England in the Caribbean – 10th February 2019

One of the brightest moments of humour on tour occurred towards the end of our stay in Barbados for the first Test match when Steve Harmison was invited along to a ‘Barmy Army’ function at a local hostelry – private room and all.

Far from the happy-go-lucky, randomly gathered together bunch of eclectic supporters which their appearance may suggest, the Barmy Army is a highly organised and equally highly commercially inspired organisation. It has in excess of 25,000 subscription-paying members and does a fine trade in merchandise. They also stage and host many functions on tour for which members (and other guests) pay additional fees.

So former England players like ‘Harmy’ are in high demand for Question-and-Answer evenings and, they hope, a few lemonades with the members afterwards. Fortunately his event occurred on the 4th evening of the Barbados Test, after England had lost and there was no commentary the following day.

So Harmison arrived at the appointed venue and appointed hour – and knew he was at the right place because there was a large poster of himself next to the entrance. You see where this is going?

“Evening, it’s $20 entrance,” said the door-keeper. “Err, it’s supposed to be ‘my’ function,” Harmison replied. I’m pretty sure I’m not expected to pay to get in.”

“It’s $20, my friend.”

“But that’s me up there,” said Harmison, pointing to the poster.

“You’ve put on a bit of weight, haven’t you?”

“Right, that’s it, I’m coming in and I’m gonna make sure I drink my weight in beer – at your expense!”

The Barmy Army hierarchy later apologised for the inexperience of their ticket-seller/cash-collector but the great fast bowler appeared to have done his best to live up to his threat when he returned to the TalkSport Villa a little later that night. The paying patrons, however, agreed universally that he had been “outstanding value” and, as one man said, “worth triple the price to hear just half the stories he told tonight.”

In many years time Ben Stokes will be able to tell the story of his ‘dismissal’ – caught and bowled by Alzarri Joseph for 53. He had been off the field, deep in the beyond of the dressing room, when third umpire Chris Gaffaney finally ruled that Joseph had bowled a no-ball.

“Had you taken your pads off?” West Indies wicket keeper Shane Dowrich was heard to ask Stokes upon his return to the crease.

“Mate, I was halfway through a fag,” was Stokes reply.

England finished a potentially bleak day (114-4 at tea) with every reason to smile. From 231-4 they should be aiming at 350+ which would apply significant pressure to the home side. Although, how much ‘pressure’ can you actually feel when the series is already won?

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