England Cricket Tour to the West Indies 2019
Tours Managers’ Reviews

West Indies 2019 - Tours Managers' Reviews

January – March 2019

As tends to be the case when touring New Zealand, our travellers could not be disappointed with the scenery or the competitive cricket during this tour. The ODI travellers were lucky enough to witness an incredible series, of which England were on the winning side of (!) while the spectators who flew out for the Test Matches witnessed an almighty collapse, the first day-night Test Match in New Zealand and a landmark moment in Stuart Broad’s 400th wicket. This is before we even get to the sightseeing options! See how our Tour managers’ enjoyed the tour here…

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Des Newton

Wherever you are in the world just mention the phrase “West Indies” and people conjure up in their mind’s scenes of beautiful sandy beaches with palm trees swaying gently responding to the caresses of a warm breeze, while you swim in the temperate sea or laze in the sun ensuring an envious tan! Now add to that picture the delightful prospect of watching three test matches in glorious weather while the UK endures a snowy winter.

Well, that’s what we Howzat Travellers did. We visited three different islands, stayed at three different hotels and watched three different test matches. It was wonderful.

Barbados was so named by the Portuguese in days gone by because of the beards (barba) hanging from the branches of the trees (dos) which is rather a dull description of the romantic feeling one has when landing in the enveloping warmth of this Caribbean island. The Accra Beach Hotel was superbly situated with bars well positioned and the swimming pools ever popular with their swim-up facilities sporting bar stools in the warm water. Only a few metres further on lay the stunning beach, as pretty as a picture. The cricket atmosphere was made even more exciting by the presence of both the West Indies and England cricket teams plus their assistants who spoke to many of us! All in all it was a good cricket vibe, not to mention the appearance of Miss Barbados and Miss Caribbean who posed for pictures with some of us.

The first test was a disappointment. We lost. It was not a good performance by England and our supporters reacted philosophically. The sea was still warm, The Gap was still close by, the group was bonding and the restaurants and excursions were good. Like Pandora’s Box there was still hope in the air and some of our group were lucky enough to attend a special Howzat Travel evening with the great Sir Gary Sobers.

The beautiful island of Antigua welcomed us warmly. Our hotel, The Verandah, offered an all-inclusive fare which went down well! It certainly did not disappoint in the food and beverage departments offering four different restaurants and bars and a coffee and tea station surrounded by an enormous pool and two other smaller ones and two lovely beaches to choose from with water sports galore, not to mention the tennis courts, mini golf course and the pleasant walk to Devil’s Bridge. The rooms were great each with its own verandah, of course! It is a voluminous place, even the music!

The Viv Richards Stadium offered us superb seating with a chance to flavour some of the local cuisine cooked fresh in the many stalls around the ground. However, not even Pandora could help the England side as the West Indies triumphed again with a resounding victory. This did give us an opportunity to visit the quaint English Harbour and see the American team finish their crossing of the Atlantic Ocean after fifty-four days at sea with only their oars to propel their craft! It was special to witness. This was followed by a visit to the famous Shirley’s Heights to see a lovely sunset and a view of English Harbour from an excellent vantage point. It was a pleasant afternoon, as most are in the Caribbean…

Island number three was the intriguing island of St Lucia with its lovely beaches and the unique Pitons, the remainder of volcanoes! The Harbour Club Hotel was exactly as described in the brochure- modern, chic and everything worked beautifully. We were spoilt being close to the stadium so to and fro was a pleasure. John even walked some days! The cricket stadium, true to the keeping of the character of the island is situated in the middle of an ancient volcano with the hills completely surrounding the field. Different and special!The evening with Dujon was another highlight with Dave Stewart excelling as the interviewer asking well researched cricket orientated questions demanding similar answers. Another highlight was our farewell dinner when we had the privilege of listening to the inimitable Jonathan Agnew interviewing the now recently knighted Sir Alistair Cook.!

Two more highlights to mention. The first is literal namely the difficult ascent of the tallest Piton on the island successfully accomplished by two of our intrepid travellers. They have a photograph to celebrate this feat and also one with a Howzat sign at the top. Well done lads! The second is the remarkable turnaround by the England cricketers. After two resounding defeats they played with circumspection and scored an equally resounding victory! One wonders what would have happened if they had played four or five tests. It was a high note to finish on.

It was a very vibrant tour with new friendships made and old acquaintances renewed and enjoyed in the Howzat spirit. Having heard some excellent singing voices from time to time the idea of a Howzat Travel choir cannot be too far from fruition!

Yours in cricket tours,
Des Newton

 

Carole Joyce

The lure of the Caribbean in winter was plainly evident at Gatwick Airport in January when our flight to Barbados had plenty of Howzat shirts on show. Some old friends and some new faces all heading off to the sun, sea and cricket.

Within minutes of landing on the island of Barbados you are swept into its culture of colour and smiles and this continued throughout our stay at The Hilton. The hotel, sitting on a peninsula surrounded by beaches and the ocean, was also well positioned for visiting Bridgetown and the many local restaurants on offer. These ranged from fine dining choices to the ‘fish burger’ van on the beach which comes very highly rated on trip advisor. (correctly so!)

Our transfer to the Kensington Oval on match day was very simple and the ground exuded all the vibrancy of West Indian life helped of course by 28 degrees centigrade and a Caribbean blue sky. The wicket, toss and team selection provided lots of debate but the beauty of Test cricket is that you never know what is going to happen – this match certainly kept us guessing and will certainly be one to remember! Jimmy Anderson took 5 wickets / the WI bowlers treated us to a speed display (with 18 wickets falling on one day) / Holder scored over 200 joined by Dowrich who scored 116no and then spinner Chase took 8 wickets to put us on the wrong side of a good match. Howzat hosted a beach BBQ that evening with Sir Garfield Sobers and interviewer Jonathan Agnew was certainly not short of questions to ask him – what a memorable night it was.

