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West Indies v England

Antigua no paradise for England – Johnny Barran’s WI v Eng tour diary

by Johnny Barran 7 minute read

Cricket commentator and broadcaster Johnny Barran diarises the tale of the second Test between England and West Indies, taking you inside the press box in Antigua.


A staggered departure for the press pack, which meant I had to travel on the Wednesday via Dominica. It resulted in me missing the media and players’ gathering on Tuesday, but it wasn’t all bad; the luggage belonging to several media personnel didn’t make the flights – Adam Mountford and Jonathan Agnew of the BBC had to resort to horrific Caribbean shirts and orange shorts – but thankfully my luggage arrived safely.

Alastair Cook joins Test Match Special commentator Jonathan Agnew and Producer Adam Mountford

Day 1

The pitch resembled a green top at Derby in early April, so it came as little surprise when Jason Holder won the toss and elected to bowl – Joe Root looked visibly haunted having lost it. England collapsed to 78-4 before a fresh lobster and crayfish lunch, which became 93-6 soon after, but rallied to notch 172-6 by tea.

Sir Alastair Cook arrived to join the BBC team. Reassuringly, the former England captain still applauds the good shots from the press box – a practice not as regularly adopted by the old guard. Joe Root responded kindly to Cook’s arrival by saying: “Looks like he’s put on a pound or two”. Then the second collapse ensued – the double collapse is a quirky new development for England – as they lost the last four wickets for 15 runs. Kemar Roach was once again the star of the show with 4-40.

Kemar Roach has been in scintillating form during the series so far 

Day 2

A lively start to day two, with a clip just falling short of Keaton Jennings, Jon Campbell seeing a review overturned and Jos Buttler fluffing a chance at slip, suggested England might come back strongly, but West Indies had the better of yet another session, finishing 126-1 at lunch – just 61 behind.

The press box, luxurious in size, comes equipped with the sort of orthopaedic chairs you might find in the Manchester United dug out. When not on commentary duties, I’m nestled behind the bowler’s arm, on the back row next to South African broadcaster and Wisden Cricket Monthly‘s South Africa correspondent Neil Manthorp, with the heavyweights of Vic Marks and Ali Martin (Guardian and Observer in front) alongside John Etheridge (Sun), Paul Newman (Daily Mail) and Jonathan Liew (Independent).

We also have the newly arrived Mark Nicholas, who despite being 13 years my senior, often gets confused for me on the cricket circuit. He did a double-take as we passed on the corridor.

After lunch, Moeen Ali removed Kraigg Brathwaite for 49 and Stuart Broad sparked the session into life, taking two wickets in an over, with Anderson clinging on to a tumbling catch to give Moeen another scalp. West Indies Cricket CEO Johnny Grave, formerly of the PCA, popped in to admire the work of his charges.

Day 3

Antigua is a beautifully chilled island compared to the slightly more frantic and haphazard pace of life in Barbados, highlighted by us passing a policeman who was casually swigging a beer whilst directing traffic on the way into the ground. The day started with the unsurprising news that Alistair Cook had been an enormous success on the BBC’s daily narrative ‘The Cricket Social’.

West Indies were bowled out for 306 – a lead of 117 – thanks largely to a 216-ball Darren Bravo half-century that Geoffrey Boycott would have been purring about. In minutes, it was the longest 50 recorded since Trevor ‘Barnacle’ Bailey’s 357-minute effort in 1959.

Kraigg Brathwaite and John Campbell celebrate after scoring the winning runs

England collapsed to 75-4 at tea, but attention in the press box, at least among those not having to submit copy for Sunday editions, swiftly turned to the rugby as England laid down a possible marker for the Six Nations with a solid 32-20 win against Ireland in Dublin.

After tea, the second innings subsidence continued with England succumbing to the brilliance of Roach for the third time in the series. A beaming Viv Richards arrived in the press box, looking very cool in fitted jeans and a t-shirt – incredibly fit for a man in his early sixties. With a wink, he extended an invitation to lunch to my colleague Vinod Mancham and I in his private box on the fourth day.

Sadly, England were bowled out for 132, which put paid to lunch plans. The PA renditions of Captain this ship is sinking at the fall of each England wicket were getting louder by the dismissal.

After suffering two chastening Calypso calamities, England head off to St Lucia, while the press – most of whom are staying in all-inclusive resorts – can barely believe their luck with an extra two days off in paradise.


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