Memory Lane: West Indies v England, 3rd Test Match, Barbados, March 1981
And so my big brother and I decided to have an adventure together and plan a short holiday in Barbados, mainly to watch the cricket but also to visit a part of the World neither of us had seen before.
The two teams were full of the stars of the day – for the home side, Viv Richards, Clive Lloyd, Michael Holding, and Joel Garner. For the visitors, Ian Botham, Geoffrey Boycott and Graham Gooch. It should have been the third test in what was a 5-match series and England were already one down, having lost heavily in the Port of Spain, Trinidad. In fact, what should have been the second test (in Guyana) had been cancelled for political reasons, so only 4 test matches were to be played in all.
Neither of us had experienced such constant heat before - I believe the temperature stayed at about 85 degrees during our time there.
At that time of year, you can go out on the beach at 6pm and watch the sun disappear right before your eyes. The only danger was from sea urchins, which punctured the feet and hands of our fellow travellers, and there were loads of us, perhaps as many as 2000, at the birth of what’s now become known as the ‘Barmy Army.’ I recall sampling curried flying fish, Planters’ Punch and a new favourite…Pina Colada! We had a free day, so we hired a Mini Moke, and sped round the island as if we were in one of those hip 60’s road movies.
The cricket itself was spectacular and memorable. The simple fact was that that the West Indies won by a cool 298 runs. Superb centuries were scored by Lloyd and Richards for the Windies, and Gooch for the tourists. But the highlight was an over of 6 balls bowled by Holding to Boycott. It’s true to say that Boycott barely saw any of them, such was their speed and hostility as he ducked, dived and got pummelled - until the 6th and last ball which hit the off stump so hard that it cartwheeled back a full 20 yards to near where the wicket-keeper stood. It was breath-taking and today, 38 years later, I can still see it in my mind’s eye, perhaps the fastest over ever bowled.
I can also remember the wonderful atmosphere around the ground, the welcome given to us by the Bajans, the sheer enjoyment and passion they showed - beautiful people and a beautiful game.
And if the lovely old ground was full on days 1 and 2, then it was truly “heaving” on day 3, the Sunday, when, as one of the locals told us, “even the cane-cutters get a day off!”
The West Indies won the shortened series 2-0 and we travelled home via Antigua, dropping off all the players as they travelled to the next venue. And I can proudly say I walked side-by-side through customs with Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards, who had just scored 182 not out.