With a four-day Test match instead of five, we all gained an extra day for exploring with plenty of trips and tours to choose from; Snorkelling and swimming with the turtles was sensational, tours around the island gave a snapshot of WI life and some people headed off to one of the famous rum distilleries.
Tales of snow and ice back home abounded as we set off for Antigua and the guarantee of further sunshine! Our resort at St James’s was quite simply – beautiful. With a choice of beaches, water sports, restaurants and bars it would have been tempting to stay put however the Vivian Richards Stadium in the centre of the island, is one of those Test experiences that should be on everyone’s wish list. Totally Caribbean in its welcome, you can walk happily round the whole ground at your leisure, which gives plenty of chance to sample the choice of local home cooked dishes, not to mention the rum punches!

Sadly we lost the toss again which was to prove problematic on a pitch that was very testing. We were put into bat and held our own on day one but Kieran Roach had other ideas and put in a genuine man of the match performance. England were out played in three days but the cricket was exciting, as it was in Barbados, and again it gave time for extra time spent either enjoying the resort or seeing the island. St James’s was well positioned for visiting English Harbour and Shirley Heights, as the name suggests you get a great view from there plus plenty of music and hi-life if you stay to enjoy one of the Sunday Sunset parties.

Our tour was rounded off perfectly by an evening buffet get-together at the bay side restaurant sitting just yards from the beach and ocean. Matt Prior and Sir Alastair Cook came along to the pre meal drinks and enjoyed relaxing and chatting with us. It was another magical, memorable moment.

 

Gordon Bacon

Having missed UK winter ‘17/’18 in Australia and New Zealand it was very welcome to be asked to go to the West Indies for a part of UK winter ’19! Barbados and Antigua re-visited two years on for tests one and two, with a new destination for me, St Lucia the venue for test three.

After the England series win in Sri Lanka and West Indies defeat in Bangladesh, most England fans were up-beat and optimistic about our chances of success in the Caribbean.

The Bougainvillea Resort was the base for the first group I looked after who were only doing the Barbados test. A lovely hotel which had a superb beach and beautiful sunset. Everyone had a few free days to get used to the time change before the test started, though several did manage a trip on their first night to the famous “Oistin’s Friday Night Fish Fry”. It was very noisy, very busy but the seafood was fresh and delicious, the beer or rum punch was cold and it had a great atmosphere!

The test proved a wake-up call for the England team, the selectors and supporters. An awful 1st innings batting performance left England with a lot to do at 212 behind WI. Having reduced WI to 61-5 then 120-6 there was a glimmer of hope, but then followed a 295 unbeaten partnership – a brilliant 202 by Jason Holder and 116 by Shane Dowrich. So, if a No.8 got a double hundred surely shouldn’t England bat a lot better in their 2nd innings? At least spend time at the wicket and regain some confidence for the rest of the series. As it turned out they couldn’t, with only Rory Burns passing 50 in a defeat by 381 runs.

England’s travelling fans are very resilient, being well used to defeat, the Sri Lanka series win 3-0 being a very welcome change! I must say though, the result didn’t stop people having a good time. It was only a few dollars in a cab to the St Lawrence Gap area where there were numerous bars and restaurants. Some hardy folk even walked back along the beach to the Bougainvillea. In the right company it would have been very romantic, in the company I was with it certainly wasn’t romantic, but it was great fun!

The Final Dinner was held on the beach at the Barbados Yacht Club. What a great way it was to end a cricket tour, when the great Sir Garfield Sobers was expertly interviewed by Jonathan Agnew. Aggers got the very best out of Sir Garry asking the right questions and giving him the lead into a story. Everyone there knew they had been in the presence of, not only arguably the best all-rounder the game has ever seen, but of a truly modest, humble and very nice man.

So on to Antigua were my new group were joined at The Verandah Resort and Spa by Des Newton and his party. This was an all-inclusive resort with several bars and restaurants in different parts of the site, as well as two lovely beaches. Food and drink were good, plentiful and so was the music/entertainment.

Joe Root lost the toss again and England was asked to bat on a “green top”. Only Bairstow and Moeen passed 50 and 187 wasn’t a challenging score. After WI batted, they had a lead of 119 when England went to the wicket for the 2nd time. Were they going to be able to give a better showing, on a pitch which wasn’t as green as on day one? Sadly not, Buttler with 24 was top scorer and 132 meant it became an easy 10 wicket win for WI, who had totally outplayed England. It was just a pity that there had not been more local supporters to see their team take a 2-0, series winning lead.

St Lucia was the next stop for the 3rd test and my group were in the Royal Resort and Spa at Rodney Bay – the same hotel as the England team. Another lovely hotel with a great beach, though the indoor bar and restaurant lacked atmosphere in the evening, primarily because most people went out to nearby bars and restaurants which were very busy.

West Indies won the toss for the 3rd time and Holder asked Root and his men to bat first again. With several of the line-up still beset with poor shots, Buttler’s 67 and Stokes’ 79 saw England to 277ao. WI were on 57-0 when Moeen took two in two and enter Mark Wood. I had spoken to Mark at breakfast that morning, exchanging a few words about Durham (where I live) and as I left I said “Good luck today”.

Well when Mark got his chance he certainly grasped it and bowled the fastest spell of the series and reduced WI to 154ao with a spell of 5-41 off 8.2 overs. Stuart Broad had been bowling at the other end when Moeen took the 9th WI wicket. However, knowing Mark had four wickets he asked Joe Root to replace him and he duly bowled Gabriel with his 2nd ball to get his first test fifer. I have a great photo of Mark leading the players off the field and, just behind, is Jimmy Anderson applauding with a beaming smile. Great team spirit from Stuart and Jimmy, knowing only too well of Mark’s career interrupting injury problems.

