February 16, 2009

Andrew McGlashan on England in West Indies, 2008-09

Return of a long-lost friend

Andrew McGlashan

Finally this series is back into full swing. It's the third Test, but really it's the second, because the second one we had two days ago lasted 10 balls. Still following? It's been a crazy few days.

The outfield was bumpy, the run-ups a little damp, some of the seats a bit wobbly and the press box a little cramped, but none of that mattered. The music was at full volume, the England flags were draped around the ground and the atmosphere was electric.

There were cheers for the toss, for the first ball, for the first run, for the first boundary. They grew louder each time. When England passed 51 there was almost a standing ovation, and later the ground rose as one to acclaim Andrew Strauss's century. It was a day of 'I was there' moments to add to quite a list from the last week.

The great and good turned out for the occasion. Viv, of course, was there and looking a lot happier than two days ago. "This is how it should be," he said. Curtly Ambrose was there (and seemed even taller) while doing some radio work and the Benjamins, Winston and Kenny, were seem arm-in-arm on the outfield.

The prime minister of Antigua, Baldwin Spencer, was also at the ground to soak up the moment, but he also has the job of finding out why it reached this stage.

"It was most unfortunate what happened at the Sir Vivian Richards stadium, but we got this ready quickly," he told Cricinfo. "We were concerned about the thousands of tourists who had come to Antigua and we couldn't afford a situation where they would have needed to leave and not see any cricket.

He has also promised that the government would take charge of the investigation. "We will certainly put the necessary mechanisms into place to make sure the investigation can take place."

But the day was all about making the best out of a bad situation and the ARG managed it. "It's certainly a nostalgic feeling, it reminds me of those wonderful days at the ARG," the prime minister said. "And the fact that we were able to transform it in 36 hours to host a Test match, that clearly demonstrates the resilience of the Antigua and Barbuda people."

So what about the longer term? The locals clearly want Test cricket back 'home'. The common feeling among many people you ask is that the ground at North Sound is "a load of b*****ks" to quote my taxi driver.

"Clearly the situation has to be investigated going forward. I don't think that should lead to a situation where Test cricket can no longer be played at the [SVR] stadium," the Prime Minister said. "As far as the ARG is concerned I'd always stated that this ground should be in a position to hold cricket at the highest level.

"I still believe the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium can meet the required standard as far as the pitch and outfield is concerned."

However, even if the stadium was fit for action it is unlikely the locals would attend. "A lot of people are glad to see cricket back here. Sometimes circumstances allow for something to happen that you'd never anticipated," admitted the PM.

An hour after play, DJ Chickie was still blasting out the music as people drank and danced into the evening. They were celebrating the return of a long lost friend.


Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Andrew McGlashan
Assistant Editor Andrew arrived at ESPNcricinfo via Manchester and Cape Town, after finding the assistant editor at a weak moment as he watched England's batting collapse in the Newlands Test. Andrew began his cricket writing as a freelance covering Lancashire during 2004 when they were relegated in the County Championship. In fact, they were top of the table when he began reporting on them but things went dramatically downhill. He likes to let people know that he is a supporter of county cricket, a fact his colleagues will testify to and bemoan in equal quantities.

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