West Indies v England
ODI & Twenty20 Series 2014 - Tour Reviews
What an enjoyable time we had in the Antigua and Barbados on the ODI & Twenty20 tour! Here are the thoughts and words from three of the Howzat Travel team... Des, Carl & Linda.
Des' Tour Review
Caribbean, cricket, calypso. What a wonderful mix of words to warm the English hearts in what had been one of the wettest winters in history. Who could not resist hot-footing it to Antigua and Barbados, where they could literally hot-foot it across the beaches instead of wade through floods at home?
The shortened forms of the game which we were to see - three 50-over games and three T20s - are an ideal companion of a West Indies holiday and it allowed our total band of around 170 Howzat Travellers to experience a wonderful mix of cricket and holiday activities.
Antigua, with its 365 beaches (one for every day of the year and another little one for a leap year) welcomed us to one of the prettiest islands positioned between the mid-Atlantic Ocean on the Windward side and the Caribbean Sea on the Leeward. The bright sunshine and warm breeze caressing the palm trees, dotted among the valleys and hillsides, accompanied us all the way to our hotel on the beach.
Our hotel beach was magnificent and our customers immediately took full part in all the activities offered... they went swimming in the sea and the pools, jet skied, board-sailed, hobycatted and chatted, walked the beach, sun tanned and then went to quench their considerable thirsts at the bar before moving on to one of a choice of restaurants. One would think this has nothing to do with cricket, but listening to the conversations at the bar, that was the main topic. (So much so that Carl sold two spare tickets to Americans who got all hyped-up listening to our customers and thoroughly enjoyed the game!).
The Viv Richards Ground in Antigua, a bustle of activity and noise, was to host three 50-over matches. Thankfully, the pitch itself played its part this time, which was a far cry from the debacle we saw in 2009 at its opening when the Test Match was called off. (It was a Friday the 13th to be fair.) The noise at the ground was provided by two rival DJ centres. On the right we had the Party Stand and on our left was the 'famous DJ Chicky’s party. (During a previous test match, when it rained incessantly, eventually called off, he was voted the best player so was given the 'Man of the Match' award for keeping the crowd entertained. Something that could only happen in the West Indies!).
We were caught in our great seats in the middle so we had the best(?) of both worlds. The viewing was excellent though, being pretty close to behind the bowler’s arm, and some of the noise was interspersed with real music from the nineties, and the Banks beer served to soothe some nerves. The cricket itself was very exciting with England scraping home to a 2-1 victory; losing the first game, just making it home in the second and ‘easily’ winning the third. One always felt that only England made it exciting by always being in charge and then letting it slip to make it painful, which was not what was called for by most of our supporters.
Michael Lumb, primarily a T20 batsman for England, got a chance to open the innings in a 50-over match and took it by scoring a hundred. A few months previously nobody would have batted an eyelid at a 30-something born in South Africa making a hundred for England, but you would have got big money on it being Lumb. I certainly missed England’s absent friends in this series. However, Moen Ali looked an accomplished batsman, Joss Buttler made a typically robust 99 and Joe Root made 107 with a broken finger!
When one thinks of the Caribbean, images of blue skies, warm winds and sandy white beaches with azure blue seas and lacy waves lapping the shores all under the warmth of the tropical sun spring to mind. Our visit lived up to this picture and many took part in the various excursions on offer. The catamaran cruise in Antigua to circumnavigate the island proved to be a cruise of two halves. The trip in the Atlantic side lived up to its name, as a cruise on the ocean waves with considerable swells to test the intrepid Howzat mariners on board. They survived to revel in the Leeward side of the island, stopping for a sumptuous meal on board, mingled with some snorkelling and swimming or merely sun bathing while sipping a rum punch or two or dancing to the music. Barbados was much calmer, but I hear the party was wilder. It was all part of the enjoyment of the Caribbean experience.
