West Indies v England, 1st Test, Sabina Park, 2nd day March 12, 2004

A morning on the mound

The Mound Stand at Sabina Park is Jamaica's answer to the Sydney Hill or the old Western Terraces at Headingley



Fidel Edwards got the crowd - and the batsmen - jumping © Getty Images

The Mound Stand at Sabina Park is Jamaica's answer to the Sydney Hill or the old Western Terraces at Headingley. Tucked in between the scoreboard and the press box, it is the heart and soul of the Sabina samba.

An even mix of home and away supporters were all bubbling with excitement about the day ahead. "It's evenly poised at the moment," said serious-faced Jim from Derbyshire. "If they get two wickets before lunch, then they'll be back on top." Tyler, an Anglo-Aussie from Portsmouth decked out in Barmy Army T-shirt and cap, agreed: "It's a very important day. If we can get 100 runs in the first session for no wickets, then we're sorted. But if we're, say, four down at lunch then we're in trouble." You don't say, Tyler.

Ian from Blackburn, sporting a Lancashire hat, wasn't too bothered about the result, just as long as the match went the distance. "I just hope it lasts five days, because of the free Red Stripe," he said, before embarking on his second trip to the bar that morning. Indeed, the place was jam-packed with beers, bras and bikinis.

Predictably the local supporters, used to the baking sun, sat in the shade at the rear, while the red-backed England fans camped out on the small uncovered sloping area of grass in front, from which the stand gets its name. Slapping on the suncream and supping the Red Stripe, the English contingent was out in force, although some of them were forced to take cover: "I got burnt yesterday," laughed Andy from Bristol, "so common sense prevailed and I'm sitting here."

There was a delayed celebration of Andrew Flintoff's smart catch that closed West Indies' innings, before one of the Barmy Army turned to the locals and shouted, "Are you ready to see some real batsmen now, boys?" He got the bird and was told to shut up and sit down and watch Fidel at work.

But Edwards was indeed soon getting them up on their feet. As he gave Michael Vaughan the eye, the home fans were delirious with excitement, cheering and screaming. "You wouldn't get this anywhere else," quipped Andy. "It's a bit different from watching Gloucestershire."

Then it was England's turn to make some noise, as Marcus Trescothick edged Corey Collymore for four. But something was missing ... music. Every West Indian boundary yesterday had been celebrated with an impressive master-mix, but now you could have been at Lord's for the Varsity match. The English lot pointed this out in no uncertain terms, but the DJ wasn't interested. Then Vaughan cracked Edwards to the square-leg fence - but again nothing came booming out of the speakers. That was too much for one England fan, who rushed up to the booth pointing to his "4" card and telling the man with the beats to play, but still to no avail.

Perhaps he shouldn't have bothered. A few minutes later, there was some noise - and plenty of it. After Edwards sent Trescothick's off stump flying, the joint was swinging. Men were whistling and shaking their sticks, women were bumping and grinding; it was all going off. "Fancy a beer, mate?" shouted Andy, as he and his mates tucked in to their third round. "No thanks," I replied stoically. "Got to get back. I'm a professional."

Freddie Auld, Wisden Cricinfo's assistant editor, will be following England's fortunes in Jamaica and Trinidad.