England in the Caribbean – 11th February 2019

You can’t keep a good man down for long and Joe Root is one of England’s greatest, not now, but ever,” said Nasser Hussain on commentary as the England captain drove the ball sweetly to the long off boundary to register his 16th Test century (to go with his remarkable collection of 41 half centuries.) His last three journeys to fifty have gone on to yield 100s so at least that conversion rate is improving.

The West Indies were up against it even before Keemo Paul’s injury left them with just three front-line bowlers but once the 20-year-old was stretchered off with a quadriceps injury they were pushing a heavy rock up a steep hill. Off-spinner Roston Chase bowled 31 overs without remotely threatening to take a wicket. In fact, he has not taken a wicket since his 8-60 in the first Test in Barbados, and has not looked like taking one.

The pitch may have looked flat on day three but it wasn’t, it was the bowlers who were flat. Fast men like Shannon Gabriel, Alzarri Joseph and Kemar Roach need a full day off to recover from bowling 66 overs between them, as they did during England’s first innings, but the West Indies batsmen could give them only 47 overs rest. They paid the same price that England’s bowlers did during the first two Tests.

There will be nothing ‘flat’ about Mark Wood and Stuart Broad when it’s their turn to bowl sometime on day four with a lead of around 500. It’s only a question of how long they, and Root, believe they need to earn the consolation victory which must surely be coming their way.

 

As usual, local history has caught my attention. ‘US Naval Air Station’ may sound like a contradiction in terms but that was the case right here in Rodney Bay during WWII. The United States navy suffered a German U-boat attack which sank two cargo ships – the “Umtata” and the “Lady Nelson” – in Rodney Bay in 1940 so they built an airstrip and a ‘submarine reconnaissance station’ which they named “Beane Air Force Base” named after the WWI ace fighter pilot, James Beane.

The airstrip was subsequently revamped into the Hewanorra Airport (at which we landed) but the signs of the American presence still remain today, although you have to know where and what you are looking for.

St.Lucians contributed an extraordinary number of their population to the war effort – approximately 25% of the eligible male population enlisted to either the air force or the army – and no less than 103 received the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest medal for US military.

Today Rodney Bay is a small but thriving town with two shopping malls and a host of coffee shops, restaurants and bars. Every now and then, in between the bright lights, there’ll be a faded, rusted ‘Budweiser’ plaque on the wall. Along with the strong French and British influences, and the even stronger local Caribbean flavour, it makes for one of the most cosmopolitan mixes in a region famed for exactly that.

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