An evening of Q&A (open to all Howzat tourists) with Jeffrey Dujon, was held at a bar/restaurant in Rodney Bay’s answer to the St Lawrence Gap. Howzat Travel’s David Stewart was excellent as ever as host and question master and even a sudden very heavy downpour didn’t damper spirits or put the duo off – though they were under cover!

At the Final Dinner in St Lucia at The Landings Hotel, Aggers was again in the chair and this time he posed his questions to his fellow BBC commentator Sir Alastair Cook. It was a great pleasure to see and listen to Sir Alastair, who had over the years given so much pleasure to cricket fans round the world.

It was a very good ending to an excellent time in the three WI countries visited and, although England’s cricket was well below par in tests one and two, they did redeem themselves in St Lucia.

Thank you to all those who were either in my tour groups, or who I chatted to during the tour, it was a pleasure to meet you all.

 

Maggi Gibson

England’s Windies tour is almost over and what a great time we had despite the result of the test series. Barbados was a great place to start – our Red Tour group at Coconut Court hotel was a lovely mix of seasoned Howzat Travellers and newcomers creating a great group of cricket supporters. It was so good to see so many familiar faces and make new friends too. We were lucky to have a couple of free days before the cricket which people lapped up on the beach, on catamaran trips or on round the Island trips all involving the lethal Barbados Rum Punch!!

The first day of the test match dawned and it was great to be back at the historic Kensington Oval and see so many England supporters gathering around the Gary Sobers statue at the main entrance. With some outstanding performances by Jason Holder, Kemar Roach and Roston Chase, West Indies seized their chance brilliantly and won the test easily, leaving us to drown our sorrows in Banks beers and Mount Gay Rum Punch and to sample some of the great Barbadian hospitality and cuisine.

We said goodbye to some of our Howzat Travellers who could only make this test and the rest of us went on to Antigua and the wonderful all-inclusive Pineapple Beach Club where we met up with some new arrivals and got ready to discover another wonderful Caribbean island. A fair number of people joined the Pink Panther Round the Island jeep tour and had a fantastic time visiting some of the beautiful beaches that Antigua is so famous for. They also managed to persuade the guide to include a visit to the atmospheric old St Johns cricket ground which was the highlight of the tour for many.

Of course, once the first day of this test match arrived, everybody was hoping for an England victory to level the series but it was not to be! Thank goodness the food and drink around the ground was the best of all the islands which gave us something else to think about other than the cricket! With the Windies top-order proving to be pretty unbeatable and our capitulation in the second innings the series victory was in the bag by the third day leaving us two extra days to explore Antigua. Some of our group did the Sunday evening Shirley Heights party and thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful views and the great drinks and music on offer. One of the spare days was spent exploring the magnificent English Harbour and witnessing the arrival of one of the teams that had participated in the Talisker Transatlantic rowing race from San Sebastian in Spain to Antigua, known as ‘The World’s toughest row’. Another sporting event to concentrate on other than cricket!

Although the series was already won we had one more island to discover – stunning St Lucia! Based at the excellent Coco Palm hotel, we had everything on our doorstep. A massive pool, gorgeous beach a short walk away and all the bars and restaurants we could wish for including Indian, Chinese, Caribbean, Pizzas – whatever we wanted it was there! Again, we had a couple of days before the cricket started and a few people signed up for the ‘Best of Both Worlds’ Tour which included a drive around part of the island ending up with a catamaran cruise from the beautiful Piton peaks in the south of the island. A ladies’ rum punch competition on the catamaran ended up in some rather tipsy people (who shall remain nameless) arriving back at the hotel but it seemed that everyone had a marvellous time! Then it was back to the cricket and finally – Thank Heavens! – a resounding victory for England! We ended up with one spare day which was used for trips to the beautiful and historic Pigeon Island, the bustling capital Castries, water taxis to the Pitons or just lazing at the pool or on the beach. St Lucia certainly is a beautiful island with its own version of the ubiquitous rum punch and refreshing Piton beer as well as some very exotic and excellent cuisine. All good things come to an end and after a long drive to the International Airport at the southern tip of the island we said a sad farewell to all our happy travellers!

Having spent a few weeks in the Windies with the three-test tour, I was lucky enough to go back to Barbados for the two ODI’s – back to the lovely friendly Coconut Court hotel where I met up with the Half-termers! Tours of the island, plenty of rum punches, great performances by England – especially Root and Roy – with a victory in the first ODI ensured a very happy group. Although we lost the second one, it left things interesting for the rest of the ODI tour.
Thanks once again to Howzat Travel for having me as part of the team – it was great to meet so many fantastic supporters and I can’t wait to see you all in South Africa, if not before!!

 

Stephen Newman

The West Indies is one of the most popular holiday destinations in the world.
The West Indies has great beaches, great weather, great people.
The West Indies play cricket.
What more does one need to say?
Just that it is a truly superb place for a winter break to watch the great game.

This was obviously the aim of the many, many Howzat clients looking for a politics free holiday zone. Blue skies and blue seas, calypso, cocktails and cricket – life doesn’t get much better!
The omens, the forecasts and the bookmakers all said it was going to be England victorious in all formats of the game. Even the West Indies press and the supporters were fearful that England would dominate the series. Well, the hosts had just lost a test series to lowly Bangladesh and England had just won away in Sri Lanka 3-0.

“It’s gonna be too one-sided man!” was heard many times from apprehensive Bajans before proceedings got underway at the lovely Kensington Oval, Bridgetown, Barbados.

Tear up the script, throwaway your lines and forget about the form book because the West Indies team were having none of it. They demolished England with sensible cricket and occupying the crease for long patient innings, then relying on England’s batsmen to conjure up their demise by appalling defence to a spinner who didn’t turned a single ball but finished with figures of 8 for 60 – unbelievable! Take a bow, Roston Chase.

