Dec 16, 2018, 4:20 PM
Location: Outer Cheltenhamshire
Team(s): Cheltenham Town
Not worried about weather forecast, but still a rain affected day
3 Ws Oval, Cave Hill (third day of a potential four day game)
Barbados 167 and 187, Jamaica 284 and 65
Admission Free. Attendance ~20
Wildey Astroturf, Sir Garfield Sobers Sports Complex
Brittons Hill United 1-2 Ellerton. Attendance ~ 100
Notre Dame 1-2 Empire Club. Attendance ~ 120
To get from where I am staying to Cave Hill, I needed to use two minibuses, with them using different bus stations, about a ten minute walk apart in Bridgetown.
The second bus dropped me right outside the entrance to the University complex, with the 3Ws Oval being the first thing one encounters inside.
The ground has one stand, which is on two levels, but this is not open to the public. There is an area of open seating right out in the glare of the sun, but most of the regulars found some shade and sat on grass. Many had thought to bring foldaway seats with them.
The locals were a mixed group, with about a quarter of them being white. I did not ask their circumstances, but I would guess they have settled in Barbados and are now retired.
Having been 87 behind on first innings, Barbados, who had lost their third wicket in the last over the previous evening opened the day with a lead in single figures. I arrived some 25 minutes after the start and things had already got worse for the home side. They were five down and only 21 ahead. The sixth wicket fell soon afterwards, but a good partnership between Aaron Jones (31) and Hayden Walsh Junior (36) added 47 for the seventh wicket. The tail enders each added a small contribution and the innings ended on the stroke of lunch with Barbados ahead by 106.
There are no formal refreshment facilities, but I was pointed to the campus shop where I obtained a pasty and a ginger beer and also a stall selling drinks from the back of a van (where I purchased a Bank's Lager). The ginger beer had the more taste of the two drinks.
The Jamaica target of 107 was exactly the score the opening partnership had made on day 1, (with a few runs on day 2). Jamaica started in a hurry, with 24 runs in the first three overs. John Campbell had 19 of these, including four fours and was determined to show a flourish. He holed out on the first ball of the next over. Scoring now slowed down, but a second wicket was lost just as the first rain interuption came upon us.
I took cover in a covered stand which looks out not onto a pitch, but to a large semi-permanant marquee. This in turn stands on what used to be a 2/3 size artificial hockey pitch, (and even earlier, a full size pitch, the rest now being a car park).
The first rain break was an hour long, we then had twenty minutes play and a second, shorter break. Two wickets fell in the twenty minute period, again one of them was the last ball, leaving Jamaica on 52 for 4.
I talked to some of the others there, who bemoaned the lack of technique in the modern game thanks to the focus on T20 and other shorter forms. As in England though, it is only the shorter forms that can draw much of a crowd these days. Still, England will visit in January and the barmy army and TV contracts will fill the coffers of the West Indies Cricket Association, which in turn allows the cricketeers I was seeing to remain full professional. Remembering that both sides had lost a good few players as the West Indies themselves were playing in Sri Lanka.
After the second break, Jamaica continued to thrash the bat, with one batsman giving his wicket away each over until the last one - which saw two fall. The team had crashed from 52 for 3 to 65 all out and Barbados won by 41 runs.
It was now well gone four, so I knew getting to the football for five was not really on. I took enough time to say goodbye to those I had been talking to, and got the mini bus down into town, which operated at a breakneck speed, but still only arrived two minutes before five. Minibuses have some permanant seats and two pull down seats. If you are in one of these, then you have to get up when someone behnd you wants to get off the bus. I was on this seat, and also found that it tried to tip over each time the driver took a left turn at speed, almost dumping me onto the lap of another passenger.
Bridgetown is a mix of the posh and shiny (often within historical colonial buildings) and the run-down. These are all in very close proximity. With a heavy shower while walking, I took shelter in a run down, open fronted bar and had another lager before venturing trough the puddles to the bus station. With a lot of traffic going up hill, it was about 30 minutes into the second half before I arrived at the ground.
This is not a problem, as three games are scheduled (all at a single venue) on each of Saturday and Sunday. Saturday they are at 5, 7, and 9 while on Sunday, it is 4, 6 and 8.
The Barbados Premier League consists of 12 teams, each playing each other twice, but then the league tables are arranged in two zones, to allow finals to be played. This season there are 22 league fixtures, last year it was 16 as teams played those from the opposite zone once only. Two seasons ago, they had a stright league. The groups are referred to as zones, but have no geographical significance
Prior to my arrival, every team had played five games, which means they had completed a round of fixtures within their zone. The games I would see were the first interzone games, which would then carry on for the next five rounds.
The match I missed was Paradise v Barbados Soccer Academy. Both teams placed second in their zone. It was a big win for zone 2 side Paradise, some of whom I had seen at training two days earler. They used the Dover grounds near where I am staying. Paradise won 4-0 although I only saw the injury time fourth goal. By a quirk of fixtures, (which are released in advance), it is not just 2nd v 2nd, but also 3rd v 3rd and 4th v 4th this week.
The second game up for Saturday, though was Brittons Hill (bottom of zone 1) v Ellerton (fifth in zone 2). It was an open game, with chances wasted at both ends. Brittons Hill go a stroke of luck just before the break, with a penalty for handball converted for 1-0, but then could not keep the lead as Damien Walcot's injury time header against the underside of the crossbar was deemed to cross the line before being hooked away. I could not tell, but the assistant referee was in-line. Ellerton shaded the second half and won the contest with a goal fifteen minutes from time.
Having been promised a lift by the manager of Empire Club, (the buses do not run later enough to be an option), I stayed for game 3. Empire Club started top of zone 2, with their opponents, Notre Dame being second to bottom of their group.
It could have been a mismatch, with Empire a goal to the good in four minutes, but it turned out to be quite close. Empire had most of the possession in the first half but did not convert again, Notre Dame suprised them by levelling a few minutes after the break. Again, the defence was hard to break down, and Notre Dame could easily have taken the lead on a counter attack if they could finish better and avoid the offsides.
In the end, Empire got lucky. A rash challenge gave them a penalty ten minutes from time, and by converting this, they took all the points.
Heading back to the same stadium soon, where I will see at least two of today's games.
Fat AND Pompous.
The proof that you can have too much of a good thing
Now blogging at http://www.leohoenig.com