The trip up to Shirley’s Heights boasted a wonderful sunset with panoramic views all around, which beauty even encouraged partners to hold hands once again knowing they were sharing something special. To the beat of a steel band and a barbecue buffet laced with bottles of wine, a good time was had by all. It didn’t stop our folk from coming straight to the big bar when arriving back at our hotel. A nightcap is very important; like the sunset signals the end of the day so it signals the end of the evening!
Our Farewell Dinner, for those leaving the tour after Antigua, was held at a restaurant overlooking the prettiest of beaches and was reserved exclusively for our party. A lovely buffet meal washed down with some excellent wine and a Caribbean sunset set the scene for our guest speaker, Colin Croft, to regale us with his vast array of experiences and insights into his life and the life of a cricketer in the halcyon days of West Indies cricket. The cricket was great, but the financial reward was almost non-existent by all accounts. His engaging personality shone through and this airline pilot and engineer showed us the positive side of getting on with life. He really is a hospitable man who gives his all. A happy band of Howzat Travellers returned to the hotel.
Now it was on to Barbados for the T20 series of matches. Not a long journey, but for some it was quite arduous. It can be incredibly irritating to get bumped off a flight, like a few were, but if you make the best of the situation then it is not too bad. Our clients certainly knew how to do that, by joining Graeme Swann for an all-night party and then catching a flight a day later.
One-off things happen on most tours. Darren Smith hit the first ball of the T20 game at the Kensington Oval in Barbados off Stuart Broad for 6 over the pavilion roof. They did not bother looking for it so a similar ball was chosen. (How they could find that in the box of balls baffles me.) One of our group, Harry Towne, an interpid 12 year old, was curious, as 12 year olds are, and spotted a ball at the back of a building site behind the stand. While his mother, Lucy and Dad, Greg and brother, Fred charmed the security guard, who had previously denied them entry, he snuck under the gate and retrieved the white Kookaburra ball that had touched the grass only once. It had one smudge mark on it. Who else on earth owns an international match ball that is in perfect condition and only has been used for one delivery? As well as the original smudge it now also has Darren Smith’s autograph, on it too.
In the first game, chasing a total of 170 for 3 scored by the West Indies, England capitulated and lost with a score of 143 for 9 wickets in their 20 overs. Oh dear. They faired slightly better in the second match, with Hales getting 40 and Buttler 67 contributing towards a total of 152 for 7. A new star was born in the name of Santokie for the West Indies taking 4 for 21 in his 4 overs. West Indies reply with155 for 5 in 18.5 overs with a match winning performance from Darren Sammy who scored 30 exhilerating runs off 9 balls so they won with 7 balls to spare. England did manage a victory in the final game by all of 5 runs.
Other outings, like travelling the islands by car, were enjoyed individually and some even saw the geysers, or blowholes in Barbados and visited the only province after whom a Saint is named - St. Lucy. Golf, restaurants, karaoke, limbo, 'calypso dollar dancing' , steel bands, nightly entertainment and good times abounded, and cannot all be mentioned here. The overall atmosphere was one of relaxation and fun. What a lovely tour to have been on.
The Barbados Farewell dinner for the majority of our travellers was held at a superb venue, namely, The Yacht Club. Situated close to the beach and semi-outdoors, we were treated to tasty barbecue buffet with strong rum punches and high quality guest speakers in the names of Mike Selvey and the one and only Tony Cozier. Mike asked probing questions and Tony proved to be more than entertaining amusing us with inside cricket folklore that only he would know about, being a local. He really is special, a national Bajan treasure. It was a memorable farewell with guests almost misbehaving themselves in true Caribbean spirit! Say no more...
Having given it much thought may I humbly suggest that, if you ever wish to mix cricket time with holiday time, I would strongly urge you to go on a Howzat Travel ODI or T20 cricket tour. It offers the best of both worlds. It was truly a pleasure being with you all.
Yours in Howzat cricket travel.
If you wish to read about more of Des' travel experiences, you should check out his book 'Sporting Travels of a Karoo Son'.