One – nil to the Windies. Thoroughly deserved, although ably abetted by sloppy and suicidal batting, average bowling and an England team that looked as they hadn’t any sense of purpose, determination or resolve. Oh well, best get it out of the system early doors, knuckle down and onwards and upwards to Antigua. Things can only get better……!

A general and generous view of the situation was that it’s good for West Indies cricket, creates more interest for the outnumbered local fans and is a reality check and kick up the proverbial for woolly English minds. After all, the Caribbean cricket supporters are great fun and they deserve something to shout about. No abuse, just great banter and even the most one-eyed England fan could somewhat enjoy their success, thank heavens it wasn’t Australia!
This was the feeling of most Howzat Travel tour members, even those returning home after the first test. Another beach or sightseeing day to enjoy, a farewell dinner and rum punch party with the incomparable Sir Garfield Sobers and Jonathon Agnew, great memories and new friends. A wonderful holiday with lots of calls to meet up again. Cape Town for New Year anyone…?

Another day, another beautiful island. Antigua is rugged and perhaps not quite as refined or manicured as Barbados. It has the most sensational beaches, however, and our tour party was fortunate enough to be stationed on a glorious section of white sand with unbroken Caribbean vistas, warm turquoise waters and an hotel that offered everything one could need for a fabulous holiday. The poolside welcome party was just the event to start things off and to look ahead to England powering back and tying the series.

The Sir Viv Richards Stadium has had its detractors in the past, but very unfairly so in my opinion and that of our group. Easy access, mountain views, seats behind the bowler’s arm (or sit on the grass bank in the sun for an hour if you wish) and the best catering at a cricket ground one could find. All local suppliers cooking up a superb selection of seafood, barbeques to die for, homemade ice cream, rum punch and local beer – a foodies delight and a party atmosphere!
Unfortunately, the England cricket team neglected to do their bit – and if we thought Barbados was bad then Antigua was atrocious. More “headless chicken” batting scoring just 187 all out, followed by West Indies grinding 306 runs in over 10 hours at the crease. Darren Bravo took 6 hours to score 50 – how Sir Geoffrey would have loved that! If only an Englishman could have played with the same dedication, concentration and selflessness we would have stood a chance. As it was, the England second innings was even worse, bowled out for 132 and a stunning loss in only 3 days by 10 wickets. Instead of “Once more unto the breach, dear friends” it was a case of “Once more to the beach dear friends!” with an extra two days to get over the shock and carnage. My sympathies went to all the stadium vendors being left with lobsters, grilled chicken and sticky ribs and a small lake of rum punch, short-changed by England’s performance.

The free time was well used by all Howzatters with island excursions, catamaran sailing trips circumnavigating Antigua or chilling out by beach or pool. Again, after the cricket, spirits soon revived and the gallows sense of humour brought forth some hilarious evenings at the bar.

Two – nil to the Windies, the series lost for England and my thoughts turned to all the Howzat clients packing their suitcases to travel to St. Lucia. I shouldn’t have been concerned, the England cricket supporter is forever an optimist and with the old country in the grip of snow and ice and Brexit, the cheery disposition of arriving clients was very rejuvenating for those of us traumatised by the first and second tests.

Another gloriously scenic island and cricket ground saw a different England team come to the party. We were (almost) as good as we were bad in Barbados and Antigua, with the highlight for many being the introduction of Mark Wood into the bowling attack. A fast and ferocious spell on day two showed what England had been missing for over a year and many spectators were astonished, even fearful, at the speed, bounce and accuracy – and we were in the stand! It must have been truly frightening for the batsmen in the middle and the previously unperturbed West Indies top order succumbed to give Wood the figures of 5-41 and man of the match. Joe Root, the skipper, at last put a score on the board, a lovely innings of 122 and England won by 232 runs on the fourth afternoon.

Howzat Travel, as always, came up trumps with a fabulous farewell dinner with Sir Alistair Cook as principal speaker. A very special evening and although he wouldn’t be pressed on putting his pads back on, he did enlighten the appreciative audience on every topic from England’s openers to the lambing season.
All in all and regardless of the cricket, it certainly was another great tour with Howzat. New friends and the many seasoned clients are already looking forward to the sunny shores of South Africa and the prospect of an exciting series in that wonderful country. I can’t wait and I hope you can make it too!

 

Bob Buckler

It’s Gatwick 6am and I’m travelling with Virgin Atlantic today with another 85 Howzat customers. The early start is the only downside to a West Indies Tour…

Barbados …
Arriving mid afternoon to be greeted by the familiar face of our regular Barbados ground partner, Heather from Sunshine Services and her very professional team. We are soon on our way to our various hotels. I’m with the White tour at the Dover Beach Hotel, a small privately-owned hotel right on the beach and ideally located for all the bars and restaurants on the St Lawrence Gap.

One of the joys about being a Tour Manager is standing at an airport somewhere in the world greeting old friends and welcoming new ones on a Howzat Travel tour. Everyone settled into the hotel and the day was finished with an early evening welcome drinks introducing the tour. Breakfast runs smoothly on day one of the test match and we are soon on our way to the famous Kensington Oval.

England were bowled out for 77 in our first innings against WI’s 289. It’s was never going to be a contest after West Indies added another 415 (Holder 202no) – we needed 627 to win! To finish, a rampaging Roston Chase took 8/60 and we lost by 381 inside four days…

One of the highlights of the test in Barbados is an evening with Jonathan Agnew & Sir Garfield Sobers. At 82 years young, he is still widely regarded as the greatest all-round cricketer of all time. Beach BBQ, Rum Punch and Sir Gary – an unforgettable experience.

Part of our group leave for Antigua following the test match, while others who are only staying here in Barbados have another four days to explore the island. Some team up together and hire cars, others play golf or just enjoy lazing about around the hotel. All too soon it’s back to the airport wishing our Barbados group goodbye and hopping on a local Liat flight to Antigua.

