Stanford Super Series 2008 Diary, Antigua
After months of planning and the ongoing saga of the politics of advertising rights safely put to bed, it is now the 24th October and Howzat Travel is jetting out to Antigua for the Stanford Super Series!
Does it really matter? Who’s going to attend? Will the series be a success? These were the questions on everybody’s lips...
Well, it soon became apparent that lots of our travelling party were Middlesex supporters first and foremost and were coming along to support their beloved team playing their part in the series of games being held at Sir Allen Stanford’s beautiful stadium. The $20 million England vs Stanford Superstars game was simply an added bonus for them!
Our chosen accommodation was at the Jolly Beach resort in Jolly Harbour; a huge 40-acre site that was also hosting the Middlesex and Trinidad & Tobago teams, along with the England legends taking part in a beach cricket game, and various Sky TV and media personalities.
Saturday 25th October
The atmosphere was great, the locals had turned out in abundance and the scene was set. The Super Series had also been tied in with a week of 15th anniversary of independence celebrations and this really was a great way to start the festival. Although the game wasn’t the most entertaining, fun was had by all, and Stanford eventually won the relatively low-scoring match, with Trinidad falling 22 runs short of the 146 needed.
Sunday 26th October
Today saw us go over to the Stanford Stadium to witness England vs Middlesex. There was not as much of an atmosphere tonight and although England eventually saw Middlesex off, it looked like a very friendly affair. The Strauss dropped catch followed by a smile summed up the nature of the game perfectly. Something tells me a dropped dolly catch against the Aussies next summer would be taken rather more seriously!
Monday 27th October
We had all recovered from the initial jet lag and the holiday was getting into full swing. It was obvious that England supporters were looking at this as a beach holiday with a relatively small amount of cricket to attend in the evenings - in fact it was perfect! Red-hot sunshine, an all inclusive hotel, hob-knobbing around the players and media followed by three hours of cricket in a beautiful setting … it really doesn’t get much better!
Our new friends, the Trinidad and Tobago team, were challenging us to volleyball, table tennis and pool, and the Middlesex team were found relaxing with families around the pool. Tonight was going to be a big game with lots of cash riding on it.
We arrived at the ground around 4.40pm ready for the 5.30pm start. The locals were certainly rooting for Trinidad & Tobago but the Middlesex supporters were in great form. “Middle, Middle, Middle... Sex, Sex, Sex!”
Middlesex batted first and set T&T a small target of 117, with Dextar top scoring with 39 and Rampaul being the pick of the T&T bowlers, taking four wickets for 25 runs from his four overs. Middlesex started well taking early wickets but the Trinidadians came through winning the match with 4 balls to spare.
It was disappointment all round for Middlesex: their hardened supporters were distraught and left the bar early for bed. For the neutrals, it was a great evening of cricket, sharing the success of a cool $280,000 with our new friends - photos with the trophy were popping up everywhere!
Tuesday 28th October
Tonight’s game was easily the best so far; England vs. Trinidad and Tobago. It was apparent that many more English fans had arrived in Antigua and the split between England supporters and the locals was fantastic: it really had a carnival family atmosphere with shades of what we have come to expect with our own 20/20 domestic tournament.
Tonight was great, the game going to the final ball and England just squeezing through. The disappointment of yesterday had long gone and the anticipation of Saturday’s game was reaching fever pitch.
Wednesday 29th October
Today also saw the final group of Howzat travellers arrive in the afternoon, and the joys of jet lag, tiredness and the all-inclusive alcohol were all taking their toll.
The night ended with a gathering at the bar... maybe a few too many drinks for some!
Thursday 30th October
Friday 31st October
The highlight was probably Kev’s rendition of his Abba favourite, when a chorus of Dancing Queen was aimed at a certain Mr Gough; “You can dance, you can bowl, we’re having the time of our lives” with smiles all round and good humour, everything was just perfect.
The group made the most of not having any evening cricket by having a group meal in the Indian restaurant at the resort. A fun night, great entertainment and good company saw a few stragglers propping up the bar into the small hours.
