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Clubs on tour in St Lucia

Caribbean tour diary

Touring teams from England are heading to St Lucia in increasing numbers. Nigel Abbott of Surrey side Claygate tells their story...

© Cricket World Cup
Claygate CC is a small village club who play in the Surrey Downs league. They’ve been undertaking international tours for the last 10 years and have toured Sri Lanka, Barbados, Goa, South Africa and Trinidad and Tobago. In 2006 they decided to return to the Caribbean and chose St Lucia because of the knowledge of the Barmy Army’s Suranjan Cooray, a long-time member of Claygate, who was already aware of the cricketing and general attractions of the island. Cooray also has plans to take several thousand Barmies there for the World Cup. Cooray liaised with the St Lucian Cricket Association and set up a two-week, seven-game tour in February 2006.

Friday Feb 10th 2006
A party of 45 players including wives, children and mothers-in-law arrive at Gatwick. The player’s cricketing skills are already honed to perfection after several anticipatory months in the nets. This may or may not be true. On arrival in St Lucia they head for the Bay Gardens Hotel, Rodney Bay.

Saturday Feb 11th
Net practice at the Beausejour stadium. What a privilege to be able to practise on this terrific new ground. We feel good about the side, which is a broad mixture of ages and abilities. A touch jetlagged though …

Sunday Feb 12th
Our first game, against Soufriere. Unseasonal heavy rain waterlogs the pitch and it’s called off at 9am. Frustrating for some, but good for a couple of the youngsters who have just discovered the effects of large amounts of rum. It may not be for the last time.

Tuesday Feb 14th
Our first game at Mindoo Phillip Park (below left) – the main venue pre-Beausejour, located in Castries. It’s soon obvious that for Claygate, the locals read ‘England’. The opposition turns out with a couple of St Lucian and Windward Island players! They score 200-plus … we’re a hundred short.

Wednesday Feb 15th
Second game against the Police All-stars, including the deputy commissioner. Best behaviour, then, and hide the duty free. We start to rue the shortage of one or two key players. Why did they decide not to come? They score 200-plus … we’re a hundred short.

Friday Feb 17th
Game at Soufriere. A stunning ground under the shadow of the world famous Pitons. There probably isn’t a more picturesque ground in the Caribbean, but the temperatures reach well into the 90s and there were no facilities or shade. Even for all the rum and cokes in the world we wouldn’t reveal the Claygate score!

Saturday Feb 18th
Second game at Soufriere. We bat first to see if we can change the run of form. Gap-year student Jamie Henderson knocks a useful 76 and we post a respectable 159. They get them for five. How do they hit the ball so hard?

Monday Feb 20th
Boat trip to see some of the major sites of the island. The volcano, the Pitons and some of St Lucia’s fantastic bays and beaches. A really memorable day … at least until the rum takes hold! There appears to be a theme here …

Tuesday Feb 21st
Mon Repos. Rain and a mini marathon in the morning means the game starts a few hours late and we agree 30 overs. It doesn’t make any difference. They score just fewer than 200 ... we’re a hundred short. Great interaction with the locals. Post-match atmosphere is very special. Our coach always travels with copious supplies of Piton beer! That’s why the locals remember us and turn out in force to play us!

Wednesday Feb 22nd
Last game at Mindoo Phillip Park immediately after Independence Day celebrations. The highlight is 17-year-old Joel Watkins taking 5 for 38, his first ever ‘fifer’. What a place to do it and Joel is man of the match! They score 200 plus … we’re a hundred short.

Thursday Feb 23rd
The cricketing highlight. We play a representative junior side and have the pleasure of playing on St Lucia’s pride and joy, Beausejour. Twenty-five Claygate supporters fill the stadium with enthusiastic support! Closest game of the tour. They score 190. We’re 20 short with nine down. A great game and a real occasion.

Friday Feb 24th
Claygate secretary Rufus Legg reflects: “Each game presented a variety of challenges – none of which we were quite up to, but in overall terms we had a terrific time on a fantastic island.”