The series has shifted south, into tourist territory, and the West Indies know, from recent experience, just how much England, as depressed as they are following their defeat in Kingston, can gain from the uplifting support of their travelling fans.

The throng has been pouring in by the jumbo load and will be there in force at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium for the start of the second Test. It will be even larger for the third, two weeks later in Barbados.

Boisterous backing from the stands is a factor critical in all sport. It is known as home advantage and is the main reason, for instance, why away goals count double in international football. Nothing indicates the state of the game better than a Caribbean crowd - vociferous, raucous, ecstatic whenever West Indies are dominant, depressed and muted when they are down.

Chris Gayle referred to the positive impact of the joyful pandemonium that greeted the fall of every wicket in England's collapse to 51 all out at Sabina Park last Saturday. In his first Test in his spiritual, if not native home, Brendan Nash described his first experience of it as "a wonderful feeling that definitely helped".

The roles have been reversed of late. Until the last decade of the 20th century, when ticket prices soared out of the reach of the average fan, Tests at The Oval, in the heart of London's expatriate Caribbean community, were virtual home matches for West Indies. Now West Indians can be numbered in the dozens rather than thousands.

At the same time, package tours have allowed England's sporting fans to follow their various teams to the four corners of the globe. Antigua and Barbados, islands dependent on tourism and geared for it, have been the most popular venues and Tests there have become virtual England home matches.

On England's previous tour, five years ago, the stands at the Kensington Oval in Barbados were oceans of pink faces and tanned bodies as locals sold on their tickets and pocketed the then powerful pounds rather than watch their struggling team.

As West Indies were bowled out for 97 in their second innings, following their 47 in the first Test at Sabina Park, and England comfortably advanced towards their trifling winning goal of 94 at tea on the third afternoon, a chorus of voices from the temporary stand adjoining the media centre drunkenly sang "We Are the Champions" and "Rule Brittania".

It was the first time I had ever walked out on a Test match. I had had enough. The contrasting effects it had on the two teams was not hard to imagine.

It was similar ten years earlier, in the early signs of the phenomenon. England arrived in Barbados still shaken after collapsing to 46 and defeat in the Trinidad Test and losing by ten wickets to the West Indies A team in Grenada. Bouyed by the presence at the Kensington Oval of thousands of their kith and kin, with their flags and their banners, they proceeded to win the Test, their first on the ground in 59 years - a remarkable recovery.

But, regardless of the result last Saturday, these are two evenly-matched teams. Any number of seemingly trivial issues can tilt the balance. The vibes from beyond the boundary is one. A repeat of the Sabina Park performance is the surest way to influence the wavering West Indian fans to turn out to shout for them once again.