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Vodafone Ashes Series 2010-11 Tour Diary

Howzat Travel founder and director Ian Kerr has seen England play cricket all over the world, and he describes the seven weeks he spent out in Australia watching England winning the Ashes on their soil for the first time in 24 years as - understandably - one of the best experiences of his life!

As we always do with a Howzat Travel tour, Ian kept a diary so that the tour group can recall the great times they had, and everyone else can read about what they got up to...

See our Vodafone Ashes Series tours here >

Sunday 21st November
Well here goes… my driver has just picked me up and I’m en-route to London Heathrow for the flight out to Dubai and onwards to Brisbane. With months of planning all now behind us, all that’s left is the Cricket to unfold.

Tuesday 23rd November
Right on time at 0635, I landed in Brisbane International Airport. With around 90 customers arriving tomorrow, it made sense for me to arrive a day earlier than the main groups – to set up the hotels and collect the match tickets. Despite battling fatigue, the day went pretty much as planned and I’m just about ready for tomorrow’s arriving flights.

Wednesday 24th November
It’s 5am and I’m up after nine hours solid sleep. A quick coffee at the hotel and I’m en-route back to the airport to meet the first group arriving on Singapore Airlines. On my way to the airport, I discovered that my original group of 18 had now become 27. This was a result of Cathay Pacific cancelling a flight out of Heathrow and us having to transfer our customers across to this Singapore Airlines flight! So, we booked an additional coach for the hotel transfers, only to be informed our main coach was stuck on the motorway and wouldn’t be with us on time. Again, we did some juggling around, and without to much stress all 27 people were off to the correct hotels. A few minutes after that, the Emirates flight arrived, and again, without incident, the group went off to the hotels.

So here I am, sat writing this diary entry at Brisbane Airport, with a further 37 about to arrive on the next Cathay Pacific flight. It’s been a busy morning so far… On time at 10.35am, the Cathay Pacific flight arrived.

Once through immigration and customs, the group were soon off their respective hotels and looking forward to a relaxing afternoon, before the first days play starting in the morning.

Thursday 25th November
With many of group suffering with jet lag, quite a few were wide-awake long before their alarms went off. The first day of the Brisbane Test Match was soon upon us. A good group of us decided to walk to the Gabba, whilst others chose the free transport available at various locations around the city.

At the Gabba, security was tight for the opening day and it seemed to take a while before we were all sat ready for the off. National Anthems, opening ceremonies and crikey-knows-what-else couldn’t have been great preparation for toss-winning Andrew Strauss, which showed when he cut a wide Ben Hilfenhaus delivery straight to Mike Hussey in the gully, who took a regulation catch chest high to dismiss Strauss for a duck.

England then seemingly recovered, making it through to tea on 172-4 with Alistair Cook on 60. After tea, it was ‘the Peter Siddle show’ with a most fantastic hat trick, taking the wickets of Prior, Cook and Broad within three balls. Not a bad 26th birthday for the Australian fast bowler. England were eventually all out for an under-par 260, with the Australians finishing up on 25-0. Back at the Rendezvous hotel, it was the first of the Howzat Travel welcome dinners. Starting off at 7.30pm, everyone enjoyed great food, company and wine at the hotel’s ‘Berkleys’ restaurant. The tour welcome dinner offers the opportunity for guests to make new friends with fellow travellers, and it also gives the Howzat Travel tour leaders the opportunity to meet all the guests formally. We also told the group to get thinking of a question for Jonathan Agnew, as we are hosting a Q&A session with him on Sunday evening.

After several beers and wines it was soon past 11.00pm, and with the jet lag taking a firm grip, it was time for bed. Goodnight!

Friday 26th November
The second day of the Brisbane Test match, and if England were going to get back into this game, they needed early wickets. With only one wicket before lunch – Shane Watson caught behind in the slip by Strauss – it was looking like being Australia’s morning.

After lunch, it was England’s time to shine, taking wickets left, right and centre. By tea, England was right back in the game on 168-5 and there was even talk of England having a first innings lead! Australia however, had other ideas, and as the heavens opened and the players left the field, Australia closed the day on 220-5.

