West Indies v England, 1st Test, Kingston, 4th day March 14, 2004

A rum day for the locals

Today's big crowd at Sabina Park got a shock, as Freddie Auld reports

Hoggy's gonna get you! © Getty Images

The biggest crowd yet at Sabina Park flooded to the ground this morning. Traffic down the South Camp Road was at a standstill, the side streets were crammed - the place was buzzing. The rain-clouds had been blown away into some other part of the Caribbean Sea, so the sun proudly had his hat on. But, much to the locals' disbelief, it wasn't a West Indian hat. The stage was set for something special, but it didn't quite go to plan for the home supporters ... and how the away fans let them know it.

It's hard to escape the effects of the Barmy Army, with the lower ranks on duty in the Mound Stand and a crack squad on patrol in the Air Jamaica Stand, both of which flank the drowned-out press box. Most days it comes as some relief to the journalists that the Barmies don't get into full voice until the afternoon, usually because they are still feeling the effects of one Red Stripe too many.

But today Steve Harmison and Matthew Hoggard gave them an early wake-up call, startling them out of their hazy hangovers while the local supporters sat in stunned silence. For most of the morning, the hooters and whistles were put away. Chris Gayle, a Jamaican, failed again: the locals were not impressed. Ramnaresh Sarwan got a bit of a stinker from umpire Harper: again, not happy. Shivnarine Chanderpaul played on: silence.

The quiet was temporarily broken as the pavilion gate swung open and through swaggered Brian Lara, the saviour to put everything right again. But the utter disbelief when he gave Andrew Flintoff catching practice for the second time in the match was a sight to be seen - even the England fans took a while to believe it. As all eyes turned to the TV replay, Tony Cozier's expression said it all - mouth wide open, face an interesting shade of puce. "Lara, Sarwan and Chanderpaul, all out for a duck," he cursed, putting his head in his hands.

All alone ... West Indies stumble to defeat © Getty Images
Meanwhile the Barmy Army was finding voice. "Hoggy's gonna get ya!" came the cries as Hoggard lolloped back to his position at fine leg, doffing of his sunhat, which received raucous cheers. And when Hoggie clasped Devon Smith's drive, it was mayhem. Jimmy Saville, the Barmies' leader, who wears the same uniform every day but doesn't seem to have any spares, was wildly waving his St George flag, and encouraging all to join in the monotonous Barmy Army chant (but will they have to change it to "Harmy Army" now?).

Ridley Jacobs put a brief smile back on the locals' faces with his no-nonsense knock, but Harmo'n'Hoggy soon had them back in a huff. Even the DJ, who had gone into hibernation, was finally forced to spin a track or two after Ryan Hinds's wicket. As an early finish loomed, so did a few early exits.

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