"A great read. It took me right back to my growing up years, working alongside and playing cricket and rugby against Des, so real. It then took me on a tour to some of the countries I played in and showed me that while us players are out in the middle we are only a part of the action as other stories are unfolding all around the game." Allan Lamb
You can buy it here - www.desnewton.com
Carl's Tour Review
This was my second tour to the Caribbean having travelled to Antigua and Barbados for two Test Matches in 2009,which was mainly remembered for the abandoned ‘sandpit’ game at the Sir Vivian Richards Ground. This was also my first taste of ODI and T20 cricket away from home.
In Antigua, the all-inclusive Jolly Beach Resort was great fun with nightly entertainment, a lively atmosphere, a selection of good restaurants and a superb beach. After losing the first game, it was good to see England return to winning ways with a 2-1 ODI series win following a humiliating tour of Australia.
After the second ODI, a group of Howzat Travellers made the trip up to Shirley Heights Lookout to watch the sunset and enjoy spectacular panoramic views of English Harbour. Accompanied by a steel band, BBQ food and drinks this is simply a must-do whilst in Antigua!
Former West Indian cricketer and Broadcaster Colin Croft joined us at Dennis’s Cocktail Bar and Restaurant overlooking the stunning Ffryes Beach for our Farewell Dinner, and entertained our departing guests magnificently. We simply couldn’t get the microphone out of his hands!
Onto Barbados for the three T20 games at the famous Kensington Oval and the much anticipated return of Chris Gayle. This was always going to be tough for England against the current world T20 champions, and so it proved with the hosts dominating in all areas and their captain Darren Sammy the star of the series. England did manage to win the final game to secure a 3-3 draw across the two series!
Away from the cricket, guests made the most of beautiful Barbados by exploring what the island had to offer, including guided tours, and, from personal experience, an excellent Catamaran Cruise which included snorkelling, swimming with turtles and a superb lunch.
Our first function in Barbados was at the Bougainvillea Beach Resort where we were joined by Mike Selvey and England Bowling Coach David Saker. Mike interviewed David who then took questions from Howzat Travellers and provided some very honest and insightful answers on the England team.
The Farewell Dinner at Barbados Yacht Club was simply a wonderful evening and a fantastic way to end the tour. The evening started with a Rum Punch Party whilst watching the sunset to Steel Pan music and was followed by an excellent BBQ buffet. Mike Selvey joined us for a second time alongside the legendary Tony Cozier whose stories and knowledge of the game were marvellous to listen to. The evening closed with a female vocalist and lots of guests dancing the night away!
Another fantastic Howzat Travel tour where new friendships were born and appetites well and truly whetted for the Test Series in April 2015.
Linda's Tour Review
This was my first experience as a Tour Manager for Howzat Travel and one that will stay with me for a very long time.
I arrived at Gatwick Airport on the morning 27th February to 'meet and greet' customers before we set off. It was great meeting Colin Williamson and his family as we laughed about him being my new pen pal! We recognised that customers were already talking and starting up new friendships.
The Jolly Beach all-inclusive resort will hold lots of great memories for me. In particular, the cricket on the beach during the afternoons were hilarious... the security men and casual passers being at the right place at the right time and making catches! Amazing stuff, and very amusing. The night at Oistins with Ian and Sue was also fantastic... we had an unforgettable ride in the local Reggae bus.
In Barbados, the Coconut Court had the added benefit of having the hotel's 'Blue Room' bar opposite. At the end of each day we would all meet up for a last drink. Mind you, some had had a few too many rum punches and suffered the consequences! I was a little bemused on the night that Tom kept taking Gerry back to the room... but when he turned around he was back asleep in the corner of the bar. Gerry was seemingly having such a good time he didn’t want to miss anything, but ended up doing so as he dozed...
The Farewell Evening at the Yacht Club was certainly one of the highlights of the trip... a marvellous location with stunning sunset views, brilliant speakers and everyone having a good time dancing and talking to new friends they had met on tour. Nobody wanted the evening to end and I am sure, like it was for me, it was a night (and tour!) to remember...