no commentary the following day
[iframe src=”%20%3Ciframe%20width%3D%22100%26%2337%3B%22%20height%3D%22188%22%20src%3D%22https%3A%2F%2Fembed.acast.com%2Fcricketweekpodcast%2F3ballsthatchangedsteveharmison-sworld%22%20scrolling%3D%22no%22%20frameborder%3D%220%22%20style%3D%22border%3Anone%3Boverflow%3Ahidden%3B%22%3E%3C%2Fiframe%3E” /]
So Harmison arrived at the appointed venue and appointed hour – and knew he was at the right place because there was a large poster of himself next to the entrance. You see where this is going? “Evening, it’s $20 entrance,” said the door-keeper.
“Err, it’s supposed to be ‘my’ function,” Harmison replied. “I’m pretty sure I’m not expected to pay to get in.”
“It’s $20, my friend.”
“But that’s me up there,” said Harmison, pointing to the poster.
“You’ve put on a bit of weight, haven’t you?”
“Right, that’s it, I’m coming in and I’m gonna make sure I drink my weight in beer – at your expense!”
The Barmy Army loved their night and universally agreed that he had been “outstanding value” and, as one man said, “worth triple the price to hear just half the stories he told tonight.”
In many years time Ben Stokes will be able to tell the story of his ‘dismissal’ – caught and bowled by Alzarri Joseph for 53. He had been off the field, deep in the beyond of the dressing room, when third umpire Chris Gaffaney finally ruled that Joseph had bowled a no-ball.
“Had you taken your pads off?” West Indies wicket keeper Shane Dowrich was heard to ask Stokes upon his return to the crease.
“Mate, I was halfway through a fag,” was Stokes’ reply.
[article-rail-section title=”MOST READ IN SPORT” posts_category=”218″ posts_number=”10″ query_type=”popular” /]
England finished a potentially bleak day (114-4 at tea) with every reason to smile. From 231-4 they should be aiming at 350+ which would apply significant pressure to the home side. Although, how much ‘pressure’ can you actually feel when the series is already won?
England’s victory duly arrived a little earlier than anticipated following Joe Root’s spontaneous and possibly emotional declaration at the fall of his wicket for 122. Jonny Bairstow was already swinging his bat at the bottom of the staircase in anticipation of breezy hit when he was sent back upstairs. Ben Stokes might also have been expecting another over with his score on 48 not out.
Eyebrows were raised but the captain’s prerogative is exactly that. But today was a celebration for England and a victory of genuine consolation rather than the hollow sort. Thrashed in the first two Tests, out-thought, out-planned and out-played, they at least bounced back with a victory of similar proportions.
“Confidence levels fluctuate very quickly at this level, I can attest to that, but this is a very good England team,” said Nasser Hussain in the talkSPORT commentary box.
Bumble and the team on air during the Antigua Test
“They might have lost two Test matches by very big margins before this but they had also won eight of their last nine Tests before this series so, this is the reminder – if they needed one – that they have what it takes. Just a bit of tweaking and fine-tuning here and there, don’t try to reinvent the wheel. It’s really just the top three that need to be sorted.”
Just the top three. Right. Just the top three. The foundation, the rock upon which the innings is built. Michael Atherton was equally but entirely differently in agreement with his colleague: “I would have to say that numbers four to eight look absolutely perfect at the moment,” he said. “And the bowling options are plentiful. It would be nice to have a few more batting options for the top three…”
As we wind down the end of another Test series, may I take the opportunity to remind readers of the extraordinary job done by the cameramen who stay on their feet for seven hours a day – never mind the two-hour ‘call-time’ before play starts. They are a hardcore breed.
And also the kindest, most considerate, sharing people in the broadcasting world. If you find yourself in trouble on tour, you need to hope it’s a cameraman you bump into.
Mark Wood’s refusal to let go of his (especially) over-sized man-of-the-match cheque was hilarious because he genuinely wanted to keep hold of it as much as the event organisers genuinely wanted to take it off him as soon as the sponsors’ photos were taken!
.@MAWood33 brings his Man of the Match cheque to the interview 😂
What a performance from this man 👊 pic.twitter.com/maplFhjgrw
— talkSPORT Cricket (@Cricket_TS) February 12, 2019
England vs West Indies: How to listen
Just like the Test series, every match of the one-day tour will be exclusively LIVE on talkSPORT 2 and you can catch the action by clicking here for the live commentary stream.
You can also listen through the talkSPORT App, on DAB Digital Radio or on MW 1053 or 1089.
For more information about how to listen to talkSPORT 2 click here.