So, back to the Rendezvous Hotel, and after a quick turnaround, fellow Howzat Travel tour leader Phil and I were over to the Mantra hotel on the Southbank for the second of our welcome meals. For the second night in a row, a great evening was had by all – the food was first class and the service levels were beyond expectations. Again, I said a few words to the 50+ travellers at the Mantra, and we also let them know about the ‘Evening with Aggers’ event on Sunday. At around 11.00pm, the evening drew to a close and I made my way back across the river to the Rendezvous for some much-deserved sleep.

Saturday 27th November
With the rain-affected end to yesterday’s play, today saw an earlier-than-normal 9.30am start, so the groups were up early and off to the Gabba in good time. I personally took the opportunity to hang back and complete some work at the hotel, before heading over just after the start of play. England needed early wickets and Lady Luck was shining on them. With Jimmy Anderson on fine form, he thought we had the in-form Michael Hussey out for LBW, when Aleem Dar’s finger came up. However, Hussey appealed the decision (the Hawkeye-type analysis system they were using suggesting it was pitching outside the line) so the decision was overturned. A few balls later, Anderson had Hussey again, this time Dar said ‘not out’. This time the analysis system proved this was the wrong decision, although not much use to England, who had no appeals left… Yet again the referral system was leaving a bad taste with the England players and the many England supporters across the ground.

As the new ball wore old, Hussey and Haddin went onto shine, both making 100s and seemingly taking the game away from England. It wasn’t until well after tea, did England start to take wickets and they pretty much all came at once! Australia was eventually bowled out for 482, some 221 runs in front of England… England closed the day on 19-0

So, back to the hotels and with the welcome meals taking up the last couple of evenings, I personally took the opportunity for an early night and some much-needed sleep.

Sunday 28th November
Again, an earlier-than-normal start saw the groups up early and off to the ‘so-called’ Fortress Gabba. The Aussies were all thinking this Test was in the bag and England would be bowled out cheaply. As it turned out, this was one of the Great Days in English Cricket. England fought back well and surely won the early mental battle in this Ashes Series. The only wicket to fall today was Strauss on 110 with England eventually finishing the day on 309-1.

During the lunch break, the tour leaders were off asking the group members of they wanted to submit a question to Jonathan Agnew, since he is attending a Q&A session for everybody tonight. After play, everybody had a quick turnaround to get back to their hotel rooms and then off to the Marque Hotel for the ‘Evening with Aggers’. Jonathan was in fine form, speaking for nearly two hours and answering everyone’s questions in great detail. An observant Anthony ‘Aubrey’ Townsend wanted to know why the score board said ‘Extras’ and not ‘Sundries’? Jonathan simply said he wasn’t aware of this and would investigate tomorrow at the cricket and discuss on air with ABC radio commentators!

Amongst many other tactical questions, humour was in the air and with everybody was in fantastic spirits after the amazing days play. I personally couldn’t help but laugh to the question “Who was the tightest when out for dinner – Geoffrey Boycott or Dicky Bird?”

Anyway, the night was an overwhelming success and everybody had the chance to meet Jonathan personally at the end of the evening.

So… back to the hotel we went, ready for a good night’s sleep!

Monday 29th November
Our final day at the Gabba saw everybody up early in preparation for what was shaping up to be one of the great Tests. To get any kind of result at the Gabba is an overwhelming success – in the last 20 Tests, Australia had won 16 and only drawn 4.

Today was general admission, so guests were able to take their seats where they wanted. It was no great surprise that the Australians didn’t turn up today, the crowd was at least 95% British with very few of the 7,000 crowd sporting the yellow and gold of Australia. It was indeed a great day in English Cricket history – many records were broken with Cook and Trott continuing to dominate at the crease. The Barmy Army were on fine form and it was great to be part of the day that will always be remembered.

At lunch, Margaret and I headed out of the stadium and over to the National Hotel to take part in an interview for Test Match Sofa… a new alternative cricket commentary being transmitted with the internet. (You can check them out here:www.testmatchsofa.com.)

So, back to the Gabba after lunch to see dropped catches, lots of wides and generally England in fine form. England eventually declared after drinks in the afternoon session on 517-1. Broad then took the early wicket of Katich for only 4 runs and for a few overs I think everybody thought we might have a sniff at winning the Test. As it happened, Ponting then made a fine 50 and Watson a spirited 41. At 4pm, the Captains shook hands the game declared a draw.

