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West Indies v England

Fantastic Five, travel hell & Partridge – Johnny Barran’s WI v Eng tour diary

by Johnny Barran 6 minute read

Cricket commentator and broadcaster Johnny Barran diarises England’s T20I series against West Indies – and this time he’s gone full Alan Partridge.

1st T20I, St Lucia

And then there were five. The press pack thinned again for the T20I leg of the tour – only five of us who arrived ahead of the initial warm-up match, pre-Test series, remain: Rory Dollard (PA), George Dobell (ESPNCricinfo), John Ethridge (The Sun), Dean Wilson (The Mirror) and yours truly.

England won the toss and fielded on the same surface that the last ODI was played on. The West Indies, largely thanks to a brilliant innings by Nicholas Pooran, posted 160-8. Tom Curran (4-36) and Chris Jordan (2-16) caught the eye, while Adil Rashid conceded a measly 15 runs from his four overs. Jonny Bairstow, revelling in the opening slot, hit 68, while West Indies dropped four catches and were generally sloppy in the field, resulting in a comfortable four-wicket win for England with seven balls remaining.

Tom Curran bowls during the first T20I between West Indies and England, St Lucia 

Next stop: St Kitts, which was a very comfortable 35-minute flight from St Lucia … that is if you booked three months in advance. I didn’t. I departed at 7.45am and had to go via Barbados (five-hour stop), Dominica (this was my fourth visit on this tour, but I’ve yet to step off the tarmac) and Antigua (four-hour stop), before finally arriving at St Kitts at 9pm. Dobell quipped: “A fairly fit cod could have made it quicker.”

2nd T20I, St Kitts

The ground, just 57 metres straight and 63 metres wide, boasts a maximum every 12 deliveries in the Caribbean Premier League, which suggests that it might be high-scoring game.

One of the ways to fund our journey around the Caribbean was to produce TV advertisements for various local partners. In St Lucia we produced an advert for Sanvics Car Rental in return for a free car, with me and Roland Butcher starring.

In St Kitts, it was time to promote Emerald Bay Resort in return for three apartments. The advert, which features me as a globetrotting Whicker’s World-style commentator, has, due to the Alan Partridge voiceover and some astute promotion by Chris Stocks on Twitter, led to a staggering 15,000 views and counting.

The press pack out here and my bewildered BBC colleagues in the UK have found it hilarious – John Norman (talkSPORT), who described it as “a classic of the genre”, has watched it 35 times. It will soon air on TV across all territories in the Caribbean.

England got off to a woeful start, limping to 32-4, but recovered strongly, courtesy of Joe Root (55) and Sam Billings (87) – his highest score in any format for England. The visitors reached the highest T20I score at this ground – 182-6.

A dramatic start with two quick wickets by David Willey and four scalps in eight balls by Chris Jordan saw West Indies dismantled for 45 – the second-lowest total in the history of T20Is (Netherlands scored 39 against Sri Lanka in Chittagong in 2014) – as England claimed their only series victory of the tour.

David Willey was in fine form during the second and third T20Is

Meanwhile, Tim Wigmore battled bravely through a rather nasty eye infection to submit for The Telegraph. We sent him off to A&E and he got seen to fairly swiftly, courtesy of some old-school negotiations carried out by Roland Butcher.

3rd T20I, St Kitts

The remaining Fantastic Five posed for a survivor’s photo, taken from the balcony on the top floor of the media centre at Warner Park. It involved climbing a rather precarious ladder and various flight cases to reach the top. It has a real end-of-term feel about proceedings, as the staggered return to the UK starts from 8am tomorrow.

Last hacks standing

It’s largely the same story as the second T20I; Willey with four wickets reduced West Indies to 24-4 before the hosts were skittled for 71, with just three Windies batters reaching double figures. The last two outings have been a horror show for the Windies, having lost a combined 20 wickets for 116 runs. England made light work of the total, getting home by eight wickets with nine overs remaining.

So, that’s that. I’m assuming counselling is provided? Or at least a hotline? Two months on the road, three Test matches, five ODIs, three T20Is, 16 internal flights (and what’s felt like 150 trips through immigration) and 10 islands in one of the most spectacular places on the planet. It’s been a blast.

Next stop: the World Cup, via Derby in early April.

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