Now I know we’re getting very much into niche territory here, but I LOVE cricket. Days out with my besties Churchie and Tone always feature sunshine, alcohol, and laughter, all in huge quantities. Best not to mention our boy’s away trip to Bristol, where it rained for 4 days solid and we never even got to close to the cricket ground, let alone see any cricket. Usually, it’s all about sunshine, alcohol, and fun, and sometimes we even get to enjoy what happens ON the field lol. Actually, whether we’re supporting Hampshire or England, both teams have an excellent record of winning when we’re watching 🙂 These days out with the boys, whatever the weather, are always amongst the highlights of my year, I love ’em!
As a cricket fan, what could be better than visiting the home of West Indies cricket, Kensington Oval? Ok ok, I know other islands may have valid claims to be the home of West Indies cricket, but this is the home of Sir Garfield (Gary) Sobers, one of the greatest batsmen of all time, who once hit six sixes in an over, against Malcolm Nash in Glamorgan, 1968 if I remember correctly. It’s also the home of my favourite ever bowler, Malcolm Marshall. When I first saw cricket on the TV, the West Indies were in their prime with a bowling attack of the 4 fastest bowlers on the planet, including Malcolm Marshall. The TV would show him bowl, the batsman would get a slight edge and the ball would fly straight into the wicket-keeper’s hands. Another wicket! Back in those days, the mid-80s I would have thought, the TV production was not as highly sophisticated as it is now, with all sorts of angles, back then the angle was always from behind the bowler. When I went to my first ever live cricket match, the game was already underway, and Malcolm Marshall was steaming in from the city end as I entered from a square-leg (side-on) position. The batsman got a nick, and the ball flew straight into the wicket-keeper’s hands. What shocked me was that the wicket-keeper was standing a pitch and a half-length away, not right up to the stumps as it appeared on TV. And the speed of Malcolm Marshall’s bowling! No wonder he made many a batsman quake in their boots!
Carol and I strolled down to the Kensington Oval and had a look around. We saw the statues, one of which is Gary Sobers, and another, yet to be revealed, was of a bowler. Sadly for me, it is of Wes Hall, not Malcolm Marshall as I had hoped. We saw the famous 3Ws stand (Worrell, Weekes and Walcott) and could easily see into the ground. This in itself was a thrill for me, such a privilege to be there. There were very few tourists in town, due to COVID travel restrictions and considerations, and as a result, many businesses had been shut down, one of which was the stadium tour, so sadly that wasn’t an option for me.
Then Carol did some research, there was to be a game there in a few days! It was a local T20 Final match, to be played between JCB Boscobelle and Crane Resort St. Catherine. BD$10 a ticket (just over £3) On the morning of the game it rained, a lot! It rained most days we were there, to be honest, but they were usually short sharp bursts immediately followed by bright sunshine. The rain meant I had decided not to go, I didn’t think there was much chance of the game going ahead.
Then the rain stopped, and the sun came out…Hmm, slight possibility of some play. Our Airbnb host found the game on the radio, and indeed play was going ahead! We went down the road, jumped in the Number 4 bus (well, minibus) and went via Deacon Road, straight to the doorsteps of the Oval.
As I entered the ground, having missed the entire first innings, a fast bowler hit the middle stump and the crowd went wild! This was cricket, proper West Indies style. Lots of soca-style dancing was going on, firstly by the lady in green whose team had just taken a wicket, then by the lady in yellow as her team hit a six to get back into the game. I saw one of the best catches ever, a fielder diving high to his right to not only take a wicket but also to prevent a very important 6. To and fro it went until the penultimate ball when JCB Boscobelle hit the winning runs. The atmosphere generated by only 200-300 socially distanced fans was absolutely amazing.
As the winning runs were hit, many of the crowd ran down onto the pitch. This is not something I usually do, as in England’s test grounds it’s largely prohibited and can result in a charge of trespassing, but here I thought why not, everyone else is. I was on the pitch of The Kensington Oval. I noticed the square (the area around the matchday wicket) had not been roped off as it usually is immediately in England, even in a local village game.
Nothing to stop me…
I polished an imaginary ball on my trousers, positioned the seam for an outswinger, and began my run-up from the 3 Ws stand end. I imagined who else has run in from this end; Malcolm Marshall?, Michael Holding? Courtney Walsh? Joel Garner? Many. many greats of the game. I steamed in, got my delivery stride right and bowled a beauty that got the batsman to edge it straight to third slip. I repeated my run-up and this time got one to straighten up and rip out the middle stump. Just to be crystal clear, there were no other players on the pitch at this point, no umpires, no stumps, not even a ball, but I could not have been happier, I “bowled” at The Kensington Oval.
We stayed for the medal and cup awarding ceremonies, and I thought about photobombing the team photo (I could have as I was so close, but decided against it).
As we left the ground, a lady pulled over in her car, wound down her window, and complimented me on my great bowling. And that bit is 100% true. Her comment put the hugest of smiles on my face.