So, back to the hotel for the final time and most guys met up at the Rendezvous reception and headed over to the ‘Central Station’ bar opposite the hotel to find out what the fuss was all about. ‘Aubrey’, Brian and Nigel had made the pub their second home in Brisbane! This time, nearly everybody was in the Central, where we stayed until last orders.

Tuesday 30th November
Today was transfer day for most Howzat Travellers, since we are heading down to the Gold Coast for a few days relaxing on the beach.

At 11am, we checked out of the hotel and boarded the coach for the journey south. We had all enjoyed a quick Brisbane City tour by coach, and then we were on the motorway. After a quick address to the group about what they can expect on the Gold Coast, Phil and I kept everyone amused on the journey with an Ashes quiz we had devised. Mr Michael Berry was our lucky winner of $50 credit at the Coffee Bean Cafe.

Upon arrival on the Gold Coast, we were given a quick tour of the main attractions and everybody had the opportunity to get their bearings before checking in at Phoenician, which is perfectly located in Broadbeach. Most took the opportunity of the 25% food discounts on offer at the Coffee Bean Café, before heading off for a walk down to the beach and then around the city.

As night fell, a few of the troops headed off into Surfers Paradise for a few beers, whilst others had already found the cheaper alternative at the nearby Bowls Club.

We heard the infamous ‘Rum Bar’ had now turned into the ‘Rum Palace’ and Mr Crompton had treated all to a bottle of red on his balcony.

Wednesday 1st December
I’m sure today is a day that many have been looking forward to, not least of all because Kevin Pieterson and Mitchell Johnson will be shaving their moustaches off. ‘Movember’ has been huge in Australia and we have seen lots of moustaches all over the place. Knowing Tim Munton and his commitment to the Prostate Cancer cause in the UK, Howzat Travel will ensure it get thoroughly behind next year’s campaigns. I may even try to grow a little moustache myself…

Thursday 2nd December
Today was also the day that most Howzat travellers flew down to Adelaide; 81 customers arrived at 1420 on the Virgin Blue flight from the Gold Coast, whilst four others followed on the later Jet Star flight. Add to that the numerous other UK arrivals we had, we were now up to 95 customers on the ground in Australia.

By 7pm, all the tickets were delivered, everybody was safely checked in to their chosen hotel and everybody was extremely excited about tomorrow’s play the Adelaide Oval. During the evening, I took the opportunity to catch up with family currently residing in Adelaide. Elsewhere, all Howzat Travellers were out finding their way around the new city and checking out the local restaurants and bars.

Friday 3rd December
The first day of the Adelaide Test saw most of the group up early and down for breakfast in good time. The general feeling was that England had huge momentum going into the Test. The papers were suggesting Mitchell Johnson had been dropped and for the first time in many years… Australia had failed to name their team a day prior to the Test commencing!

So, in good time we set off for the 20-minute walk down to the Oval. This time, without the overbearing rules of the Gabba, we safely and swiftly made our way into the ground. Wow… this really is something special and it is easy to see why the Oval is regarded as the most picturesque ground in World Cricket.

The majority of our group took their seats early on the boundaries edge and sat patiently watching the teams warm up and get ready for the toss; Ponting won and elected to bat. With the sun beating down surely this was the right thing to do and it appeared Australia had won the early advantage in the Test.

Occasionally you hear that it was a good toss to lose, but I cannot help thinking that the National Anthems and general last minute preparation for the opening batsman must be pretty lousy, this time to England’s advantage!

Katich was run out without facing a ball and Ponting departed being caught at slip by Straus whilst the score was still 0, Clarke was out an over later caught by Swann in the slip from the bowling of Anderson leaving Australia 2-3. We were all in dreamland until Watson and Hussey started some sort of recovery, but after tea the wickets started to fall again – Swann taking two in two balls.

England eventually bowled Australia out for 245, and after surviving the last over of the day surely this will be yet again seen as one of the great days of England Cricket in Australia?

Everybody filtered out of the Oval and back to the hotel bars. Spirits are extremely high and we all hope that England can do continue the momentum and have a good day with the bat tomorrow. Goodnight.

Saturday 4th December
A scorching Adelaide day and a fine day for England Cricket saw England resuming at 1-0. As Strauss and Cook took the field, the English were in optimistic mood. For the second successive Test, Strauss was bowled by the third ball in the innings, this time Bollinger clicking the top of the bails with a mistimed leave. Trott offered some chances for an early wicket but England recovered well, taking the tourists up to 317-2.

