West Indies v England Cricket Tour 2015
Tour Manager's Review
The West Indies is one of the best holiday desinations around with one of the proudest cricket histories in the world. This Howzat tour certainly did not dissapoint with a great time had by all. Here are a few comments from the tour managers that helped make the trip a success:
Ian's Tour Review
The West Indies is one of the favourite holiday destinations in the world, it is also one of Howzat’s favourite destinations, and it’s fairly obvious why. What can be better than sandy beaches, stunning locations and enthralling cricket! We were excited to deliver this tour and gratefully, it did not disappoint!
Our first destination was Antigua and it was quickly apparent that nothing much had changed since my last visit in 2009, the beaches were still equally beautiful, the sea still equally blue, the hotels still wonderful!
It was also great to see the Sir Vivian Richards stadium had been given a huge facelift and it was a tongue in cheek relief to see the playing surface had improved ready for the Test!
The game itself was a topsy turvy affair that sadly never really materialised into anything gripping. The highlight was undoubtedly witnessing Jimmy Anderson surpass Ian Botham’s English wicket-taking record when he dismissed Denesh Ramdin on the final afternoon! Being able to say ‘I was there’ is what we live for when watching live sport and the Howzatters all left the ground happy after witnessing such a nostalgic moment in English cricketing history!
For the Howzatters whom only took in the Antiguan Test, we had our farewell meals at the dizzy heights of ‘Cedar Valley’, with breath-taking views over St Johns and Antiguan shores – our special guest Sir Vivian Richards was excellently interviewed by tour manager David Stewart which made for a great evening.
Antigua had been a huge success but it was onwards to a new destination; Grenada!
A new destination is something that I personally relish! A new challenge, a new ground/stadium, new hotels and new experiences! Grenada certainly delivered… The hotels were great, beautiful beaches, friendly islanders and some wonderful sightseeing.
The game itself was also a tour highlight! Who would have thought the 5th days play would have been so exciting... Jimmy Anderson was the main man yet again with an outstanding display of bowling and fielding! It was however Joe Root who took the man of the match honours for his first innings 182 not out, which set up the game for England.
Grenada drew to a close with a farewell meal at the Spice Basket. Entertainment came from Graeme Swann and Mike Selvey who gave an enlightening evenings discussion about all things England cricket! For those that stayed on at the venue, the evening closed off around 1am with dancing aplenty and a few sore heads to boot.
The final island of the tour was Barbados, the old favourite with a British colonial past. A developed island with beautiful Caribbean beaches and the clear blue seas available to all. Barbados is more developed than the other islands which means traveling is far easier and accessible!
With England pinching a surprise 5th day victory in Grenada it meant that a result pitch was on the cards and the Kensington Oval didn’t disappoint. The Test itself moved on very quickly, 18 wickets fell on Day two (a new West Indian record) so a shortened result Test was inevitable. The game itself was exciting and even late into day 3 the result was unknown…
Unfortunately for England the West Indians managed to secure the required runs with wonderful performances from Bravo and Blackwood bringing the series to a close with a 1-1 draw.
The additional free days gave the Howzatters some extra beach time or for those more adventurous, time to head out and see the islands many delights.
For me personally the tour ended perfectly as Monday 4th May was one of the very best days I’ve ever had on tour. The final Howzat Farwell meal took place at the Hilton hotel’s Charles Fort and being able to book the very best cricketer the world as ever seen, in one of the most beautiful settings imaginable, is something I will always cherish. Sir Garry Sobers, Gordon Greenidge and Howzat favourite Jonathan Agnew delivered a truly world class event! We even managed to raise £2700 for our chose charities ‘The Broad Appeal and The Nicholls Spinal Injury foundation’.
The tour had finished on a huge high and we at Howzat Travel couldn’t have been happier! For those that stayed on, Carl and I could be found dancing away at the fort until the wee hours!
Next up South Africa…….
Katy's Tour Review
This tour was my first with Howzat travel, who could turn down a month on some of the most idyllic islands in the world... with some cricket thrown in as well!
Being on the white tour, we quickly settled in to the Jolly Beach all inclusive resort. The previous reviews detailing excellent facilities and great evening entertainment were absolutely spot on. Each night there was something different to keep us all around the bar (not just the free flowing rum punch) and keep spirits high – karaoke, steel bands and various singers. The mile long, beautiful white beach was the perfect location for those of us who enjoyed a morning run, swim or even just a stroll as the sun came up. After a few days we had quite a team of runners turning out!
The Viv Richards ground in Antigua was my personal favourite, and what a place to start. Monday was a half day holiday for the locals, so the ground soon filled up and the atmosphere was fantastic. The grassy banks were an open area for the visitors and locals to combine and enjoy the cricket, the fantastic food (don’t miss the fresh lobster!) and a few hours baking in the hot sun. Our seats were perfectly located, shaded and just behind the bowlers arm. Within the five days of cricket I was very quickly educated in all fielding positions, the problem of a lengthening shadow and the complexities of test cricket! Our farewell dinner in Antigua was celebrated with none other than Sir Viv himself, interviewed by our very own tour manager Dave for a great evening on a hilltop overlooking the lights of Antigua.
In Grenada, I joined the blue tour at the Radisson Hotel which boasts one of the most incredible settings I have witnessed. Enormous gardens, pools and a fantastic beach bar meant that everyone enjoyed returning ‘home’ after a day at the cricket to watch the sunset and even manage a quick swim before dinner. Grenada itself is easy to get around with local bus services stopping by every 3-5 minutes – a far better timetable than most English services! Plenty of guests took advantage of a couple of shoulder days and went on sailing trips, island tours and hikes across the island, whilst others lay by the pool and basked in the sun.
Sharing our hotel with the West Indies team added to the excitement as we all boarded our buses in the morning and headed off to the National Cricket Stadium in St Georges. We were lucky to spend St George’s day in St Georges, with the English fans and of course, the Barmy Army singing in full voice to celebrate. The cricket was a bit sluggish for this test, with many of our group deciding not to join us for the fifth day, after a very slow and steady fourth. However, by lunch time on day five, Anderson had amazed us all and the excitement was back! Guests came flooding back to the stadium to see the end of a great fifth day and a win for England to close the second test.
Moving on to our final test in Barbados I was with a small group at the Dover Beach hotel which was a fantastic small resort on the end of the Gap. The intimate hotel meant that the whole group quickly got to know each other, especially at the Rum Parties and BBQ!
Barbados has a whole unique vibe and walking down to the Gap for dinner, or venturing into Oistins, you can’t ignore the buzz and the colour of island life. There is no better place!
The journey to the Kensington Oval was short and sadly, as was the final test. On the second day when Anderson took his six wickets, the chants of ‘Oh, Jimmy Jimmy….’ were roaring through the whole stadium and it was an amazing moment! However, it seemed that even with Jimmy working his magic, England could not win and the cricket was over after just three days. If nothing else, this allowed our group to enjoy some down time before their journey home to enjoy Jeep Safari tours, submarine adventures and swimming with Turtles in the clear blue ocean.
Our final farewell dinner was hosted in the Hilton Hotel Barbados and was truly spectacular. The outdoor setting was beautiful, and Sir Gary Sobers, Gordon Greenidge and Jonathan Agnew made fantastic speakers. My first Howzat Travel tour certainly ended on a high!
Our final night spent in St Lucia allowed us all to look back on a great trip, whether long or short - the West Indies was a great experience.
Nick's Tour Review
What could be better than a month in the Caribbean watching cricket, ‘two months’ I hear you shout, of course dear reader you are correct. What a month it was for those Howzat travellers who were lucky enough to visit Antigua, Grenada and Barbados, nobody should be that spoilt.
On this occasion I was something of hybrid, my wife Carole could only come for 10 days and when we saw The Verandah in Antigua was available, the matter was closed. Ten days there (without any tour managerial duties) - I was in heaven. We had previously stayed at the Verandah when we came for the ‘Test that never was’ in 2009, we saw 10 balls plus a rain interruption, so it was great that the hotel was fantastic.
The cricket this time went the distance and what a joy it was to see Jimmy Anderson break the wicket taking record for an English bowler. We certainly celebrated in style at the Verandah’s Bar!
Carole unfortunately had to depart as I took up the managerial reins in Grenada, another outstanding location. The Rex Hotel, although mature by Caribbean standards, boasted top quality beaches, fantastic ocean swimming and excellent pool facilities.
One of the great things about the West Indies, other than the West Indians themselves, is the travel to the ground; the island scenery, the ocean, the primitiveness of the roads and the location of the simple accommodation. The grounds, often adjacent to the ocean and overlooked by hills, with dwellings of all shapes and sizes teetering on the side of those hills are quite extraordinary – and that’s before you see a ball bowled.
One bonus at the Rex for our supporters, was the England team in residence, sharing the same bars and restaurants. We were treated to the second part of the Jimmy Anderson show in Grenada. What a final day. What a win.
We all moved happily on to Barbados where the St Lawrence Gap featured heavily on everyone’s social calendar with its bars, restaurants and beaches. All totally stunning in their own way. The varied character (and noise level) of each meeting place, from the almost formal restaurants to the Just Jamming Bar – there was something for every taste.
The only slight setback was the result of the match, which caused the series to be tied. However, nearly 500 hundred Howzat Travellers sampled and enjoyed the delights of three of the Caribbean’s finest islands. New friendships were made and the true spirit of cricket shone through. The outstanding tour dinners, with a line up of prestigious well received guests, served as a worthy finale.
There was some stunning cricket, stunning fun, on a stunning tour. Everything a supporter could wish for.
Jenni's Tour Review
This was my first experience of managing a cricket group for Howzat Travel. I flew to Antigua ahead of the first group so that everything could be set up to await their arrival. We were based at the Jolly Beach Resort, located in a magnificent beachfront setting, a great base from which to explore the island and easily transfer to the cricket grounds too.
The All Inclusive package Howzat had arranged for our group was much appreciated, enabling large quantities of rum punch to be consumed day and night! The food catered for all international tastes, and with three specialty restaurants on site, there was no chance of any of us going hungry. Whilst the accommodation was fairly basic, the beds were clean and comfortable, and the staff were delightful.
I soon realised how important cricket is to this island nation, and we all had a great time discussing the days play with our friendly drivers and the locals - everyone had an opinion on how England or the West Indies were performing and they were eager to share it!
The first match was declared a draw, and we moved on to the island of Grenada. It was the first time England had played a Test match here so hopes were high, we were not disappointed as we arrived on the island to be met by steel drums and a shot of the local coconut rum. Even the customs staff were in a great mood and welcomed us with good humour.
Play started the next day and I was soon being coached in some of the finer points of cricket - who knew that flat wickets, proud seams and lengthening shadows were so influential in how a game progressed? Well pretty much everyone travelling with Howzat knew these things already! They really are a knowledgeable bunch of enthusiasts but I was eager to learn and increase my expanding cricket knowledge, our group were so helpful in explaining the intricacies to me!
Our hotel here was The Flamboyant, in a stunning hillside setting overlooking Grand Anse Beach. Apart from the rather large amount of steps needed to get to and from the restaurant and bar (good for working off the weight gained from our all-inclusive indulgences of the previous week), it proved to be a perfect location to relax and enjoy the delights of the Spice Island.
After five days in the sunshine, England emerged victorious and hopes were raised that they’d be able to win again as we flew into Barbados on the Thursday with play starting the next day. We were staying at the Island Inn, again on an all inclusive basis. It was a lovely hotel, very helpful staff, comfortable rooms and delicious food. They kindly provided us with a picnic lunch every day to take to the grounds, and in fact they were so generous with their sandwiches, I was able to take in all the spares to feed the rest of the hungry Howzat team.
Sadly for England fans the West Indies won the match by the end of day three, and we returned, downhearted, to our hotel. However, spirits were raised again on the Monday evening after a superb farewell dinner followed by the highlight of the tour for many - a talk by Jonathon Agnew, Gordon Greenidge and Sir Garfield Sobers.
As we all returned to the UK, we reflected on this fantastic experience. New friendships had been formed, good (and not so good) cricket had been watched, sunsets experienced and we’ll never forget chilling out in the grounds, basking in the sunshine, eating lobster and listening to the gentle strains of Bob Marley imploring us not to worry...’Cos every little thing’s gonna be alright!’
David's Tour Review
The West Indies is a different sort of tour. It is one that almost every cricket supporter wants to experience; indeed, we had several debutants who said they had promised this one to themselves for many years. They wanted to follow England overseas and first choice was to visit this unique part of the world. A grouping of mainly small islands in the Caribbean Sea, not so long ago, they dominated the cricketing world.
Having suffered too many lean years recently, the good news is that West Indies cricket seems to be on the way back. All three tests were competitive, even if the first two were played on pitches which were slower than ideal for top-class cricket. The final afternoon in Antigua was compelling, as the home team held out for a well-deserved draw. This was after our group had seen Ian Bell compile a big first-innings hundred and James Anderson overtake Ian Botham as England’s leading wicket taker in Tests.
After the Test, island tours were popular excursion. As well as the history and beauty of English Harbour and Nelson’s Dockyard, we were shown the winter retreats of part-time residents such as Eric Clapton and Silvio Berlusconi. Those who were only able to take part in this first leg of the tour had an evening with Sir Viv Richards to enjoy prior to their departure. An open-air hilltop setting overlooking the night time lights of St John’s made for a delightful setting.
Grenada, the venue of the second test, was much anticipated being a brand-new destination for the England team and Howzat Travel. It did not disappoint. It is a colourful volcanic island, with a strong mix of cultures (French and Spanish, as well as British) and a most attractive capital in St Peter’s - the hilly setting makes it look like a mini San Francisco.
The match saw a welcome return to form by Alistair Cook with the bat and another tremendous hundred from the fast developing Joe Root, but the outstanding performance in fashioning an unlikely last day England win was the bowling (and fielding) of that man James Anderson. It was amusing to observe significant numbers who initially opted to stay at the hotel on day five - expecting a dull draw - after an hour’s play hurrying to the ground in a series of taxis. Happily, nowhere is too far from anywhere else in the southern part of this lovely country.
The local population had made us feel particularly welcome and left us in no doubt that they hoped we would return. For those not travelling on to Barbados, the end of tour event this time took place at the terrific West Indies cricket museum. Mike Selvey and Graeme Swann were the special guests and they happily went on taking questions from and entertaining the group well into the night, even after some decided it was bedtime!
The Kensington Oval is the spiritual home of West Indies cricket. Alas, it will not provide happy memories for Jonathan Trott, who announced his retirement from international cricket after two more low scores and for Peter Moores, who lost his position as England coach shortly after the end of the tour. Such was the price to pay for losing a Test match within three days. On a pitch offering considerable spin, England had made life difficult for themselves by not including the leg-spinner Adil Rashid – to the considerable disapproval of the large Yorkshire contingent within our ranks.
The third afternoon was probably the most exciting cricket on the tour, as a large crowd waited to see if the West Indies could knock off the runs, having bowled England out cheaply. Bravo and Blackwood proved themselves to be up to the task. Most of our party felt a shared series was a fair result, all things considered; the pleasure it brought the knowledgeable local supporters was nice to see.
Some opted to spend their additional leisure time on the famous beaches of this island, a few played golf, there was horseracing at the famous Garrison Savannah while snorkeling and turtle watching also proved popular. Gordon Greenidge and the great Sir Garfield Sobers joined us for the end of tour function. The ‘grand old man’ was terrific, signing every autograph and posing for every picture requested. It was a fitting event to bring down the curtain on a trip that was enjoyed in full measure by both those who had been before and our debutants. Long may England continue to come to these parts.