If England’s latest fiasco against the West Indies is anything to go by, Barbados is, while paradisiacal in almost every sense, a rather tricky place to play cricket as a visiting side. This, possibly, will provide some consolation to the men of the University of St Andrews Men’s Cricket club, who won only a single match from 10 on their transatlantic sojourn this January, and yet enjoyed what was still one of the most brilliant tours in club history.
It began on 2 January at Gatwick, where the traditional cap presentation ceremony took place before the eight-hour flight to Bridgetown and a team dinner at the gorgeous Castaways restaurant near the hotel. The next day saw the first and only training session of the tour on slow, low practice wickets, which, as expected, turned square, much to the delight of the numerous spinners of the club. The session was vital, both for acclimatising to the sweltering tropical heat, and for practice fielding on alien Bermuda grass outfields which are quite unlike anything in the UK.
The first matches were 20-over affairs, with the first XI playing Maxwell CC and the second XI taking on Yorkshire CC (not, thankfully, Yorkshire CCC). The ones bowled well, restricting Maxwell to just 150 from their 20 overs, with Loyd Horner and Henry Portman taking two wickets apiece, and were looking extremely strong in their reply, standing at 81-1 from seven overs as Tom Hales scored 40, but a late collapse saw them bowled out for 130, just 21 runs short. For the twos, it was somewhat the reverse. Some strong batting on what would turn out to be the best wicket of the five twoss games saw 120 posted, including two sixes hit into neighbouring gardens by Harry Dean, of this parish, which left his teammates in awe having never seen him hit the ball from the square before then. This would prove somewhat inadequate upon further review, however, with Yorkshire proceeding to knock it off in less than 13 overs despite a fine bowling effort by Chris White, who took two wickets, and Shiv Bakrania who took his first wicket for St Andrews courtesy of a fine Ned Fiennes catch at backward point.
The next day was spent relaxing on the beach, with the majority of the tour taking solace in the turquoise waters following the previous night’s visit to the notorious Harbour Lights nightclub, and an early night was in order to prepare for four games in the subsequent five days.
The next game day was spent at Isolation Cavaliers for the ones, and Northern Academy for the twos. Rain on the uncovered pitches overnight left both difficult to bat on, with prodigious bounce from a length which caught many of the batsmen, especially in the twos, by surprise. 4 wickets from Henry Portman, which could have been 5 had a dolly not been dropped by a certain Tom Hales, was the highlight as the ones restricted Isolation to just 201-7 from their 40 overs, but yet again, despite Hales redeeming himself with 39 and skipper Kempley chipping in with 30 of his own, they fell tantalisingly short, this time just by 12 runs as they were bowled out for 189. The twos again batted first, but this time the top order failed, with the top four scoring just 8 runs between them. What dignity there was remaining was restored as captain Alex Haines hit 31 from just 20 balls at number ten, with the side bowled out for 114. For a brief, precious moment, it looked like that might be enough. Catches from Rooney, Devine, Fines and Segall as well as a fine yorker which found its way through the batsman’s defences saw Chris White take 5 wickets, but there were just not quite enough runs on the board, and Northern Academy won by 3 wickets.
The following day saw the ones pay a visit to North Stars, while the twos played the same side which had beaten the ones the previous day at Isolation Cavaliers. The ones batted first for the first time on the tour, with 40 from Alex Sachak and 32 from Cameron Fyfe leading the way as they posted 180 from their 40 overs. And, believe it or not, thanks to a stunning 5-fer from Milo Skelton, the ones won, bowling their opponents out for 167 to complete a 13-run win. The twos, however, were sent into the field for the first time, and to describe it as carnage would be the understatement of the century. Despite some fine early bowling from late call up Tom Abbott and Chris White, Isolation put on 351-4 from 36 overs, including this writer being hit for three of the largest sixes seen by anyone on the field. Having been thoroughly chastened in the field and with the game gone, the twos were bowled out for just 103, with Gus Portig top scoring with a most illustrious score of 28.
Having played two games back to back, and with a similar task to follow, the next day was spent visiting the Mount Gay rum facility for a tour and tasting session, followed by a brief excursion to the Kensington Oval for some souvenir shopping.
Well rested after the day off, the ones travelled to the Maple Club, while the twos made the journey back up to North Stars. Fyfe once again led the way with the bat for the ones, scoring 39 in conjunction with 31 from president Matt Watson as they were bowled out for just 134. This would prove insufficient, as Maple chased it down in just 24 overs, despite 3 wickets from Portman. The twos performed well with the ball, restricting North Stars, who had vowed to win the game after their defeat to the ones earlier in the week, to just 208 from 35 runs including 3 wickets from Horner and an excellent catch from Saumya Maheshwari. The batting performance left a lot to be desired, however, as hostile bowling saw opener Ned Fiennes struck on the shoulder amid accusations of ball tampering. Tom Fines top scored with 21 in an innings which included a hattrick from the opposition. Captain Haines, in at 11, never one to play a defensive shot, hit the double hattrick ball for four, before being bowled next ball to close the innings on 91 and a 107-run defeat.
Day 9 dawned, and with it the final day of matches, with the ones facing a stern test at Wildey CC and the twos making a return to Isolation Cavaliers. Bowling first against a very strong side, Matt Watson took three wickets in a massacre as Wildey put on 318-8 from 40 overs. In reply, they could muster only 72 all out, with Alex Sachak’s 21 the top score. Back at Isolation, the twos once again bowled first and were again hit to all parts by a side which included former Olympic sprinter Levi Cadogan. Amongst the wreckage, Chris White once again bowled beautifully, taking 4, and Tom Abbott took 3, including one with (probably) his last ball for St Andrews to end the innings on 315. The batting was much improved in the final game, and included the only half century of the tour for Harry Dean, who’s 55 took the twos score up to a respectable 174 all out to lose by less than 200 runs, which is always a bonus.
The last full day of tour was spent on a catamaran cruise, including snorkelling with sea turtles, and visiting the world famous Oystins fish market and Harbour Lights for one last time, before an exhausted USTAMCC flew back arrived back to Gatwick on 13 January.
As a whole the tour was a massive success, even if the results didn’t quite go our way. Every player can come away with an on-field moment to remember, and having had an experience of a lifetime on a beautiful, friendly island. It was the first time that USTAMCC had put out a two-team tour, and despite extra organisational difficulty, the larger group was certainly a bonus to the atmosphere of the tour, and it will hopefully be a fixture of future tours. The big takeaway for everyone, however, is that Bajians are rather good at cricket.