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Life is a ball in beautiful Barbados

By Angus Fraser

15 March 1998

TO THE majority of England players, tours to the West Indies have been the most enjoyable we have been on. There are several reasons for this, ranging from the contrast of each island to the enthusiasm for the game generated by the people on them, but perhaps the main reason for this feeling is that every four years we get to spend at least two weeks of our life on an island called Barbados.

Each of the countries we visit has its own attractions that make it unique, but Barbados is comfortably the most popular of our destinations.

One factor in this is that here is the place where most of us meet up with our wives, girlfriends and families for the first time in two months which, for some inexplicable reason, seems to make the players a bit more relaxed than they were (for a short time anyway). All of us have enjoyed immensely seeing our families again and it's amazing how quickly your children change. I didn't think it was possible but mine have got even cheekier and it won't be long before I have to watch what I say to my son.

The main reason, though, for our love of this place in particular is that as soon as you arrive here you realise that Barbados is an island dominated by tourism and with this comes the restaurants and beaches that allow us to feel we are at last in the Caribbean, which is a sensation you struggle to find in Kingston, Jamaica or Georgetown, Guyana, however hard they try.

Most of the action occurs on the west/south coast, where the calmer warm waters of the Caribbean Sea make the beaches look just like those you see on postcards and an ideal place for hotels and restaurants. The main centre of night life, so I have been told, as it is certainly not the sort of place you would find an England cricketer, is south of Bridgetown around an area called St Lawrence Gap. (You're right, I'm not a very good liar, but my wife is here.) Perhaps its most famous watering hole is a bar called The Ship Inn, a very lively place where you can often find the former Middlesex and West Indies fast bowler Wayne Daniel checking out the scenery.

The Kensington Oval ground is the best we play on and, like Sabina Park, Queen's Park Oval and the Bourda, has recently been redeveloped. All these new stands look magnificent, but it just seems we surprise them each time by turning up and telling them we are going to play a Test match here next week. Apparently, the workers work best under pressure.

The ground has mixed memories for me. Eight years ago, we lost in a game I missed due to pulling an intercostal muscle in the nets three days before the Test was due to start. Once again, their main destroyer was Curtly Ambrose, who took eight for 43 in our second innings (his name seems to crop up quite a bit in my articles for some strange reason). Our win though, four years later, will go down as one, if not the, highlight of each of that squad's career. My eight for 75 is still the highlight of mine, and I'm sure Alec Stewart will struggle to surpass what he achieved in that game. To come back as we did, having been bowled out for 46 in Trinidad, was a brilliant performance, especially as everyone had virtually written us off.

This year, as often happens at grounds where you have done well at in the past, we both made sure that we got the same changing positions as four years ago, which happens to be next to each other. One thing that stands out from that game was the crowd and how they got behind us. It was almost like playing a Test match at home, although over here they are allowed to enjoy themselves inside the ground. After the devastation of Trinidad, we did not quite know how they would react to us, but the ovation Mike Atherton and Alec Stewart got as they left the pavilion immediately told us they were right behind us.

This year has been no different, only the number of Brits attending has increased. Our journey to the ground on the first day was amazing, with all the supporters meeting at the front of their hotels and cheering us on as our coach sped through the streets of Bridgetown behind a police escort. It was no different at the ground, where our warm up lap got a standing ovation. That sort of support really does get the day off to a nice start and picks everyone up.

The punters naturally would love a repeat performance of 1994, but you keep telling them it's not quite that easy to turn it on just like that. All we can promise is we will be trying as hard as we can. We know just how important this game is.

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
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Date-stamped : 15 Mar1998 - 14:34