Antigua …
It’s a late arrival in the Halcyon Cove my all-inclusive resort for the next four days. I’ve missed the first two days of the second test which is unfortunate because it’s my favourite ground in WI, the food offerings are amazing with lobsters cooking on a BBQ and locals making homemade ice cream.

Some of us vacated the ground at lunch of day three to watch Ireland vs England Six Nations rugby and, unlike in the cricket, against the odds England triumph! Back to the cricket it’s all over just after tea, a crushing defeat by 10 wickets what more can you say but well-done West Indies.
Less cricket, more time to enjoy our all-inclusive resort! Island trips are hurriedly arraigned, spare buses are despatch to English Harbour, St John’s the capital and Shirley Heights plus a catamaran trip along the coast to fill the time of a fun filled few days. Our final night we organise dinner on the The Warri Pier for our 80 plus guests, some of whom are departing home and others on to St Lucia.

St Lucia …
An earlier arrival into St Lucia than expected – don’t you just love Liat Airways! We missed out our scheduled stop in Barbados and go straight to St Lucia – no explanation! Our hotel the Coco Palm are all ready for us and all rooms are checked in by 10am… now that’s what you call service!

The island is home to the renowned Hotel Chocolate a unique Caribbean experience make your own chocolate bar and enjoy a chocolate styled lunch. “Best of Both” is a popular trip exploring the island by land & sea.
Finally we have a victory! Joe Root’s return to form, Mark Wood’s revival as a strike bowling option, and lingering uncertainty at the top of the order are England’s takeaways from St Lucia, where the tourists claimed a 232-run victory inside four days for a face-saving 1-2 series.

Our farewell dinner with guests Jonathan Agnew & Sir Alastair Cook provides an interesting insight into the highs and lows of being England’s test captain.

It’s a sad day when a tour comes to an end. We have traveled over three islands, everyone has a favourite for one reason or another, yes the cricket from an England view could have been better that’s life ….

Till the next time.

 

Ross Parry

After a slight delay at Gatwick airport due to icy conditions, we safely arrived in Barbados with a warm welcome from the glorious sunshine!

On arrival at my hotel, the Dover Beach on the St Lawrence Gap, I was greeted by my fellow tour manager Bob and we got straight down to business with welcome drinks on consecutive nights.

After the first welcome drinks, in true Parry style, I joined a group to sample a few beers and rum punches in various establishments on the St Lawrence gap. An interesting mixture of beverages and flavours! Our second welcome drinks differed slightly as the group had just arrived and preferred to have a few extra drinks in our bar.

With the four-hour time difference everyone was generally waking up early. One of the group decided at 6am to go for an early morning run down the gap and was surprised that during this exercise it got no lighter! Also encountering a couple of people leaving a bar! On arrival back to his room he had the shocking discovery that he hadn’t changed his clock and it was actually 2:30am! (Howzat rule number one – always change clocks/watches).

With all watches correctly set, we headed off nice and early for day one. With England losing the toss the Windies opted to bat and they scored 289 we fancied our chances of obtaining a first innings lead. However, that was scuppered when we were skittled out for a meagre 77. Thanks to a superb double century from Jason Holder, England were set over 600 runs to win and were all out for 246 by midway through the final session on Day 4.

At least it meant we were able to get away early as there was the farewell dinner for the Barbados only tourists at the Yacht Club that night. Our journey back that afternoon was longer than anticipated as we had to take a detour because the normal route was closed. This was made worse due to our bus being unable to get up a steep hill and meant we all had to get off the bus and walk 100 yards or so up the hill!

For those leaving after the Barbados test the farewell dinner with Aggers and Sir Garfield Sobers was an excellent evening, with Sir Gary being as entertaining as ever.

As there was no cricket on day 5, nearly all my party took the opportunity to chill out and I used the time to say my cheerio’s as I was off nice and early the next day to Antigua.

Leaving before breakfast I successfully managed to blag bacon rolls for both myself and fellow tour manager Nick, who was on my transfer to the airport. A perfect start to the day!

Arriving with plenty of time before our LIAT flight and taking off as scheduled, everything was going smooth, what could go wrong? Well, I arrived on time in Antigua but unfortunately my suitcase didn’t! (At least I was in good company as Messrs Agnew and Mark’s and a couple of fellow Howzat Travellers were in the same boat).

Unfortunately, my suitcase didn’t arrive until mid-day the following day but luckily, I managed to borrow a few items whilst I waited for it to turn up. A lesson was definitely learnt! (Howzat rule number 2 – always pack essential items in your hand luggage when travelling in the Caribbean).

Teaming up with Steve Newman we had the pleasure of looking after over 80 customers at the Jolly Beach hotel. This was my third time at the Jolly Beach resort and although it was under new ownership not much had changed. It still had the most fantastic beach and always will have! With a variety of evening entertainment, a buffet restaurant and three specialist restaurants, there was plenty of choice and of course being all-inclusive the drinks flowed! With spare time before the test match, various excursions were booked with the most popular being the island tour taking in Nelson’s dockyard, Shirley Heights and the tropical rainforest.

Our journey to the ground was just over half an hour and with five mini buses our drive ran smoothly every day. In our party we had 9 lads on tour from Darlington who managed to commandeer their own driver by the last day. I think with their day in the party stand and a session in the Sandals pool, it’s safe to say no one else was too upset they were travelling alone! Unfortunately, the cricket went the same way as Barbados and another disappointing series defeat on foreign soil.

Another early departure, heading to St Lucia via Barbados with 6 hours in Barbados airport, it’s no wonder everyone was expecting a long boring day. However, in the end it proved to be pretty memorable as it is not very often you can say “I had breakfast in Antigua, lunch in Barbados and dinner in St Lucia!” On arrival in St Lucia we had a nice short journey from the local airport to Coco Palm hotel in Rodney Bay where I teamed up with Bob and Maggi.

