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Monday 24th May
West Indies v New Zealand
Tail-Ender packs his bucket and spade today and takes a trip down to the South Coast to the quaint little Northlands County Ground, Southampton for the Kiwi v Windies encounter. After taking a brisk stroll in the bracing sea air at this very pleasant little venue, Tail-Ender takes his place in the press tent and is soon engaged in conversation with some of the ever friendly West Indies' journalists who acquaint Tail-Ender with the tale of former West Indies paceman Winston Davis.
For those of you who don't know, Winston Davis was part of the 1983 West Indies World Cup and still holds the record for the best bowling analysis in a World cup with figures of 7/51 against Australia, and also played in his native West Indies and for several English county sides in the course of a long and distinguished career which gave a great deal of pleasure to followers of the quick man's art. Last year, Winston suffered a terrible accident when performing some routine maintenance at home, as he fell from a tree and was tragically paralysed from the neck down.
Unfortunately Winston is now confined to a wheelchair, but derives a great deal of pleasure and fortitude from contact with the cricketing world, so in this the last tournament before the millennium and with the World Cup giving so much pleasure to followers of the game, Tail-Ender would like to make an appeal to cricket lovers the world over to send in your messages of support and friendship to Winston Davis. Please mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org and show your solidarity for a fine servant of the game.
On the field and with a resurgent Curtly and Courtney back in harness, the Windies put in a masterly bowling performance in helpful conditions which has the Kiwis on the back foot from the off. Although the Sheep Worriers bowl well and are perhaps a little unlucky, Ridley Jacobs is in irresistible form and with Brian Lara curiously playing the understudy's role, the powerful wicket keeper batsman sees them home at a canter. This proscribes a healthy dose of reality for Kiwi supporters who were starting to suffer from an almost terminal degree of smugness after their defeat of the Aussies, but the Black Caps (surely the silliest team nick name of the tournament) may surprise us all yet. Or not.
There's a steel band and mini-carnival going on down in front of one of the stands and Tail-Ender takes a moment to sample the calypso rhythms and have a quick boogie, but he's perplexed and disappointed to discover so few West Indian fans at the game (they always throw the best parties you see). As an ankle biter, Tail-Ender fondly remembers watching the red, gold and green hordes who used to congregate around the boundary boards in the seventies and eighties. They gave every Test a real calypso feel with drums and klaxons, generating a cauldron of noise to greet every incoming English batsman which was every bit as fearsome as a pace quartet. While the TCCB did their best to alienate these fans with a no fun agenda, banning musical instruments and pricing them out with exorbitant ticket prices, surely interest in West Indies cricket in this country can't have sunk to this all time low?
Tail-Ender sincerely hopes not, but is also pleased to make his Award for the Friendliest Team of the Tournament, which of course goes to the West Indies themselves, past and present, who are happy to hang around, sign autographs and shoot the breeze in the post match wind down. The Windies are a real breath of fresh air amongst the security and paranoia surrounding this competition and the powers that be could learn a real lesson from their attitude.
Elsewhere up in Edinburgh, the Sweaties blow their own mini-cup final by failing to beat Bangladesh. All had begun well for the Scots as they ran through the Bangladesh top order to reduce them to 26 -5, but Minhajul Abedin put some fuel into the Tiger's tank as he turned the innings around with a match winning 68. The Scots possess a top-order as brittle as a Ming vase and they duly obliged again, folding before the might of the er Bangladesh attack. Mind you the only way the Tigers could dispose of Gavin Hamilton, Scotland's one true player of class, was to run him out backing up for another titanic 63. Of Gavvy boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling, but they're sounding from south of the border.