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BARBADOS - cricket 2007

Kensington Oval

Compliments of the Barbados Nation News by PHILIP SPOONER

THE GATES of Kensington Oval were spread open yesterday and close to 5 000 fans rushed in to catch the World Cup "fever" for free.

The match between the two surprise Super 8 teams – Ireland and Bangladesh – started with a small gathering, but by afternoon the stands were bursting as the crowd swelled to 15 511, which created the liveliest and most colourful party of the five weeks of the tournament so far.

Over 20 000 tickets had been pre-sold in anticipation of Pakistan facing India yesterday, but with a non-returns policy in place, many Asian fans cut their losses and cancelled their travel plans to the Caribbean.

They missed a huge Caribbean cricket party as Bajans joined visiting fans with drums, trumpets and whistles as they danced and pranced around the huge North Stand with Mac Fingall and entertainer Gravy as their cheerleaders.

In the Party Stand several Irish fans drank beer and made merry to celebrate a surprise 74-run win – to continue their fairy tale journey in the tournament.

After the match, there was wild Irish celebration in the streets outside the ground as fans waved their flag and pranced along Fontabelle to Bridgetown. The merriment spread all the way to the South Coast.

Tears of joy

During the closing ceremony, the television cameras flashed on Irish fan Charlie McDermott, who was shedding tears of joy. He told the DAILY NATION he was overcome as he never believed the day would come when he would see his team win on such hallowed turf.

Meantime, Stephen Price, commercial director for the tournament, said yesterday's goodwill was a "win-win" situation for fans and organisers.

"It was a very successful outreach programme but we will not have the system in place for the remaining matches at Kensington Oval. We wanted to get the most out of this game and we gave fans a chance to come in and enjoy a good day out."

And enjoy it they did. Renee Chase was one of those who turned up for the fun-filled afternoon and admitted that the free admission attracted her.

"I didn't really come to watch the match; I just came to see what the new Kensington Oval looked like," she said. "Actually, I didn't watch a ball, but I enjoyed the day."

Educator and artist Omowale Stewart sat in the South Stand and said: "I think this is a very good gesture on behalf of the organisers. I believe that as Caribbean people, cricket is a part of our heritage and we deserve anything which will lift our spirits."

Twin sisters Sonia and Vijita Rai are Indian fans who decided to make the most of their £2 000 trip from their home in London to watch the action.

"Obviously, we would have preferred to watch India but it's too late for that now, so we are just going to enjoy the matches and the holiday, as Barbados is a beautiful place to be, with or without cricket," said Vijita, an accountant.

Surge of fans

The free tickets were handed out at the Park and Ride sites and there were heavily tested yesterday. Distribution of the "freebies" didn't start until 11 a.m., but fans gathered from as early as 8 a.m. to guarantee a spot.

There was also a surge of fans at Pelican Village the moment the orange-clad Cricket World Cup Vibes volunteers emerged with handfuls of the free tickets, which were quickly snapped up.


Caribbean Cricket

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Dwayne Smith pommels another delivery six during his explosive 94 which came off just 63 balls at the 3Ws Oval against Jamaica yesterday. (Picture by Gordon Brooks.)

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