Again, with spare time before the test match, excursions were booked. The most popular being the half land / half sea trip which I also signed up for. It included a swim, free drinks and entertainment on board the boat trip, which was certainly enjoyed by all and I would highly recommend it. Coco Palm was in a superb location with a great selection of bars and restaurants within walking distance. We discovered a tremendous little café which backed on to the sea, serving homemade rum cake with coffee, and opened once a week in the evening on a Thursday for fish and chips served wrapped in paper (not the local newspaper!).

On a Thursday this quirky little café was subject to a local dominoes afternoon and many of the participants came in by boat. It’s always nice to finish a cricket tour on a high and England’s performance in St Lucia definitely helped. With a superb century from Joe Root and as fast a bowling spell seen by an English bowler for many a year by Mark Wood, they secured a comfortable win. The farewell dinner at the Landings was a memorable evening with excellent food and Sir Alastair Cook and Aggers providing fantastic entertainment.

Once again, another marvellous tour with so many new friendships made. I have never heard so many people talking about future tours, in particular South Africa and Cape Town…

 

David Stewart

A tour to the West Indies is different. Talk with any cricket lover, and a visit to one or more of these beautiful islands is high up on their ‘to do’ list. Add attractive scenery, vibrant culture and guaranteed sunshine, and you have an enticing mix: one that non-cricketing spouses or partners are attracted to, as well as those who enjoy the great game.

Something of a myth has taken root in recent years, namely that cricket in the Caribbean is suffering by comparison with the development of American sports such as basketball. Not so.

As was explained to us by our effervescent driver in Barbados, it is more to do with the ICC and their blinkered ‘one size fits all’ approach to spectator regulations. The locals, he explained, went along for a party as much to watch the play – with conch shells, whistles, and other instruments being barred, too many have decided to take the party to the beach instead; a pity – flexibility in approaching these issues around the world would be wise.

The Tests were played in three modern, pleasant grounds. The locals in Barbados were pessimistic prior to the first one – the West Indies’ previous series had seen a defeat in Bangladesh, which was considered a new low.

A stunning double hundred from their estimable Captain Jason Holder, batting at number 8, in an unbroken stand of 295 with ‘keeper Shane Dowrich was the highlight of a humbling match for visiting players and supporters. That England crumbled to defeat in losing 8 second innings wickets to part-time off spinner Roston Chase spoke volumes.

Next to Antigua, and on a particularly spicy pitch (it wasn’t till we got home most of us were aware how difficult batting actually was), the West Indians got the job done in three days. Kemar Roach, the player of the series, bowled beautifully taking 8 wickets in the match.

An unlikely hero was returning left-handed batsman Darren Bravo who scored one of the slowest 50s ever by someone representing his region, to hold his team’s batting together enabling them to reach a total which put the game beyond England.

On to Saint Lucia, with the series already lost – not many had foreseen that. England restored some pride in the beautifully located Darren Sammy Stadium, setting a circle of hills dotted with delightful dwellings.

This will be remembered as Mark Wood’s Test. The popular Durham fast bowler came of age in a spell that none present that glorious Saturday afternoon will ever forget – 5 wickets from 8 overs.

Of course, while the cricket itself is the focus of a tour such as this, it provides something more: a backdrop for social activity in congenial surroundings, warm weather, and with like-minded company. One of the pleasures of tour managing is observing the new friendships which are made, and later sustained both back in the UK and then renewed on future tours.

Vive la difference.

Gordon Bacon

After the disappointment of losing the 3 match test series 2-1, it was back to Barbados for ODI’s 1 and 2. Seeded No.1 in the ICC ODI rankings, England fans hoped their team could bounce back and put in a good performance, particularly with the World Cup coming up later in the year.

My group stayed at the all-inclusive Sugar Bay Resort which had a lovely beach and a choice of restaurants and bars. The St Lawrence Gap wasn’t far away but most tourists, as it was all-inclusive, made use of the excellent facilities at the hotel.

At the Kensington Oval, WI won the toss in the 1st match, chose to bat and I think every fan in the ground was pleased to see Chris Gayle stride to the wicket. He had said this would be his last series on home soil, having indicated he will retire from ODI cricket after the World Cup. He didn’t disappoint! He smashed 12 x 6’s (a World Record) in his 135, helping WI to a very good 360-8, but he was showing some discomfort by the time he was out.

In reply England’s top order batsmen at last showed some form with Roy and Root hitting centuries, Morgan 65, and England won with only 4 wickets down and 8 balls left.

In the 2nd Barbados match England won the toss and inserted WI. Gayle, who many thought may not be fit for the game, made 50 and Hetmyer 104 in WI’s 289-6 off their 50 overs. In reply England found Cottrell, with his left arm bowling and salute on getting a wicket, too hot to handle. Despite 79 from Stokes and 70 from Morgan, Cottrell and Holder (5 and 3 wickets respectively) saw England lose by 26 runs.

Series all square and at Grenada for matches 3 and 4 my group and Nick Joyce’s group were staying at the Radisson Beach Resort – as were the England team. Another super setting with a great beachfront, bars and restaurants as well as other food and drink outlets just a few minutes either way along the beach.
Sadly, but thankfully for the only time during the entire tour, the 3rd ODI was abandoned without a ball being bowled. The covers were on and off numerous times but every time it appeared some play may be possible another shower of rain descended and the covers went back on.

On one of the free days I joined some of the group for a trip round the lovely island of Grenada. We visited a rum distillery, an organic chocolate factory and a spice and herb garden. All 3 were run by a small staff, who were rightly very proud of their products. A beer in a small bar full of character on the way back to the hotel made it a very good day.

Happily the 4th ODI did take place 2 days later and what a game it was with record after record being broken. WI won the toss and asked England to bat. After a century opening stand by Bairstow and Hales, the stage was set for one of the great ODI innings by an England player. When Hales was out for a very good 82, Morgan was joined by Jos Buttler. The pair added 204 runs in 25 overs, with Morgan first out for 103. Buttler carried on, finishing with 150 off just 77 balls and equalled Chris Gayle’s 12 x 6’s. A magnificent innings which was the major factor in England’s total of 418-6.