Trott finished on 78, making his and Cooks combined total of over 500, before the Australians managed a single wicket across the two Tests.

During the evening, the Howzat contingent were in fine form taking to the bars of Adelaide. I believe a few at the Grand Chancellor had a few too many and thick heads were looking likely for tomorrow’s morning session.

Sunday 5th December
Yet again another sunny start to the day, so most were up and off to the beautiful Adelaide Oval in good time for the 10.30am start of play. Being a Sunday meant that lots of the Howzat Faithful were bearing headaches from Saturday night antics and I can remember one group of travellers talking about swimming pools, Australians and a BBQ to finish....Regardless everybody was in fine form and spoke highly of fun filled nights across Adelaide.

So, back to the cricket… KP was in great form playing as well as ever against the new ball. Cook continued to dominate before taking a peach of a delivery from Harris and being caught by Haddin for 148.

Just before tea, we had the opportunity to take Howzat Traveller Michael Collison – soon to be 21 – up to the TMS and BBC radio commentary boxes, where we were extremely lucky to witness KP’s 200. Whilst up with the cricketing journalists of the world, we were also lucky enough to meet Michael Vaughan, Allan Lamb, Christopher Martin Jenkins, Geoffrey Boycott and not forgetting friend-of-Howzat Travel, Mr Jonathan Agnew. A real once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and one that I’m sure Michael will never forget…’Good on you, young man’ and happy 21st birthday from everyone at Howzat Travel!

After tea, the heavens opened and the rain set in. This gave me the opportunity to head around the ground catching up with friends and associates. A few beers with Des Newton – a fellow tour leader from South Africa – seemed the ideal way to spend the afternoon awaiting the official confirmation of the close, which duly came around 5.20pm.

Monday 6th December
With yesterday’s early finish, the day started early with a 10am start. Like most had predicted, England had their foot well and truly on the gas and runs were in abundance. England eventually declared on 620-5, with KP’s highest ever Test score of 227, and the second highest first innings score by England in Australia. England had a 375 lead and every single English man and woman was extremely privileged to witness such an historic occasion.

The Aussies started the fight back well and as the rain fell, most Australians thought they were back in the game and had a chance of saving the Test. It was however Strauss who gave Swann a break from bowling in the final over when Kevin Pietersen took the most important wicket of the day with Cook catching Clarke. Yet again, the England faithful left the ground in fine spirits, all hoping for fine weather tomorrow morning. The bad news was that storms were on their way and a shortened day was all but guaranteed.

During the evening, Rob and I took the opportunity to catch up on some work – communicating to our customers all information about their imminent departures. After the long day we fancied a beer, so the Griffin Bar round the corner from the Majestic Roof Gardens seemed the most local and best value. It was no surprise to find half Howzat guys were enjoying the bar too! Although we were slightly late for food, we still had a fantastic evening with Richard, Margaret, Neil, David, Simon, Mick, Cathay and Steve. It must have been the $12 dollar jugs that kept us all entertained….!?

Tuesday 7th December
I think every English person in Adelaide checked the weather immediately after waking up today! The good news was it looked good; clear blue skies greeted us after day break, although we knew it was likely to be the case that bad weather would follow after lunch.

England needed to get early wickets and didn’t they just! Strauss took the new ball and within 1 hour and 40 minutes, the game was over – Australia bowled out for 304. The second Test was England’s and it felt good, very good actually… all those years of hurt going some way to being healed! Australia hadn’t been beaten – they had been thrashed, and it was emotional and extremely satisfying.

So, what did it mean to the supporters? Beer and lots of it. The fans took to the streets to celebrate and boy did we celebrate! The beer was flowing as the thunderstorms came… I’ve actually never seen so many people cheer a thunderstorm… I believe a record 66mm of rain fell over Adelaide city that day. Watching Richard Fairhead doing a rain dance in the pouring rain fitted the afternoon perfectly! Into the night, a few made their way over to the Intercontinental Hotel to meet up with the celebrating England team. To be honest, it wasn’t a party as such, but a casual drink to acknowledge the result. I got to shake Staussy’s and KP’s hand, which rounded the day off nicely.

Further into the night, Mr Joseph brought me a KFC to sober me up… maybe it was time for bed? I actually had no chance, since a few minutes later I was back in a bar, which had now sold out of draft beer! The English were being blamed of course…

What a day, what a night and one I will always remember – well, most of it anyway!

Wednesday 8th December
Many of the group were suffering with morning-after hangovers today, which was departure day for around 55 of the Howzat Travellers. The Boomerang Tour group had been treated to two of the greatest Test matches in recent history. One presumes that many people back on home shores were extremely jealous of these guys witnessing such historic events.

Everybody departed Adelaide as planned and I’m sure most would have been quite happy if they could be staying for Perth. During the afternoon, I took charge and organised a trip to Kangaroo Island for anybody that wanted to join me.

In the evening – with a big bag of washing in hand – I went over to see family in Adelaide, not even contemplating having a beer. To be honest, it was great to simply catch up with my chores and prepare myself for the next stage of the Howzat Travel Ashes adventure… and what an adventure it was turning out to be!

Thursday 9th December
After a day’s planning 8 Howzat Travellers were today off for a full day sightseeing on Kangaroo Island. Kangaroo Island is Australia’s third largest island and about a two-hour drive south of Adelaide. Rob and I had elected to drive and arranged to meet in the hotel reception at 5.30am, in order to collect the cars from the airport at 6am. After an initial mix up regarding dates, we were soon back in the city collecting the party from the Majestic Roof Gardens.

So, a quick turnaround breakfast and onto the ferry port at Cape Jervis for the 4-minute ferry crossing. Once on the island, Margaret took map-reading duties and we took the cars cross-country for the initial drive down to Seal Bay (we later found out we went around the houses!). Robert seemed to be enjoying the rally driving experience, apparently similar to those he experienced when residing in South Africa.

Once we had reached Seal Bay, we were treated to the sight of numerous sea lions – one of the largest colonies in Australia. Next stop was for lunch at the a quirky cafe called Rustic Blue, then onto Koala Walk to see lots of the wildlife including Koalas, Kangaroos and Wallabies. I actually believe the $2.50 in the honesty box at Koala Walk was probably the best value we have received down under since our arrival.

Our final stops – before the long journey back to the ferry port – were ‘ very remarkable rocks’ (as Tony stated) and Admirals Arch (which I nearly missed after getting carried away looking at the seals). Thanks for the hint Margaret!

Anyway, back to the ferry port at Penneshaw for some well-deserved, good value pizza, then the crossing and drive home.

We eventually made it back to the hotel at around 10.30pm. Most decided to go straight to bed whilst others including Tony, Richard and Anthony headed off into the Adelaide night for plenty of beers.

Friday 10th December
Again an early start, this time to make sure I had a ticket for the hire car parked outside the hotel, after which it was time for a quick breakfast before seeing the Ayres Rock sightseeing group off to the airport. Ross, Peter, Richard and David were all off for a fantastic excursion up to the red centre to see the highlights of Alice Springs, Ayres Rock and the Olgas.

Once everybody was safely off to the airport, Richard, Margaret and I took off in the car, initially up to North Adelaide to visit an area I used to live and work during a gap year in 1999, then back into Adelaide and on to Hahndorf – Australia’s first German settlement.

The weather today was so cold we actually found a cafe for lunch with an open fire to keep it warm. It was honestly freezing in Adelaide! After lunch and being treated to some fudge for desert, we decided to take the scenic drive back into town via Mount Lofty.

During the evening, Richard treated us to a bottle of wine in the room, before we headed off to the Griffins (our new local) for a beer and yet another pizza.

Saturday 11th December
Today was another full day excursion for eight of the group (Garry, Denise, Neil, Colin, Ian, Colin, Craig and I). We had booked to go into the Barossa Valley for a day’s sightseeing and – more importantly – wine tasting.

After our first stop at the Whispering Wall – a freak of nature that allows people to talk to each other clearly across a 100+ metre dam – we headed off to our first winery for morning tea and, yes you guessed, it our first drink of the day.

Although the weather was yet again cold and rainy, we all had yet another great day enjoying the Barossa Valley, my personal highlight being learning about the German history of the Barossa at the Langmeil winery. Here, we had the opportunity to drink a fine Shiraz – labelled ‘Freedom’ – which is reportedly made from the oldest grape vine in the world from 1840.

Our final stop was at the world famous Wolf Blass visitor centre for more wine, which was followed by a ‘siesta drive’ back into the city…

I believe most have headed back out into the city to enjoy our final Saturday night in Adelaide. However, I have decided to save a few dollars and have a night in the room catching up with work. Hopefully with a little luck, the sun will be shining tomorrow so I can head over to Glenelg for a day on the beach.

Sunday 12th December
Today was yet another cloudy overcast day in Adelaide, so I took the opportunity to catch up with work, ironing and general chores in preparation for the next leg of the tour in Perth.

After lunch, I went for a walk, initially along the street market which was set up along the far end of Rundle Street, but then headed off down towards the Oval to find some Grade A cricket being played. I guess it was no surprise to find Richard and Neil watching the highly competitive game. With the weather slightly improving on this morning, it was actually a really pleasant way to spend the afternoon.

At the close of play and the two-day game being declared a draw, Richard and I went for a walk along the river and back to the hotel. Since I had just acquired some new trainers, I also took the opportunity to try them out with a 30-minute jog back along the river.

During the evening, the usual suspects made their way around to the Griffins Bar for an early start at 7.30om. Neil kindly pointed out that it closed early on a Sunday, so starting early made more sense! And who was I to argue?! Beers all round then!

Monday 13th December
At last a much better weather forecast, with clear blue skies and a maximum temperature of 29 degrees. Well, today’s choice of activity was easy… a day at Glenelg – the seaside resort of choice in Adelaide, which was formed by the early settlers in Australia. Neil, Richard, Colin and I made our way over at 12 noon by tram.

After an initial walk around, we made ourselves comfortable on the beach for a few hours catching rays before heading into town for a traditional fish and chips lunch. We took another walk around the town before catching the tram back to the Rundle Mall, in time for a Siesta before – you guessed it – 7.30pm drinks at the Griffin! Being our final night, we probably had one extra, but who cares! Adelaide had been great and the memories of the famous victory at the Oval are ones that will live with us forever…

Tuesday 14th December
I was actually awake before the 6.30 alarm this morning, thinking about the imminent departures from London Heathrow and hoping that everybody was on board and was going to arrive OK. After checking in with the guys at Heathrow, I was happy everything was in order.

Most of the group had also got up early and had decided to watch the Manchester United v Arsenal game, which was being shown on the TV channel in the rooms.

After the game had finished, most were down for breakfast almost in unison… After our final breakfast in Adelaide, I had a few minutes to do last-minute packing and running around before our pick-up to take us to the airport.

Once checked in at the airport, we took a few minutes to grab some food before the 3-hour 18-minute flight to Perth.

Just a few minutes later than planned, we touched down in Perth and enjoyed a welcome change of scenery. I personally headed off to collect match tickets and get organised for all imminent arriving groups, and I wasn’t surprised to see most of the crew making themselves at home at the ‘Fenians Pub’, which is part of the Novotel Langley hotel we are staying at. $8 (£6) for a full pint of Guinness may seem expensive to you back home, but for some here it actually seemed like good value…!

I have left them boozing downstairs to write this diary for you and get ready for two more arriving International flights later this evening…

Tuesday 14th December
After deciding not to have a much needed sleep, I headed off to the International Airport to meet the first arriving group on the Cathay Pacific flight. Once through immigration, I was there to greet them and escort them over to the Novotel Langley. Everybody seemed to be in extremely good spirits and all had plenty of questions, so it was nice to familiarise myself with the new arrivals nice and early.

Once back at the hotel, I had just enough chance to get them into the reception area before the trip back over to the airport, this time to meet the Emirates flight. It arrived more one hour later than planned – at 0150 local time (now 5am for me still on Adelaide time) – when a sleepy bunch of travellers made it safely through the arrivals lounge. Again, I had an ideal opportunity to say an early hello and answer any immediate questions.

Once everybody was checked in I eventually made it to bed… at 5.30am. I can assure you it was much needed…

Wednesday 15th December
For many, today was the first full day on Australian soil and I believe most of the new arrivals, plus myself, took advantage of a few extra hours in bed before a leisurely breakfast.

Between 11am and 12pm, I made myself available in the reception area to distribute any undelivered match tickets and also let people know all relevant information for the next few days in Perth. This also included letting the new arrivals know about their welcome meal we had organised at the Novotel’s Sen5es restaurant for the forthcoming evening at 7.30. When I told them that Jonathan and Emma Agnew would be joining them for dinner, I am sure they were all pleasantly surprised.

Anyway, a nice afternoon exploring Perth CBD was the order of the day, so off we went around this great city. During the afternoon, we popped into the ‘Lucky Shag’ and unsurprisingly found numerous Howzat Travellers with the same idea – enjoying the Perth sunshine on the back of the Swan River…

So, the evening was soon upon us and all new arrivals gathered in the bar before heading through to our private area for the evening – to enjoy a buffet meal with more food than you could eat. Jonathan and Emma were both in fine form and you could see the pleasure and delight with our new customers being able to ask them questions about the state of the series, team selection and incidents from the Tests in Brisbane and Adelaide. The night went so well I left most at the bar chatting away with new found friends, the tour welcome meal is one of the most important things we do and after yet another fantastic evening, I went to bed extremely happy.

Thursday 16th December
After the end of the Adelaide Test, for many the first day at the WACA couldn’t come around quick enough. England were well and truly on top and most England supporters had started to believe the Ashes were going to be retained here in Perth. Most customers took off for the 15-20 minute walk to the ground at around 9am. Once we were in the ground and the flag had been erected behind the bowlers arm, we took the opportunity to familiarise ourselves with ground. News soon filtered through that Strauss had won the toss and put the Aussies in. The experts in the field suggested this was a good idea; a green top pitch meant a great morning to bowl and we sure weren’t disappointed.

Early wickets fell with the Australians 65-4 at the lunch interval. England eventually bowled out Australia for 268… Mitchell Johnson was the only Australian making things happen with the bat, making a fine 62 before being caught by Jimmy Anderson off the bowling of Finn. The England openers Strauss and Cook then survived the remaining overs in the day finishing up 29-0. Back at the hotel, everybody was in fine spirits were celebrating yet another fine day with a few drinks. One customer said it was the best days live cricket he had ever seen!

Friday 17th December
After the extreme heat of yesterday, most took advantage of a more leisurely stroll down to the WACA for the first over of the day. Carl and I had other ideas taking a five-mile run around the Swan River before most had even woken up. Anyways, off the WACA for a perfect initial start, Strauss and Cook were looking great before all hell broke loose…

Mitchell Johnson – for the first time in his career – bowled well against England, and boy did he do some damage! At lunch, England were at 119-5 and then eventually bowled out for 187… quite possibly the worst day of the tour so far and how things can change. This time yesterday the Ashes were ours, now it looked likely that Australia were going to win the Test.

With Australia taking a first innings lead of 81, England needed early wickets to get back into the game and although you always want more, Australia finished the day 119-3.

So, back to the hotel, this time to commiserate into our beers instead of celebrate. What a difference 24 hours can make! Being absolutely shattered from the Perth sun, I stayed local and took the room service option. I think everybody went to bed knowing that tomorrow could be the most crucial day of the tour so far.

Saturday 18th December
After breakfast, everyone was en-route to the WACA for the third day’s play, If England were to get back into the game, they needed early wickets and to bowl Australia out for the lowest possible total. As it happened, England took wickets but at nowhere near the rate required, and by the time the Australians were all out they had made 309 and were 122 runs ahead in the game. Unfortunately for the English, the Aussies made the new ball work for them yet again and by the close of play England were in a disastrous position at 81-5.

Back at the hotel the Howzat Travellers were in a sombre mood. Leanne and I had decided to head out Cockburn Central to visit some friends from our home town of Melton Mowbray. When we arrived, we were treated to a feast of food and enough beers to sink a ship. By the time we wanted to head off home the taxis were no longer running, so we ended up staying over, knowing we would need to be up early in the morning to get back to central Perth for the following days cricket.

Sunday 19th December
Not an ideal start to the day – I had set the alarm for 6.30am and when checking the football scores I discovered Leicester City had been beaten 3-0 by Ipswich in somewhat dubious weather conditions. So, after a quick cup of coffee and being dropped off at the railway station, we were soon back in Perth and the Novotel in time for a quick shower, some breakfast and then what was the likely to be our final walk over to the WACA.

Well, the guys and girls that had decided on the beach instead of the cricket had made the right choice. England had lost the fighting spirit and were bowled out for 123! So that was it – game over and series finely poised at 1-1.

