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South Africa v England Cricket Tour 2015-16
Tour Managers' Reviews

 

See our South Africa v England 2015-16 tours here >

South Africa is one of the top destinations in the world to watch cricket. Sun, sea, sand and Cape Town, such fantastic sights mixed with some of the best players in the world (and cheap beer!) really made this one of the tours our Howzat Travellers thoroughly enjoyed! Here are a few comments from the tour managers that helped make the trip a success:

Des' Tour Review

Any tour to our land, the world in one country as it has often been described, is always a fulfilling experience. From the eternal sheer beauty of the Cape and the romantic wine lands in the South to the magnificence of the Victoria Falls in the North, from the old age rugged wild of the Eastern Cape game farms and the natural wondrous vistas of the Garden Route to the glorious world famous Kruger National Park with the “big five”, from the green, green fields and warm sandy beaches of Kwazulu-Natal and the all- enveloping, soul- grabbing Battlefields of Isandhlwana and Rourke’s Drift to the prehistoric and arid never- ending landscapes of the Karoo, is a privilege I would love every visitor to our country to experience. And all this was part of a Howzat Travel Cricket Tour!

Can you believe it but one of our clients did all these things and he came here for the cricket? Ah the cricket.

What a glorious Winter Campaign for the England team and their faithful supporters. Our tour started in Durban with a most enjoyable Christmas Day lunch. Mike Procter was our guest speaker, expertly interviewed by Dave Stewart, and he recalled many famous memories of his County cricket days and short Springbok career ending with a resume of his wonderful work in coaching cricket at the poorest of poor schools in the area. It was a good Christmas Day in a hot country.
 
Boxing Day found us at Kingsmead Stadium. There was only one side in the game and South Africa folded in 5 days. They blamed the slow pitches of their recently completed tour of India!

This left time for horse racing at Greyville, city tours and visits to the Umhlanga beaches and restaurants and bars. But Cape Town was beckoning.

The Mother City met us in all its splendour. Table Mountain looked like a cardboard cut out against a clear blue sky. The weather was glorious and everyone took full part in the delights that this wonderful city can offer. The open top buses proved to be very popular, and informative, following three different routes in and around the city taking in the beautiful Constantia wine lands, the Cape “Riviera” seaboard route of Green Point, Sea Point, Clifton, Camps Bay and Hout Bay, all splashed with stunning white sandy beaches and the interesting city tour, steeped in history and museums and interesting architecture, to mention a few highlights.

The “must do” full day tours of the Wine Lands, Table Mountain, Robben Island and the Cape of Good Hope Peninsula were well patronised. I know the wine lands trip was enjoyed as certain parties were very chatty, amid peals of laughter, on arrival back at the hotel bar. They assured me they now know a lot more about wine than before and that it was purely an intellectual exercise…!

The peninsula trip offers an amazing scope of vistas from magnificent seascapes to shady forests, from the diversity of the Cape Floral Kingdom of our fynbos proteas to the beauty of our world renowned Kirstenbosch Gardens sporting a grand backdrop on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain. Add to that the awesome vista of the most south westerly point of the continent of Africa in the rugged untouched nature reserve following the route that the great circumnavigator, Vasco da Gama, took 519 years ago to discover the spice route to the east and round it off with a visit to the cute penguins at Boulders Beach for a most superb day. The Table Mountain and Robben Island outings take one on an exciting overview of the city. The almost emotional experience to these two sites should not to be missed. Unfortunately, some of our clients did just that through no fault of their own. The wind was too strong for both the cable car and the ferry to operate safely so the trips were cancelled. I will look forward to their return as one cannot say one has seen Cape Town until one has been to these two places!

The ferry ride across eleven kilometres of the Atlantic Ocean to the island offers splendid views of Table Mountain and the city from a unique angle and, coupled with the history of the island and its most famous prisoner Mr. Nelson Mandela, this makes for a wonderful way to spend three hours of the day. The exhilarating journey in the rotating cable car takes one from the buzz of the city to an uncanny silence at the top of Table Mountain. The views are spectacular and one can physically feel the energy of this power point running through one’s veins as one gazes with wonder at the far hills of Stellenbosch, or the beaches of Clifton and Camps Bay down below, or Lion’s Head with hang-gliding enthusiasts jumping off its sheer rock face and Robben Island sitting in the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. It is no surprise that it is now classified as one of the seven modern wonders of the world.

Our Howzat Farewell Dinner venue was the graceful Kelvin Grove Club situated between Newlands cricket and rugby grounds. 380 guests were hosted in the Ballroom with sweeping staircases and glittering chandeliers and all went smoothly. Geoffrey Boycott was our guest speaker, much to the delight of many of our Yorkshire supporters and he gave full value as he does in his own unique manner. He was frank and direct and listening to him was an absolute pleasure. Should he not be in charge of England cricket? Anyway the evening was a resounding success.