Saturday 1st November
The guys on the grass banks set up camp on Howzat Hill, or for Middlesex games, Murtars Mound, and with the atmosphere building nicely it was clear that tonight was going to be huge party.
We all took along several pre-mixed bottles of rum and coke and enough picnic goodies to feed a small army, and with the sun beating down, we really were living the dream. In fact, the cricket seemed very much secondary to the carnival atmosphere.
With all eyes now on the big $20million game, England won the toss and chose to bat, and being fair, made a reasonable start with Bell and Prior quickly moving the score onto 21 from the first few overs. Disaster then struck with a truly outstanding display of bowling from Taylor and Sammy. England obviously hadn’t turned up mentally prepared, the Stanford Superstars clearly wanted it and it showed. England finished making 99 all out, setting the Superstars 100 to win a cool $20,000,000.
The Stanford boys made the chase look easy, completing the task with 56 balls to spare and a full 10 wickets in hand.
All the travelling support should have been distraught, but do you know what? It didn’t make the slightest difference, we partied with the locals, we danced and cheered the Superstars around their lap of honour, for this was a party, not serious in any way whatsoever. It was 20/20 cricket at its very best and for all the bad publicity back in the UK, you would be hard pressed to find an Englishman or women in the ground that had a bad time. The game finished with a firework display to top anything we had ever seen before. I’ve seen a few, including Sydney Harbour for NYE and an amazing millennium display, but this made those look tame in comparison!
With the night still seeming young, around 18 of us headed off to St Johns for the ‘Calypso Spectacular’, part of the independence anniversary celebrations, whilst others headed back to the hotel bar. The event was good fun and a fitting end to the day, which in all honesty had been one big party - and one to savour at that!
Sunday 2nd November
At 4.45pm the group headed over to the tourist attraction, Shirley Heights, where we enjoyed steel band and the independence celebrations.
Today had been an extremely long day and with tiredness kicking in from the Saturday night parties, for most it was an early night once we returned back to the Jolly Beach. However, some of the party decided to participate in the karaoke night, with Barmy Kev, as per usual, leading the way with a couple of entertaining renditions!
Monday 3rd November
After the morning’s antics and plenty of fishy stories knocking about, we enjoyed a leisurely afternoon around the site and in the evening, enjoyed more of the delicious food that the Jolly Beach restaurants had to offer. The evening was once again rounded off with the now-standard quota of rum & cokes at the hotel bar.
Tuesday 4th November
In the evening, the full Howzat party ate and partied together, taking the opportunity to take lots of photos with their new friends, and party into the night courtesy of the disco entertainment provided by the hotel.
Wednesday 5th November
Most people got up for breakfast, wading through six-inch deep water to reach the restaurant, then returned to their rooms to pack. Some people had some Eastern Caribbean dollars to use up, so they ventured to the local supermarket to spend them. The most popular purchases were bottles of rum, and with so many to choose from, the decision of which to buy was a challenging one!
We left the hotel on our transfers to the airport slightly earlier than planned, as some of the roads on the island had become flooded, causing delays to journeys. The last thing we wanted was to miss our plane home (or was it?)! As it happened, we made it to the airport in good time, witnessing some serious flooding en-route. Our plane home was delayed as a result of the bad weather, but only slightly. Once aboard, we settled in for the flight home, with many people trying to combat the prospect of jet-lag by getting a few hours sleep.
Once we arrived at Gatwick airport, we said our final goodbyes and everyone went their separate ways.
On reflection, the cricket could have been better, but everyone who made the trip to the West Indies had a great time nonetheless. The Antiguan people had been extremely welcoming and hospitable, the weather had been great, and the atmosphere and fun we’d all experienced and enjoyed was amazing! By all accounts, the Super Series had been covered by the press back home in what you might call an unfavourable manner, but in our view, things could not have gone better. We’re already looking forward to coming back out again next year to the Stanford Super Series 2009!
Video Clips from our Antigua, Stanford Tour
A steel band plays at Lydias at Jolly Beach Resort
Non stop entertainment at the Stanford Twenty20
CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE