West Indies One Day International Tour Diary - 2009
Wednesday 18th March
The ODI tour group safely made their way to Gatwick airport and checked into Virgin Atlantic flight VS029, departing to Barbados. I greeted them in Barbados, where we all caught the onward flight with Caribbean Airlines to Trinidad, and then to the final destination, Guyana.
Once in Guyana and through immigration, we made the 45-minute journey to Buddy's International hotel on the outskirts of Georgetown, right next to the Providence stadium. With the group feeling shattered from the full day of travelling, for most it was straight to their room for some much needed sleep.
Thursday 19th March
With a free day before the first ODI, most enjoyed the day in Georgetown or exploring the hotel, making the most of the large pool and facilities. A few made the short walk over to the Providence Stadium next door, to catch some of the England practice session.
At 6.45pm, the group descended on the hotel bar ready for the Howzat welcome dinner in a private room alongside the Chinese restaurant, where we enjoyed a mix of chicken and fish dishes. The dinner enabled us all to get together and make new friends. After dinner, we quickly realised that there was going to one big party at the hotel, although no one was entirely sure what the party was for; a 'Chutney Festival' seemed to be the only sense we could get from the local people! Anyway, with the music blearing out and drink being heavily consumed, a fun night was had by all. By midnight, most were off to bed in anticipation on the 1st ODI game in the morning.
Friday 20th March
We were up early for breakfast and over to the ground in good time to see the toss and both sets of teams warm up. A few stragglers may have stopped out a little too late at the Chutney Festival and were seen creeping in just after the start of play. England won the toss and elected to bat first. Although early wickets fell , Strauss out for 15 and Pieteren out for 17, it was England who seemed to make a fair total rattling up 270. Collingwood was the pick of the England squad, making a fantastic 69.
The West Indian batting line-up was showing their new found confidence in the run chase, with Simmons, Sarwan, Chanderpaul and Pollard all making good starts. The West Indies were actually cruising nicely towards the England total, when the clouds came over and the heavens opened. Both teams left the field for a brief rain break and after 30 minutes, were back on and ready to resume their innings. There were no announcements about any loss of overs, but the locals made their comments known that light would now come into play.
The rain break worked in England's favour and wickets started to fall. As the light was fading in, it was big surprise when the umpires offered the light to the batting team and they duly accepted, only later to realise they had miscalculated the run rate and rain delay, and England had won the match in controversial style!
The fanatical Guyanese West Indian supporters where obviously upset to lose the match in this way, and to be fair most, of the English supporters would like to have see the match end in a fair manner with the floodlights on and all overs bowled. Regardless, this was England's first win of the tour and a reason for the group to enjoy a few drinks with the highly hospitable Guyanese local supporters. A fun enjoyable evening was had by everyone.
Saturday 21st March
Our 2nd day of leisure saw some of the group enjoying the Abary bird watching excursion, whilst others spent the day in Georgetown.
Ten of the group booked a half day excursion over to Kaieteur Falls in the heart of Guyana. We left the hotel for the 30-minute journey over to the local airport where we boarded a light aircraft for the 50-minute journey out over the unspoilt Guyanese rain forest. One of our guests, Josie, took up the vice captain responsibilities and when we arrived, the pilot treated us to a couple of circuits of Kaietuer Falls - the world's most powerful waterfall. Once safely on the ground, we ventured off to the lookout points over the falls, where an exhilarating view of this fantastic waterfall greeted us. We watched the water drop 741ft, and it was no surprise to learn that this is known as the Guyana's 'jewel in the crown'! Once we had completed the guided tour, we headed back to the airfield, where we enjoyed a light lunch before boarding the craft for the journey back in Georgetown. Just before landing at the airport, we had the pleasure of viewing Georgetown from the air. This itself was a worthy highlight on the excursion.
Once back at the hotel, a group of six made the decision to head back over to Georgetown, to the Old Border ground, where they witnessed a football match between Guyana and Haiti. The game finished 1-1 and it was nice to see some sport at the old ground and witness the football culture and crowd, which was very different to our own back home.
Sunday 22nd March
The 2nd game of series saw most out of crew into the ground early and ready for the day's action. The West Indies won the toss and this time elected to bat. You could feel the atmosphere around the ground and you knew early on how much this game meant to the locals, especially after the farce of Friday's result! It was, however, England who took the early advantage with Anderson destroying the West Indies openers with a fantastic spell of bowling. Nevertheless, it was Sarwan and Chanderpaul who showed us, yet again, what great batsmen they really are, with a fight back of world class proportion. Chanderpaul's 112 had actually been the first century to be scored at the Providence Stadium, so history had also been made. Although England bowed well, again at the close of the innings, the West Indies had made a conservative 261-8 and yet again it looked like being a close game.
It was the West Indies who took the early advantage with the ball and Bopara, Pietersen, Collingwood and Shah were all soon back in the pavilion keeping the scorers extremely busy! England's only highlight in the run chase was a fine 105 for Strauss and it was great to see he can do it at ODI level.
After a late rain delay, the West Indies brought the game home and levelled the series with the local Guyanese supporters leaving the game happy this time around.
For our last night at Buddy's, most of the group stayed local at the hotel ready for tomorrow's departure to Barbados.
Monday 23rd March
After a leisurely morning sat around the pool, it was soon time to congregate at the hotel's reception ready for the transfers over to Cheddi Jagan Airport and then onto the two-hour Liat flight to Barbados.
Once on the ground and through immigration, we met with Heather, our local ground agent, before making the 20-minute journey over to St Lawrence Gap and the ideally-situated Southern Palms Hotel.
With the evening still young, most guys ventured out for a taste of Barbados and to get their bearings. Soon after, they were found at the hotel's welcome party, sampling the rum punch and various nibbles.
Tuesday 24th March
With the group having free time over the forthcoming days, we arranged for our ground agent to come over and chat to the party about various excursions and also to answer any queries they may have whilst staying in Barbados.
Whilst some hired cars, others booked various excursions and days out around the island for the forthcoming days. With the afternoon spent at leisure and the beautiful golden sands and clear blue sea at our disposal, most were very happy sat relaxing on around the hotel.
Wednesday 25th March
Most of the group had decided on the Catamaran tour of Barbados, where they enjoyed an all-inclusive day of food and drink, swimming with turtles and diving over shipwrecks.
During the evening, most of the group walked the lively St Lawrence gap main road in search of restaurants and bars.
Thursday 26th March
Another free day of leisure, so the group departed across Barbados to discover the island's many delights. As the day drew to a close, we ventured out into the gap where a local rum shack and karaoke seemed a great place to enjoy the evening. The night finished at a respectable time, since we were all excited at the prospect of the 3rd ODI at the Kensington Oval in the morning.
Friday 27th March
The 1st of the two games in Barbados saw the group up early and over to the Oval ready for the 9.30am start.
Once at the Oval, we cleared security and were soon in our seats ready for the start of play. As the rain fell, it was apparent the start would be delayed, but with the many vendors inside the ground it was easy to keep yourself amused. The rain cleared and play began after the West Indies won the toss and elected to field. With the previous downfall and more rain in the air, the decision proved to be the right one as England struggled badly. Strauss, Pietersen, Collingwood, Flintoff, Prior, Broad and Andersen all failed to reach double figures and England were eventually all out for 117 in a very dismal batting display.
As Gayle and Simmons entered the field, you could sense something special was going to happen and it we weren't disappointed. Gayle smashed the most fantastic 80 runs from 43 balls and the local supporters were jubilant in their celebrations. It was great to be part of this amazing atmosphere as the Windies cruised home in just 14 overs!
Being Friday night, we had arranged a rendezvous for the group at the hotel for those of us who wanted, to travel down to Oistins for the fish market. At 7.45pm we headed down to the bus stop for the short reggae bus ride.
Once at Oistins, we were the victim of a power cut and the party was thrown into darkness. It soon became clearthat this was a problem throughout the island and we decided to stay put. Joining in with the locals with their bottles of rum seemed the best option to pass the time. After what was a probably a good two hours in the dark, the lights and sound were back on and the party ignited into life. With rum-induced spirits now sky high, dancing and partying with the locals was extremely good fun, especially the sandwich dancing. Cheers boys!
Saturday 28th March
With sore heads dotted throughout the group, for most, a leisurely morning was the order of the day. Phil and Ian from All Out Cricket magazine managed a trip over to the Accra hotel to interview Sarwan, but soon noted he was in bed with a bug. Unfortunately, their photo opportunity became a no-go. At least it gave us some hope that the WIndies maybe under-strength for tomorrow's game! As the evening drew in, the group gathered at the hotel bar before heading over the road to the local steak house.
Sunday 29th March
The traffic was significantly reduced and we set off from the hotel slightly later for all to enjoy a Sunday lie-in. Again, we eased through security and were soon in our seats and ready to witness the 4th ODI. Talk amongst the crowed was all about Friday's Pietersen interview in the Daily Mail. The reason for England's dismal display seemed more obvious! Hopefully they had prepared better for today's game'
England won the toss and elected to field, but it was Gayle and the West Indies who started where they left on Friday, as we watched Gayle smash the ball over the Kensington Oval. This made for an impressive 46 off 39 balls before Broad struck. The West Indies then struggled and England continued to gain the momentum by taking wickets at regular intervals. After the 50 overs, the home side were on 239 with an under-par score, especially after a great start.
During the interval, the 'heavens opened' and the rain poured down. It wasn't until late in the afternoon that Andrew Strauss gathered 79 from 61 balls to lead England to a nine-wicket victory under the Duckworth-Lewis Method. Fortune and the D/L Method again smiled on England, following a two-hour long delay for rain, which left the visitors with a victory target of 135 from 20 overs.
Minesh quoted 'thank you very much!' for several different reasons - it seemed to fit perfectly in the mood of the English and Howzat supporters. Spirits were very high, and for some quite-heavily intoxicated members in the party, a great night was had. With the series locked at 2-2, six days in St Lucia was a mouth-watering finish to the ODIs.
Monday 30th March
Being our final day in Barbados before the evening's departure to St Lucia, most decided to spend the day locally sat around the pool. At 4pm we boarded our coach and took the 20-minute journey to Grantley Adams Airport before taking the 35-minute flight to our final destination.
Once on the ground and after a few issues with baggage concerning the infamous Liat Airlines, we were soon taking the 15-minute drive over to Rodney Bay and the Bay Gardens hotel.
Once checked in, a few local drinks at the bar seemed the best option before we all retired to bed for an early night.
Tuesday 31st March
Again, being our first full day on a new island, we invited our local ground agents over for a 9.30am meeting at the hotel. This gave the guests an opportunity to find out a little information on the island's history, and also learn about the sightseeing opportunities the were available for the forthcoming days.
During the course of the morning, most of the group decided on making their own way round to Rodney Bay, where the beach and a selection on Bars and Restaurants were at their disposal.
Phil and I made the short journey over to the England hotel to catch an interview with Ravi Bopara. With the formalities complete, we took the opportunity to head over to St Lucia's golf club for a quick nine holes of practice in preparation for the Sir Vivian Richards Golf Tournament on the 2nd April, in which three of the group had been invited to play in.
The day ended in a fitting manner; we ate at the Flame Grill restaurant in Rodney Bay, where we were treated to a night of great food and good company.
Wednesday 1st April
Our second free day on the island, and the group headed off in different directions to view the delights of St Lucia. Although England's football qualifier had most wondering around the bars looking for a suitable satellite channel?
With spirits still high and after another England victory, most headed off around the bay in search of recommended restaurants. For the golfers the next day, an early night was in order.
Thursday 2nd April
Today was my 30th birthday, so it was always going to be a good day! After breakfast, Phil and Greg and I left the hotel for St Lucia's only championship course and to register ourselves in the annual Sir Vivian Richards Golf tournament. I was paired with Sir Ian Botham, Greg with Sir Vivian Richards and Phil with Ian Bell; we were somewhat excited about the day ahead! The big disappointment came as we headed down to the first tee, where we were told that Beefy hadn't showed and was last seen drinking on a boat offshore! Thanks Beefy...
Off we went in a four-ball scramble! Phil's team, along with Ian Bell, finished eight-under and eventually won the tournament. Ian's three-ball finished with a great three-under, and Greg's enthusiasm was not enough to carry Viv through, finishing on one-under.
As the sun set over St Lucia and the presentation took place, none of us could believe the day we just had. It was really a day to remember, being in company of some of the most prestigious names in the game of cricket,; Richards, Lara, Bishop, Bumble, Bell, Hussain, Gibson to name a few.
We headed back to the hotel, buzzing. With Phil winning, plus the added bonus of a bottle of English Harbour rum, the birthday party continued into the early hours.
A fantastic birthday and thank you to everyone for making the day special!
Friday 3rd April
After waking up and shaking off the hangovers, it is was clear that St Lucia had been hit with a lot of overnight rain that delayed the start of the deciding match. Despite the rain, we headed off over to the ground at 8.15am. At one point it seemed like the game may even be abandoned, but from nowhere the sky cleared and the sun came out. After a pitch inspection at 11am, we had the news that a further inspection would be made at 12.30pm. Finally, the start of the match began at 1.15pm.
The crowd roared as Gayle won the toss for the West Indies and elected to field, sending England into bat. The match had been reduced to 29 overs and it was England who started impressively with Pietersen showing us what he is capable of, with an impressive 48, along with a Bopara 44. England made a par score of 172-5.
As the West Indies took the field, we were all conscious that we needed the early wicket of Gayle. He left the field for a duck? things were looking good.
As the overs passed, we were then treated to the overdue 'Freddie Flintoff show'as he took career best figures of 5-19, taking the wickets off Ramdin, Rampaul and Benn in successive balls, leaving the home side for 146 all out.
England had done it! Winning the series 3-2 meant an awful lot to the Howzat Travellers; we had come a long way and seen some great and historic cricket.
After the long and jubilant journey back to the hotel, a few of us headed over to Gros Islet for the Friday night street party, but as tiredness took over, we headed back to the hotel for an early night.
Saturday 4th April
Today was our last full day in St Lucia and the last day of the tour. Eight of the group took the opportunity to head out on an island tour where we visited Castries, the islands capitol, before heading over to the spectacular Pitons. We then went on to the volcanic site before visiting the Botanical gardens. After all the sightseeing, we had a buffet lunch before boarding a Catamaran and sailing back to the hotel. We had little free time before we congregated at the hotel bar to head out for the farewell meal.
With the night still seeming young, the 'hardcore bunch' stayed out to the early hours of the morning, putting the world to right and enjoying a final last few rum and cokes!
Sunday 5th April
The last few hours on the beautiful island of St Lucia saw the group utilise Virgin Atlantic's 'check in and chill' service at 9.40 am before heading over to Hewanorra International airport for the one-hour 30-minute journey across to the northern point of the island.
On checking in and buying up the last few gifts for friends and family, we were soon on board for the eight-hour journey home. On time at 5.30am, we passed immigration and collected our cases and said our 'goodbyes'.
It had been fantastic trip with a great group of people that really gelled together to make the experience a memorable one. We were treated to some great cricket and I'm sure the memories will live on for many years to come.
Well done England and thanks to everyone who travelled with Howzat Travel: we all had a fantastic time...!