But WI had Gayle, and they weren’t about to give up without giving it a very good go. Gayle blasted his way to 162 off 97 balls and, along the way, reclaimed his World Record by hitting 14 x 6’s. When Gayle and Holder fell within 6 balls WI were 6 wickets down and still needed 118 off 14 overs. Nurse and Brathwaite added 88 in just 11.3 overs and, when Adil Rashid started his last over, WI were very much in the hunt, wanting 30 off the last 3 overs. Nurse was caught off the 2nd ball, Brathwaite caught off the 3rd ball, Bishoo caught off the 5th ball and, quite unbelievably Thomas was stumped off the last ball. Rashid took 4 wickets in 5 balls and England won by 29 runs. An amazing game which meant England could not lose the 5-match series as we left lovely Grenada and moved on to St Lucia.

Flying to St Lucia I was on the last of 5 Leeward Islands Air Transport (LIAT) flights I had taken during the time I was in WI. To date I had collected my luggage twice before leaving the airport and twice it came later the following day on another aircraft. I was informed by one of our drivers that LIAT stands for “Luggage in Alternative Terminal”! Happily I collected my luggage on arrival at St Lucia, so won the series 3-2!

My group stayed at the all-inclusive St James’ Club at Morgan Bay, which was only 10 minutes from the domestic airport. Once again the hotel had a lovely beach area as well as several good bars and restaurants.

The last ODI was at the Darren Sammy Stadium and WI asked England to bat once again, though the wicket wasn’t as green as Day 1 in the test match. I don’t think England could blame the pitch for being bowled out for 113 in just 28.1 overs, with Oshane Thomas taking 5 for 21 off 5.1 overs. A very poor batting performance by a team aiming to be World Champions in the summer. WI won easily by 7 wickets in just 12.1 overs. Chris Gayle hit 77 off just 27 balls, including 9 x 6’s, making it probably the easiest ever decision for “Man of the Series”!

Before the 1st T20 I had a trip round St Lucia with Howzat tourists from 2 hotels and we went to several vantage points to get fantastic views of the island. The drive in volcano, the twin peak Pitons and the Botanical Gardens were particularly memorable.

In the 1st T20 England won the toss, inserted WI and for once Chris Gayle didn’t make a big score being out for just 15. Pooran top scored with 58 out of a total of 160. In reply England were comfortable for most of their innings, with Bairstow making 68. Despite a couple of late wickets when single figures needed, England got home by 4 wickets and 7 balls in hand.

The Final Dinner of the tour brought everyone together, as a comparatively small group would be going on to St Kitts for the 2nd and 3rd T20’s. Paul Collingwood and George Dobell (Chief Writer at ESPNcricinfo) were the after-dinner guest speakers. Both men having a great depth of knowledge about England cricket and the game in general and what an entertaining and informative Q and A session it was. Paul and George, in common with all the Howzat Travel speakers, stayed on to chat, and/or have photos taken with those in the audience.

A great way to end a fantastic time in the Caribbean, especially to be able to have a chat with Colly, as both of us were “Mackems” and could understand each other without a translator!

Safe travels to all that joined us in the Caribbean and I hope we meet up again at a cricket field somewhere in the world…

 

Nick Joyce

Our two-week long tour of the Caribbean embraced three wonderful Islands and four games of cricket, the perfect combination for a splendid holiday.

The islands of Barbados, Grenada and St Lucia offered us excellent hotels, white sand beaches, a wide variety of food experiences and plenty of fun and friendship within our knowledgeable touring group.

With 50 over and T20 fixtures there is ample time to explore the islands for their points of interest and enjoy the experiences on offer be it tropical gardens, volcanoes, beaches or spice centres. Our hotels all offered excellent pool facilities with many choices of refreshment available including of course, classic rum punches!

Cricket in the Caribbean, with its party stands, music and the friendly local people (many dancing their way through the matches) is something all cricket lovers should experience. One game in Grenada was rained off which was a great shame. However, we saw incredible and record-breaking cricket in the other matches, things being very much in the favour of the batsmen right up-to the 5th match. There were several centuries on both sides and some incredible hitting of the ball. Seeing Shai Hope hit a six which cleared the pavilion in Barbados was as massive as any ball I’ve ever seen fly through the air. There were numerous balls hit out of the ground and lost at each of the grounds.

Throughout the one dayers Chris Gayle was the outstanding star. He reached 10,000 One Day International runs, scored 426 runs in 4 innings and hit 39 sixes. To see his hitting was to me one of the greatest cricketing spectacles I have ever witnessed. Having watched international cricket for over 50 years, what a privilege it was to see the skill, timing and hitting of the ball by this master craftsman. He was not slogging, he was stroking and timing with such precision that the ball repeatedly travelled into crowds, and several times over the stands not to be recovered. We had a report that the 4th umpire had to visit the changing rooms to gather extra balls from the teams’ coaching supply in Barbados as they had run out!

I doubt I will see hitting like it again. Once again, I can say that I was there.

Thankfully there were also a number of fantastic innings played by the England batsman during the tournament, namely Eoin Morgan, Joe Root and particularly Jos Butler.

The series was levelled at 2-2 in the 50 overs games. Our farewell dinner was held at this point with George Dobell (Cricinfo), interviewing the England fielding coach Paul Collingwood. Once again this was a very interesting and informative evening enjoyed by all who attended.

The last match of my tour was the first T20 game which was played in St Lucia. Gayle was out early to the elation of the England supporters. We witnessed an England victory with Jonny Bairstow as man of the match.

We flew off the island after a wonderful holiday having seen some very special cricket moments, and most definitely with our appetites whet for a summer of World Cup cricket.