Imagine slotting in an excursion like flying to the world famous Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe as something to do between test matches. For most people this is a highlight of a lifetime in itself. Well, we did it. Howzat excels again. Our country lodge was outstanding with balconies overlooking a waterhole providing a superb viewing platform to observe the animals and birds. Then we went to another country, Botswana, on a day trip to enjoy a river cruise in the morning revelling in close ups of huge hippopotami, crocodiles and a myriad of colourful birds before having lunch followed by a land safari to see antelope, lion and elephant to name a few species.

The “Smoke that Thunders” or Victoria Falls, the name that Livingstone gave is a pulchritudinous sight. The mighty Zambezi waters plunge ninety metres before following the river course southwards again over a width of almost a kilometre. The spray forms rainbows in the bright sunlight and the walk along the edge of the opposite ravine to the falls gives one a perfect view of the cascading waters. People swimming in the devils pool on the edge I’m sure would be banned by “Health and Safety” elsewhere but there you go. Our sunset river cruise was as romantic as can be and the accompaniment of a few sundowners helped to contribute to the conviviality on board! After a Boma dinner in the bush we were ready to take on Jo’burg.
 
Johannesburg is a proper city in any terms of the word.  The name for it in African languages is Egoli, meaning “Place of Gold”. That is its backbone. It is the economic centre of not only South Africa but Southern Africa. The air has a mint aroma; it smells like money! But it is a very friendly place. Our hotel was superb in all aspects especially the staff. It was adjacent to the Sandton Square with a huge shopping complex and many excellent restaurants dominated by a quintuple life- sized statue of Mr.Nelson Mandela, a favourite photo stop for many.

Our outing to Soweto (compiled from the first 2 letters of the words South West Townships) was enlightening as were the visits to the first house Mr. Mandela was meant to live in after his release from prison, Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s house, the Soweto Soccer stadium and the Apartheid Museum, which left indelible impressions.

At our Farewell Dinner our celebrity speaker, Michael Vaughan, proved to be a revelation. He spoke with ease and authority, displaying a deep knowledge of the game we love, concerning both on and off the field cricket issues. His common sense and honesty shone through and the world of cricket is surely better off for his presence. Michael spoke way beyond his brief and we had a lot of happy travellers.

The final fourth test match took us to Centurion Park. It is a very pretty and user friendly cricket test match venue. Our hotel was a ten minute walk away so many chose that option. It’s the only ground I know of in the world where one can have a braai {barbecue) and still watch test cricket from under the shady trees and next to a beer station! Maggi and I did the braaiing and I know about the Howzatters loved it.

Our excursion took us to the pretty city of Pretoria, our administrative capital. The Sir Herbert Baker designed Union Buildings, one of our seats of parliament, was splendid in glorious sunshine with another huge statue of Mr. Mandela followed by a visit to Church Square where a statue of Paul Kruger is surrounded by razor wire to stop vandalism! State of the nation? The visit to the Voortrekker Monument told the other half of the story giving the reason why the Afrikaners trekked away from British rule in the Cape Colony and of the many indigenous wars, trials, tribulations and successes they experienced. It is a beautiful museum giving the visitor from afar an insight to the complexity of South Africa’s history which was all mellowed by Maggi providing free liquid refreshments!

Our cricket forum guest speaker was none other than the “Cricketer of the 20th Century” in South Africa. We were privileged to have had Graeme Pollock address us. He captivated his audience with cricket stories of a bygone era. He seemed to remember every run he has ever scored and all the personalities involved during his spectacular career. It was an intriguing and successful evening.

The Farewell Dinner took place at a beautiful country club with a lake overlooking a golf course. Our guest for the evening was Valeria who brought her husband, the inimitable Henry Calthorpe Blofeld, to entertain us. He did precisely that with a brief summary of the state of test cricket and then regaled us with many tales from his recent road show in the UK which we enjoyed with much laughter as one does with Henry.  Bless him for a good night out.

This wonderful tour was also blessed with great restaurants and excellent wines at bargain prices. Long may the Pound Sterling be healthy. From a sunny South Africa may I say do come again. It was a pleasure having you all.  

Gordon's Tour Review

The 77 Howzat Travel tourists that my fellow Tour Manager and I welcomed to the Protea SeaPoint Hotel in Cape Town arrived in time for the New Year celebrations. What a fantastic city to be at any time of the year, especially with wall-to-wall sunshine! Those of us at Quay 4 on the V&A Waterfront on NYE had a blast. Some of the dance moves weren’t quite Michael Jackson or John Travolta but it was a great night! Luckily New Year’s Day was a free day for everyone!

