Then, a cesspit of smugness, over priced rubbish beer, anguish and despair. Now, a sea of happiness, under priced rubbish beer, amiability and pride. Bursting pride. January 2014 to April 2015 has been something of a roller coaster ride for England cricket fans. Then, another right good hiding from the Aussies in the culmination of an Ashes series too far, now a first away victory in nearly two and a half years. Ask anyone who was present at the Grenada National Stadium on Day 5 or swilling rum and Carib in the full-to-bursting bars afterwards if it was worth the wait, and they will probably concur. Everyone connected with English cricket has had the pain, now it’s time, hopefully, to enjoy the gain.
Gary Ballance made an unspectacular entrance into the cauldron of Test cricket at the SCG fifteen months ago, but since his inconspicuous debut, this Zimbabwean Yorkshireman has been one of the catalysts for England’s recovery. In fact, everything Gary Ballance has ever done has been unspectacular, which is possibly his finest attribute. Two solid half centuries helped set up victory here, two more solid half centuries added to the vast amount of runs he already has to his name in England colours. His swept four to bring up victory yesterday, as well as starting the party for the thousands of England fans, helped put to bed the misery of the last away trip. Those who picked this Test as the venue for their Caribbean adventure will enjoy this moment now but are aware of the tough months ahead.
And there’s much to enjoy, so let’s deal with the present. Watching cricket in Grenada has been an absolute joy (although there were one or two slower moments earlier in the match that tried the patience somewhat). Getting tickets has been simple. Getting to the ground has been easy. Getting in the ground has been child’s play. Getting your choice of seat has been pipsqueak. In short, from a customer’s perspective, my experience watching cricket here has been little short of outstanding. As the locals will tell you, the West Indies Cricket Board get a lot wrong, but they must be praised for their involvement here, as must the Grenadian authorities. Great views of the hills littered with precariously placed shacks, the sea and the pitch mean the ground itself gets into my top six cricket venues too.
Day 5 was incredible. Jimmy Anderson in the morning session was sensational. His wickets, catches and a sharp run out effectively won the match for England and put some much needed life into a game that looked to be loafing off into dozy obscurity. Joe Root enjoyed another terrific Test match, and is simply a pleasure to watch. Alastair Cook had a good game with the bat and tried everything to get the result. That England prevailed is down to their skipper as well as the stellar performances of Anderson, Ballance and Root.
So, that’s the present. An excellent, unexpected win in beautiful surroundings among beautiful people. The future? We’ll deal with that another day. There’s still some celebrating to be done on this beautiful island. To the beach…