 

Bob Buckler

Its round two here in sunny Barbados for the start of the ODI and T20 matches. The tests have been a mixed bag – soundly beaten in two redeeming ourselves in the third.

Barbados …

Hats off to the three long standing Howzat travellers that have already arrived at the Divi Southwinds from St Lucia having completed the test match tour.

The Divi is located on St Lawrence Gap with easy walking distance to all the bars and restaurants, as well a great breakfast served on the beach – literally! It’s been my privilege to manage and escort, ODI’s in Australia and Sri Lanka during the past twelve months and it’s a pleasure to see so many returning guests and getting to know all the new ones. It’s a hard life but someone has to do it!

It’s an 11am start for the first ODI. Our arriving guests from yesterday enjoy a leisurely breakfast overlooking the beach and the sea. The Kensington Oval is a mere 20 min drive from our hotel – not my favourite WI ground, but anywhere in the sun with our guests is only ever a pleasure. Self-proclaimed “Universe Boss” Chris Gayle gets into his stride and smashed 12 sixes, leading West Indies to 361. Roy’s 123 off 85 balls and Roots 102 set the platform for a six wicket England victory with eight balls to spare.

It’s a relaxing day at the Divi. Sun, sea, beach with the large variety of bars and restaurants – our guests are spoilt for choice. Reggae buses leave just outside the hotel for Bridgetown and points beyond, it’s a fun way to travel with the locals for less than a £1 per journey, you just need to be brave, smile and enjoy the potholes!

The second ODI sees a Shimron Hetmyer 104 and a Sheldon Cottrell 5 for 46 help WI to a 26-run victory and level up the series.

Grenada …

It’s a late flight onto our next island and the Grenadian hotel, only 5 mins from the airport, an all-inclusive resort who have kindly keep the buffet open till 10pm especially for us. The hotel is in a stunning setting on a lovely sandy beach the nearby Aquarium restaurant a great hit with its Sunday BBQ and live music, there’s a great swimming pool area with lovely Rum Punches where you can get your lunch time snacks. Guests could get the free shuttle and some even came back in the right spirit with their bandanas neatly worn.

Monday the third ODI. It’s raining.

It continued off and on till play was finally abandoned for the day at 2.40.

The next day, plenty of the group headed out around the island on excursions. Followed by a QandA with Trevor Bayliss and Paul Farbrace. With the latter having just been appointed sporting director at Warwickshire who will step down at the end of the Caribbean tour, made it a very interesting evening.

Wednesday, the fourth ODI – a match to remember for many reasons. The locals were out in force, not a seat to be spared, the bars are over flowing with Rice and Peas Rotti, Beers and Rum, looks like the locals have a day out! It was nail biting right to the end. England 418, Butter 150 an innings of sheer brutality followed by Gayle’s 162 the run chase was on till the big man was gone Rashid five and Wood four helped us to a 29 runs victory.

St. Lucia …

Early 6am flight to our next island returning to the Coco Palm for the second time and again they don’t disappoint, what a joy for us to be welcomed at this lovely Hotel. We arrive to a “great to see you again welcome” our group of 44 are really getting along well together and are soon out to experience what Rodney Bay has to offer. St Lucia is home to the Hotel Chocolate experience followed by a gourmet lunch in the hotel restaurant that’s a serious amount of chocolate, but if that’s your thing you must do this.

It’s the fifth and final ODI Oshane Thomas demolishes England with 5-21. Leaving Chris Gayle to nearly single handily reach the 114 required for victory. West Indies win the final ODI by seven wickets with 227 balls to spare and draw the series 2-2.

Our ODI and T20 Tour Farewell Dinner is at Sandals with special guests George Dobell and Paul Collingwood. An entertaining evening with an insight into how the new England set up could be after the departure of our coach, assistance coach and batting coach.

Guests are late the next morning, some recovering after the farewell dinner the night before many around the pool relaxing before the trip home tomorrow. Later in the day it’s the 1st T20 – a quick-fire half-century by Jonny Bairstow leads England to a comfortable four-wicket victory of their three-match series.

Finally, its departure day for guests leaving St Lucia the hotel staff are out in force to wish them goodbye and safe travels, what a pleasure to have been I hope to return with our guests soon.

St Kitts …

One of my favourite islands!

The Timothy Beach is our hotel for the next six nights, very much a Caribbean style hotel on a local’s beach with a strip of pubs and restaurants. Our ground partners run through the various excursions most opting for the island train trip, disappointingly all the Catamarans are sold out but yours truly had other ideas, never known to be short of a trick up my sleeve!

It’s six nations rugby weekend plus a few interesting football matches so a local sports bar on the strip becomes a poplar venue and the time difference works well with the 4pm cricket start. The final two T20’s are scheduled in the capital of Basseterre. A small ground close to the centre of town and just 10 minutes from our hotel.

2nd T20 Sam Billings saved England before Chris Jordan’s four-wickets demolition of West Indies for only 45, the tourists 137-run victory in the second T20I and an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series.

3rd T20 David Willey, Mark Wood bowled out West Indies for an abysmal 71 and England cruised to an eight-wicket win in St Kitts to take series 3-0. The heavens opened just as the game finished but it was all too late for the WI.

The final two days in St Kitts are spent on excursions, playing golf, sailing trips and a few hours at the bar! I Yours truly managed to source an exclusive Howzat Catamaran for the day en-route to Nevis, we stopped for snorkelling and lunch at a beach bar plus a serious drink called “killer bee” that had us singing all the way back home, I think the headache the next day for all was attributed to too much sun! Well that’s our story…

All too soon we are at the airport saying farewell to the final Howzat Tour group in the West Indies for me also time to say goodbye after eight weeks, five islands, ten Liat flights (no lost luggage), three tests, five ODI’s and finally three T20’s. It’s been a pleasure accompanying Howzat guests around the beautiful Caribbean I hope it was for you too.