With so many in the hotel we needed to find another bar for after match and/or pre-dinner drinks. “Mama Tembo’s” only a few minutes from the Protea became the regular meeting point. Some stayed there, while others headed off to eat with whoever fancied going to one of the numerous excellent restaurants nearby. An added bonus was the strength of the pound sterling to the SA Rand, making very good food & drink, and most other things ridiculously cheap.

Then of course there was the reason we were all there, the Test Match at the wonderful Newlands ground – what a fantastic setting! England were in a bit of trouble just after tea, then Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow gave us a real treat.  After the amazing day two, all the England supporters - and I suspect many of the SA fans - were just happy to have been in the ground that day.  Those in the Protea and no doubt in the other seven Howzat Travel hotels were saying a big “Thank you” for being on the tour, as they will always be able to say “I WAS THERE”!  Coming from Durham I was delighted to see Ben do so well, it was simply a magnificent batting display.

However, on day five I had very different feelings. I had been at Adelaide in December ’06 when Paul Collingwood (the only other Durham player to score a double ton for England) passed the milestone with Kevin Pietersen getting over 150. Somehow England contrived to lose that game. Here I was at Newlands, Stokes hit 258 and Bairstow 150 in the 1st innings and on day five we looked in danger of losing the match – could lightning strike twice? Thankfully it didn’t & the match will be remembered for great batting but not only by England players. We saw Hashim Amla’s return to form with what was a match saving 201 and Temba Bavuma becoming the first black South African to score a test hundred.

To end the tour there was a final dinner at The Kelvin Grove Hotel.  Over 350 people enjoyed a lovely meal & a certain “Sir” Geoffrey Boycott as after dinner speaker. Geoffrey certainly is a “Marmite” figure but most thoroughly enjoyed his thoughts on the match & the wonderful game of cricket in general. Those who didn’t were in the main from west of the Pennines!

After the dinner quite a number got off the bus to have a last tipple in Mama Tembo’s before hitting the sack. Some headed off on trips to Victoria Falls, Kruger National Park, the Garden Route or got on the plane for the long journey home.

Wherever they went & whenever the tourists arrived home they would take with them great memories of new friendships made & great times shared.  

Here’s to the next one!

Maggi's Tour Review

I was very happy to be asked to work on this cricket tour to South Africa – my homeland!

I arrived in Durban ahead of the group and reacquainted myself with one of my old stomping grounds – Umhlanga – north of the city of Durban.  Our Howzat Travel hotels up on the Umhlanga Ridge proved to be a perfect choice – away from the hustle and bustle of the Durban beachfront and city centre.  With the enormous Gateway shopping complex next door and the Umhlanga beachfront and village just five minutes down the road, there was plenty to do before the cricket started and in the evenings after close of play. Having the South African team in one of our hotels – The Protea – and the English team down the road at the Oyster Box there was also plenty of opportunity for autograph hunting! A very gloomy start to the first day of the test match saw us delaying our transfer to Kingsmead, apart from a few stalwarts accompanied by Des Newton, and David Stewart led some of our group on a quick tour of Durban prior to the start of play.

The cricket got underway late morning and what a great test it turned out to be for England.  The South African team didn’t produce much for me to be proud of but I was happy to celebrate the resounding victory of the England team with all the Howzat supporters.  The beautiful terrace of the Oyster Box Hotel in Umhlanga, overlooking the magnificent Indian Ocean, proved to be the perfect place for memorable celebrations – never mind the sore heads in the morning! The extra afternoon gave people the opportunity to enjoy some horseracing at the Greyville racecourse and for others some leisure time at Umhlanga beach.

Then we were off to Mother City – my hometown! Beautiful Cape Town was already busy with tourists from all over the world for Christmas and New Year celebrations. With about 10,000 England cricket supporters (including around 600 in our Howzat group) hitting town on New Year’s Eve the city was literally bursting at the seams! The New Year test at Newlands is always a great occasion and with the whole Cape region experiencing a heatwave and the British pound reaching an all-time high against the rand – all the ingredients were there for a wonderful few days! Although the match ended in a draw there were plenty of dramatic moments – the most memorable for the England fans of course being Ben Stokes’ double century! Temba Bavuma’s century had the South African fans in raptures and the Amla Army dressed in white with Amla beards gave the Barmy Army a good run for their money! The South African captain’s resignation provided more drama at the end of a closely fought final day of the test match. I was lucky to be with a lovely group in Sea Point at the Cape Manor hotel close to the beachfront – with sundowners on the terrace, walks on the beachfront promenade and lots of great restaurants and bars on our doorstep everybody had a great time and we were sorry to have to pack our bags and leave when the time came.

Our Howzat supporters all disappeared in various directions – some going back to the UK and back to work – some to the Kruger National Park – some to Victoria Falls and some to the Garden Route.  I was lucky enough to join a group on the Garden Route and a safari to a lovely lodge close to Port Elizabeth called Lalibela – it exceeded everyone’s expectations on all fronts – accommodation, service, food and game viewing.  A very happy group finished up at Port Elizabeth airport with some leaving us and returning to ‘Blighty’ with the rest of us heading to Gauteng and the ‘big smoke’ of Johannesburg for the third test at Bidvest Wanderers stadium – commonly known as ‘The Bullring’.

Well, the ‘Bullring’, known for its intimidation of visiting teams, certainly did not live up to its reputation. What a disappointing performance by the South Africans on the Saturday. The atmosphere in the stadium was electric in the morning and we were all looking forward to a great day of cricket on the Sunday with plenty of local support. It was not to be – I didn’t mind the fact that England won – but I would have liked the Proteas to give them a bit more of a run for their money! But, with Stuart Broad’s fast-bowling burst, that was not to be and South Africa suffered one of their worst defeats ever. Oh well, onwards and upwards to Centurion! With an extra two days in hand we organised some tours of Soweto which went down well with our groups, people had a lot more time to shop in the nearby Sandton City shopping centre and enjoy some libations and even more steaks in Nelson Mandela Square.

A short drive over from Sandton to Centurion and all groups were together this time in the Centurion Lake Hotel – a short walk to the cricket ground.  Most people thoroughly enjoyed being able to walk to and from the cricket ground some of them taking advantage of the adjacent Centurion Rugby Club for a refreshment en route!  My fellow countryman, Des Newton, and I bought some meat from the local butcher, typical South African ‘boerewors’ sausage and some ‘sosaties’ (kebabs) and did a ‘lekker South African braai’ (good South African barbecue) for some of our group in the ground at lunchtime on the fourth day which everyone seemed to thoroughly enjoy.  With the series victory already in hand for England this test match finally gave South Africa the chance to save some face and Kagiso Rabada gave South African supporters reason to feel proud again – he became the third South African to take so many wickets in a test following Makhaya Ntini and Hugh Tayfield.  The fifth day was over well before we expected and gave people more opportunity to spend their pounds and enjoy a few more Castle beers before packing their bags and heading home after a fantastic test series in South Africa. 

I had a fantastic time with all the Howzat supporters and miss them all already!  Thanks to all of you who made the trip over to South Africa – I hope that you all took home happy memories and that you will come and see us again soon!

Nick's Tour Review

A tour to South Africa should be on every cricket watchers radar. This was my fifth visit, previously having been for both Rugby and Cricket. What happened on this tour was interesting in the main and sensational throughout.

Carole and I spent a few days in Durban before the arrival of the main tour groups, enjoying the beaches and excellent restaurants. We visited the practice game in Piertermariztburg, driving up each day through the spectacular mountains, observing phenomenal mountainous views as we did so. We found a quaint ground with a Victorian pavilion, were I was advised part of Zulu Dawn was filmed. A comfortable victory against the second string, there was definitely hope for this tour. We also received the same vibes from two well-known Cricket Correspondents.

We were soon joined by faces old and new, we enjoyed the first two days of the first test before moving to Cape Town to take up my role as Tour Manager and meet our first arrivals at the wonderful Vineyard Hotel, which was located close to the Newlands cricket ground. Our first arrivals included the ever colourful David, this tour wearing a Green and Yellow starched “Mohican”, which caught everyone's eye! Our tour party gradually assembled, buoyed very much by the victory in the first test. They also became inspired by the presence of the team and press entourage who followed on and became resident in the Vineyard also.

As ever, all the fine local restaurants were booked to capacity and comparisons were soon being made between them. It was fair to say no one from the Vineyard reported disappointment in any of the restaurants and bars. Personally my steaks were of the highest quality wherever I ate, and one meal in the Vineyard’s Square Restaurant, was one of the finest meals I have ever had, it went without saying the wine complimented the food beautifully.

The great joy for our tour group was the exchange rate, with the Rand at over 22 (and climbing), to the GBP, meant the finest was within the budget. My superb Fillet Steak referred to above, skillfully cooked, sliced and presented, coupled with the KanonKop Pinotage, (1998) was sheer luxury at hardly any cost.

The food and drink helped take our minds off some slow cricket, particularly from South Africa, but then we witnessed one of the great Test Innings of all time, when Ben Stokes smashed the South African attack to all parts of the ground, and occasionally beyond, in his epic, yet comparatively short innings of 250. Many Howzatters will report that “they were there”. We must not forget 150 not out from Jonny Bairstow, a battling 200 from South Africa's Hashim Amla and Temba Bavuma’s ton. Unfortunately the England fielders dropped 10 catches in the searing heat. A victory lost? Who would want to be a bowler when the innings was 211 overs long?

An interesting declaration by South Africa shortly before the end of day 4 made for a rejuvenation of interest as English wickets fell. A report from one of our regular clients, that he had dreamed England had been dismissed for 129 caused some consternation. The English fans became nervous as wickets started to fall on the last day. However, Moen Ali and Jonny Bairstow steadied the ship until bad light intervened to leave the result as a high scoring draw.

A strange game, contrasting speeds of scoring, England so fast and South Africa so slow, but five full days of cricket at one of the World’s most stunning grounds.

The Vineyard party started to break up with some returning to the UK, and others excitedly waiting to move onto the next stage of the South African Adventure. Some to the Garden route, some to Victoria Falls, some to game parks and some doing their own thing.

For 43 others and I the Casa Do Sol and Kruger Park beckoned.

We started with a day’s site seeing visiting the rivers, whirlpools and the world’s third largest gorge. Magnificent! We hurried back for some to visit the Elephant Sanctuary, where 20 of our party spent a fabulous hour enjoying contact with the two Elephants on show. All reported having an incredible and moving experience with them.

A short journey took us to the Proteas Hotel at the Kruger Gate in Kruger Park for a 2 day stay. This outstanding park gave our party everything that was expected. The first rate guides soon had the big 5 ticked off. The park is full of fascinating game and birds, along with the interesting replies to our many questions we enjoyed everything that was on offer. One could go in to raptures about Kruger, please let these few words suffice for an incredible experience.

A picturesque bus ride back to Johannesburg and the third test. On arrival in Johannesburg I saw my party were suitably billeted in their very pleasant hotels, I then removed my distinctive red top, and became a tourist once again, only three days before I had to return to the UK

What a three days it proved to be. More steaks in Nelson Mandela Square, as splendid as ever. The visit of Paul Farbrace to a Howzat Q&A. This was one of the most special Q&As that I have witnessed in six years with Howzat. Straight forward, honest and amusing, with a good insight into where England were looking to go in this match as well as in the next three years.

Finally the match. South Africa won the toss, a few England players unwell? Still records fell, the lowest South African score after all players had made double figures. Well done Finny. A great ton by Joe Root on a difficult pitch. England were ten runs ahead.

I am now sat behind the bowlers arm with Broad bowling. I could see his mood and rhythm. The wickets started to fall, can he take all ten? 5 are down, my taxi is waiting. I have to leave the ground. We immediately tuned into the cricket on the taxi’s radio only, can you believe, for the radio station to switch its cover to a local football match. At the airport I learnt the result.

Well done Stuart and the rest of the team.

What an end to a fabulous tour, with fabulous people, in a fabulous place. A privilege to be on board.

Linda's Tour Review

2015-16 was my first time to South Africa and I was really looking forward to experiencing the country and meeting the Howzat Travellers, new and old!

Arriving into Durban on the 28th of December I went straight to the Garden Court in Umhlanga to meet up with our Howzat travellers. On the way, my driver told me a lot about the area, pointing out the casino complex that is based on the Zulu tribal village and he was very informative about the sugar cane and how the crop rotation works.

One day of cricket at the wonderful Kingsmead stadium to enable me to meet and get acquainted with my Two Oceans and Two Oceans Traveller team who would be moving onto Cape Town, and the City Lodge Hotel on New Years Eve.

New Years Eve in Cape Town was an exciting day, with the group from Durban arriving at lunchtime. The party went on long into the night and a good time was had by all. The fireworks on the V&A were amazing. A brilliant way to welcome 2016!

On the 2nd of January, after many travellers had enjoyed the sights of Cape Town with some sore heads on New Years day, we headed to Newlands for the second test of the series.

What an incredible cricket ground. The breath-taking view of Table Mountain from the ground was just incredible, sporting its famous table cloth that floated down like dry ice.

It was very hot, and for those of ‘Team Linda’ sitting in the sun I gave the advice, plenty of sunscreen, drink plenty of water and wear you Howzat hat! Being sat amongst the locals was great fun and the camaraderie between the Howzatters and the locals was brilliant.

The cricket was exciting, with so many records being broken on day two we spent most of the day on our feet clapping and cheering! Day five finished early due to bad light and some spots of rain. Cape Town test – a draw.

We had a very informative evening with writer and historian, Dean Allen, when he told us about his book – Empire, War & Cricket. A very interesting evening.

The farewell dinner at the Kelvin Grove club was a huge success, beautiful venue, stunning food and the amazing Geoff Boycott as the guest speaker. Team Linda had a sing-song in the bus on the way back to the hotel!
And so it was time for team Linda to say goodbye. Some were moving onto the sightseeing options in Kruger or Victoria Falls, some heading back to England. I feel privileged to have had this group of people in my care.

Those going sightseeing had an early start, while those heading home all said they had a brilliant time!

David's Tour Review

Four Tests in five weeks, in a beautiful country, one that is an overnight flight away, with pressures on its currency which mean it is wonderfully cheap for Brits to visit at present. As they say: what’s not to like?

I was lucky enough to lead the small advance party who went out a few days before Christmas to view the battlefields of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift. About half of those tourists were already aficionados on the subject, the remainder being more casually interested. Such was the quality of our guided tour and the talks by Doug Rattray (son of the late David) and Alistair Wilson, several of the remainder returned to Durban saying they were sufficiently enthused to carry out further research into the Zulu Wars.

Christmas Day, with the first day of the series a mere 24 hours away, we saw our party grow to 140 cricket lovers. The great Mike Procter really was a special guest at our festive lunch, sharing tales of his career at Gloucestershire and experiences as a Test Match referee; also inspiring quite a few with the wonderful work his Cricket Foundation is doing at an underprivileged school near Durban. Mike was instrumental, later in the tour, in Howzat travellers having two terrific days of horseracing at Greyville (Durban) and Turffontein (Johannesburg) when those Test matches finished early – due to the poor batting of his successors in the South African side.

A solid England win at the famous Kingsmead ground, albeit against a home side lacking Vernon Philanderer, and with Dale Steyn not finishing the game through injury, set the seal on a first week that both tourists and tour leaders felt was the best they had experienced thus far. 0-1.

The caravan moved across country to the beautiful, the amazing, the gorgeous, the fabulous ‘mother city’ - Cape Town, where there is something for everything. This visit included incredible double hundred’s for Ben Stokes and Hashim Amla, and emotional centuries for both Temba Bavuma and Jonny Bairstow. Seeing the Yorkshireman gaze towards the heavens, in tribute to his late father, as brought up his maiden Test century had even some of our harder cases searching for a hanky. That his mother and sister were sharing Howzat Travel accommodation during the first two Tests, and had befriended several of our group, made the moment all the more touching.

A bland pitch still contrived to provide an exciting finish, England’s batting being the one which crumbled dangerously this time, on the final afternoon at Newlands. A draw was the result. Still 0-1. Some thought it the loveliest setting for any ground in the world; other recent tourists argued the merits of Galle and Grenada.

Others debated whether the Stokes/Bairstow partnership was the best session of Test cricket they had ever seen. Those present at Trent Bridge, the morning after the Howzat 10th anniversary event, suggested it would be hard to beat Stuart Broad so dramatically skittling the Aussies. Witnessing cricket like this, and engaging in such delightful discussions, are at the core of what makes these tours such fun.

Those heading home were sent off in good spirits after an end of tour function at the classy Kelvin Grove Club, while others prepared for whichever of our excursion options they had chosen to occupy the week between the 2nd and 3rd tests.

My group went up to Victoria Falls and Chobe game reserve. The change of location, scenery and pace were welcomed by all, so too a reminder of the beauty and potential of Zimbabwe, once it returns to an era of happier governance.

Then to Johannesburg, the Gold Reef city, centre of African commercial life, Soweto, and the large Wanderers ground. A typically bouncy pitch saw Joe Root at his classy best. Stuart Broad produced one of those match-winning spells he now seems to specialise in. The arrival on the big stage of a 20 year-old quick brought up from a not far from the ‘bullring’ – Kagiso Rabada – was a delight to witness, many in our ranks being sensitive to what his achievements mean in the wider context of South African cricket.

Another South African collapse on the 3rd afternoon had regular Howzat tourists comparing notes about how different this felt from exactly two years earlier in Sydney - when it was England folding like the proverbial cheap suit. 0-2 to England, and the series in the bag.

A word in praise of Paul Farbrace, the pleasant and articulate gentleman who is England’s assistant coach. He gave a compelling talk to the group one evening in Sandton, having previously done so to our ‘early bird’ tourists in Durban.

To the north next, towards Pretoria, and the pleasant ground at Centurion, where the remarkable Rabada this time took 13 wickets, thus putting England’s – relative – progress into context. 1-2 to the visitors felt about right.

Graeme Pollock, voted South Africa’s cricketer of the 20th century, was the special guest who spoke to us during the final Test. His fellow countryman, Des Newton, coaxed sharp recollections and funny stories from the great man.

It was a wonderful tour; it was my pleasure to play a small part in it.

Ross' Tour Review

With England one nil up in the series against the number one team in the world there was much excitement in the party as we arrived in Cape Town for the 2nd test.

I was fortunate enough to be looking after a small party staying in the appropriately named Never At Home hostel. Previously a 2 star hotel it has recently been converted into a hostel specialising in backpackers and it really was a hidden gem. Situated in Greenpoint, a 10 minute walk to the V & A it had every form of restaurant within a 200 yard strip including a super ribs and burger bar next door.

The Never At Home had its own bar, the Randy Warthog which was a quirky little bar tucked away at the back purely for residents and the odd karaoke singer!

Although it is almost impossible to have a bad steak in Cape Town we were lucky enough to have a butcher’s shop/restaurant 50 yards away, where you selected your favourite cut of steak and it was then cooked to your liking and served with coleslaw and fries for less than a fiver (helped by the very generous exchange rate!)

The party all headed off in different directions to celebrate New Years Eve and the one thing we had in common was we were all suffering with sore heads the following morning! Cape Town on New Years Eve has to be one of the most iconic places in the world to see in the New Year with its firework display at the waterfront with Table Mountain in the background.

Fully recovered and with great expectations we set off to Newlands for the 2nd test and with a full house, glorious sunshine and arguably one of the most picturesque cricket grounds in world cricket we weren’t disappointed.

With England batting first, day one was evenly matched and then on day two Messrs Stokes and Bairstow produced a firework display better than the one seen on New Years Eve with personal milestones and record stands and boundaries galore. 

Day three and four saw South Africa get to within 2 runs of England’s mammoth score with outstanding centuries by Amla & Bavuma which was helped by England’s dreadful catching.

The final day was all set to end in a draw when England did what they do best and had a mini batting collapse although it was looking pretty safe when bad light drew proceedings to a premature close.

After the first three days play we headed back to the Randy Warthog to analyse the days play over the odd pint of castle lager.

On Day four we took up Dave Stewart’s invitation to visit Claremont Cricket Club and our driver, Peter, took our entire group straight to the ground in the beautiful district of Constantia where we socialised with some local players and officials before heading back to base.

After the final days play and a drawn test we all left the ground looking forward to the Howzat farewell dinner at the Kelvin Grove and we weren’t disappointed. With all the “Never At Homers” on one table the farewell dinner really was a highlight with excellent food, free-flowing South African wine and the legendary Geoff Boycott as our after dinner speaker with all his normal amusing anecdotes and strong opinions (the sweepstake on when he would say “stick of rhubarb” was won pretty quickly!)

Eventually rounding up our table, my lasting memory is of the group singing Never at Home! Never the Home! as we were the last to man our bus.

Our last night was spent having a farewell beer in the Randy Warthog bar where it was karaoke night and when we discovered the resident chef, Juan, was not just a master omelette maker but also a star on the mic.

What a great finale to a great tour.

Stephen & Karen's Tour Review

From the dark and frozen northern hemisphere it was a joy to land at Cape Town airport in glorious sunshine, a sea of multicultural and smiling faces and the prospect of good fun and a Test Match to come.

We sped through the modern and efficient airport and were soon on our way to the Commodore Hotel, ideally located just a short stroll from the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront where a wealth of restaurants and shops were to be found and lively entertainment, boat trips and a chance to see "the Rainbow Nation" at play. The first few days were kept busy meeting and greeting the many arrivals and welcome drinks gave thirsty fellow travellers the opportunity to meet and strike up conversations. The camaraderie of cricket supporters is second to none and soon people were like old friends.

Before the start of the test match, there was time to enjoy some of the sights Cape Town had to offer.  Views of the city from the top of Table Mountain, walking in the footsteps of Nelson Mandela on Robben Island, the penguin colony en route to the Cape of Good Hope and sample the local wines in Stellenbosch & Franschoek. The tablecloth on the top of the mountain and the clouds tumbling down from the peak are one of the many unforgettable sights of the Mother City. 

The Waterfront came alive on New Years Eve with an incredible throng of party-goers, all eager to enjoy the last hours of the old year and ring in the new. A great Howzat party descended on the Quay Four Restaurant and were in prime position to watch the brilliant fireworks, dance and make merry until the early hours of 2016. 

A single day to get mind and body together and it was time to board the coach for the short journey to Newlands Cricket Ground, home of Western Province Cricket Club and proud hosts of the second test. A lovely ground with a capacity of 25,000 set against the most perfect background of Table Mountain and Devils Peak. The first test held at Newlands was back in 1889 when England defeated South Africa by an innings and 202 runs. We were hoping for a repeat performance as we all took our seats in the beautiful sunshine and invigorating heat. The test match did not disappoint. It was a joy to be part of the crowd watching Ben Stokes record breaking 258 runs, supported by Jonny Bairstow who scored a fantastic 150 not out. Hashim Amla's return to form, superb contributions by South African new boys Temba Bavuma and the young fast bowler Rabada made it an even contest and a final afternoon finish in a tight draw. Newlands dictated a certain dress code in some parts of the stadium so it was strange not to be able to pick out the many Howzat spectators wearing their Howzat shirts and caps cheering on England!

One highlight of Cape Town for many was the wonderful farewell evening at the Kelvin Grove Club. A superb meal was followed by Geoff Boycott giving his personal and entertaining view of the past five days events. Not to everyone's tastes perhaps but forthright, opinionated, totally non-pc and a big dash of Yorkshire bluntness and humour. A legend "wi a stick of rhubarb" and a thousand stories.

Those returning from Cape Town must have been sad to leave a truly outstanding city, their new friends and acquaintances and the special glow most people get from a Howzat Travel cricket tour. Looking forward to the next trip already....! 

Garth's Tour Review

I'm writing this whilst sitting down, glass of red next to me, having had a very busy month or so (back to the real world) to reflect on my experience as a Howzat Travel Tour Manager for the Newlands, Cape Town test match in South Africa.

Cape Town was my first time being a Tour Manager and what an amazing experience it was. I stayed at a lovely little hotel called the Protea SeaPoint on the Howzat Red Tour with my fellow manager Gordon Bacon and a further 77 Howzat travellers, who were on varying itinerates.

The Protea Seapoint is located just by the seafront and is around a 45 minute walk or a 15 minute bus ride to the waterfront. As we were to discover, the hotel is also located just off the main road, which had numerous bars and restaurants, all of which offered excellent food and refreshments. I couldn't fault the hotel or its staff, it was clean, the food was excellent and the staff were out of this world. They really couldn't have done any more to help us and our guests.

I was a little unsure what to expect from Cape Town and South Africa in particular, having never visited before. I have to say I would return in a heartbeat. The people were friendly, the scenery stunning and, due to the strength of the pound against the rand, was great value for money.

With the currency in our favour it would have been rude not to take advantage of it. Every evening would see a large group of Protea hote Howzat group eating and drinking out at the many local bars and restaurants, which without exception were fantastic.

On to the main event - the cricket. Can there be a better venue in the world to watch a test match? With the back drop of Table Mountain, the sun shining and Stokes smashing it to all parts of the ground, the crowd loved it, as did I! Whilst a draw was a disappointing end to a great match, the experience was incredible. The atmosphere was fantastic, as was the banter with the locals and being allowed onto the outfield every lunchtime, seeing families having mini games of cricket finished it perfectly.

The 2016 Newlands test match and Cape Town Howzat Travel tour was a special experience. The memories and friendships forged will last a lifetime. The only problem was that it went far too quickly! I must finally say thank you to all at Howzat travel, my fellow Tour Manager, Gordon Bacon and all the Protea Seapoint travellers for a great time! Hopefully we can do it again in the future…

Bob's Tour Review

My very first experience as a Tour Manager having been a Howzat Customer for the last five years, it was interesting being on the other end of great organisation. The challenge was set, however it was helped that I was surrounded by a group of Tour Managers that all knew their stuff.

My first day on the job, December 29th meant leaving Durban a day early, and unfortunately missing the victory celebrations, to meet the new arrivals and show them Cape Town at its best. It’s not just great wine that comes out of this place, but a bit of cricket too! Sharing my knowledge of this great city was going to be a pleasure.

After the arrivals were all met in this ever welcome country and hotel in the SunSquare, a great hotel not only for its views of Table Mountain and Town but only 15 minutes from Newlands. With New Years eve the following night, most customers were tucked up in bed by midnight, after a long daylight flight from the UK and a big day planned for the 31st!

New Year’s Eve. A three hour breakfast giving guidance and helping plan some New Year’s dinners and trips for the up and coming days.  Open top buses was the most popular choice of the day for those who were not booked on an excursions, it’s the best way to see Cape Town. Early evening drinks and more information on how to get the best out of Cape Town. Downtown Cape Town is magnificent at this time of year with the V&A at its best, lit up and full of exciting and wondrous things to do for all ages and tastes. 
 
To the cricket! A short coach trip to the ground and all Howzater’s seated and happy… well of course they were - the sun was shining, incredible view of Table Top Mountain and of course the Castle Brewery - who wouldn’t be smiling, simply beautiful! Who could of guessed what was going to happened next, South Africa conceding 46 runs in the last five overs of day one, Game on.  Day 2. The memory will last forever, Ben Stokes the animal unleashed and wow what a performance the best you could have hoped for with an onslaught of sheer genius, scoring a DOUBLE CENTURY off 163 balls. Now were talking, the sun was still shining and happy faces became even happier when the Bairstow Stokes partnership reached 399… good days work! Days 3/4 South Africa matched that stunning performance with an Amla double-hundred and a maiden test century for the diminutive Bavuma. Day 5 and it all ended in a draw.

January 7th - there are somethings in life even I can’t make happen, disgruntled Howzater’s not at all happy because they couldn’t get to Table Top Mountain or Robin Island, because of the WIND! I promise I will try harder next time, however Cape Point and the Vineyards all went well and expectations met.

Final day concluded, hands shook, and cheeks kissed, pats on the back all round. Travellers dispatched on trips to Victoria Falls, the Garden Route and the magnificent Kruger Park. Well done ME! Would I do it again, of course, in fact I’m signed up already!


*Note: Carl & Phil's ODI/T20 tour reviews are still to be added to this page!


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   


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