The Howzat Travel tour leaders took the opportunity to catch up with work and make sure the planning for Melbourne was in order and that everybody was aware of the next set of plans. I believe most of the Howzat crew took to the bars of Perth to drown their sorrows, and when the tour leaders had finished their responsibilities a few beers were also in order for us. We found ourselves in the Moon Under Water and then the Novotel bar, where a good group of travellers had made themselves at home…

Unfortunately, the bar had just closed, however Frankie & Elaine had other ideas and kindly treated us to a bottle of port straight out of the Swan Valley. It was actually great to spend a few hours with friends old and new. By the time the port was finished it was well and truly time for bed.

Monday 20th December
Today was an unexpected free day, so most were busy with the ‘Lonely Planets’ and guide books looking for excursions and trips out. The weather was actually miserable all morning and I heard several members of the group discussing how we should have tried to save the game into the fifth day and then the weather may have saved us.

As it happened, the rain cleared after lunch, and after catching up with some work, Leanne and I went off to the Perth Royal Mint for an interesting guided tour where we witnessed gold being heated up and poured. Some of the biggest gold nuggets and world’s most interesting artefacts are kept here, so it was a really interesting way to spend a few hours…

With the late afternoon looking much brighter and clearer, we then headed off to Kings Park to walk the botanical gardens and the sky walk, and view the amazing lookouts over Perth city centre. After a quick turnaround at the hotel, Leanne and I then headed over to the Balti restaurant to enjoy a fine meal of Indian cuisine. We then made our way back to the hotel at 9.15pm to see off the next batch of departures all due out of the Cathay flight. As it happened, Craig and Jon were soon back at the hotel as Cathay Pacific were unable to carry them all the way to England. This was due to significant traffic already backed up in Hong Kong as a result of the snowy weather conditions being experienced in the UK.

After a few hours sorting out the flights situation, I was ready for bed shortly after midnight.

Tuesday 21st December
Today was another free day, but this time with plans in place! So after a leisurely morning seeing off a few Howzatters, Leanne and I took the train over to Cottesloe beach where we enjoyed a fish and chips lunch before heading over to Freemantle. My Dad often tells me that in 1963 my Gran and Grandad very nearly took the £10 trip down to Freemantle… My life could have been so much different if they had, and you can only try and imagine how those guys would have felt arriving into Freemantle looking to set up homes after all of that time at sea.

Anyway, after a good walk around the town, we headed over to the marina for a walk around, then headed to the ‘Little Creatures’ brewery to meet up with another friend from our hometown. With more departures from the hotel looming and more flights likely to be cancelled, we headed back to the Novotel – into Perth just as the sun was setting…

Back at the hotel, nearly everybody left had gathered in the hotel’s ‘Fennian’s Bar’. I actually spent most of the evening on the phone to the UK, but a fun night was apparently had by all…

Wednesday 22nd December
At 4.30am, 16 Howzat Travellers – including tour leader Carl Sutton – met at the hotel reception for the early transfer – to the domestic terminal for the flight to Melbourne and their guided tour along the Great Southern Touring Route.

For Leanne and I, today was going to be our only full free day to go off and explore, so we decided to hire a car giving us the best chance of seeing as much as possible. After an early start, we made our way up to Caversham Wildlife park, were we experienced lots of animals native to Australia. It was great to be able to touch a koala and feed the friendly kangaroos. After about an hour and a half of wondering around the park, we then headed onwards to Nambung National Park to the Rock Pinnacles, where the limestone pillars tower up to five metres in this amazing, sandy ‘haunting pinnacles desert’.

Once on site, we initially took a walk around the visitors centre to learn about how and why the rocks had formed, and then we headed off for a walk around the desert. The trip to the national park then finished with a 4km drive around the desert.

After that, all we had to do was take the 250km drive back down to Perth! However, we did stop off at Lancelin for a look at the sand dunes and some lunch before our final stop at Yanchep National Park to see yet more koalas. These are now officially Leanne’s new favourite animal!

We got back to Perth for just after 6pm and made a quick trip over to the airport, before finding a restaurant for an evening meal. We eventually made it back to the hotel at 10pm, shattered and ready for bed.

Thursday 23rd December
Being our final full day in Perth, I needed to catch up with some work and make sure the imminent UK departures had all left as planned. Fortunately the snow situation in the UK was starting to improve and fellow Howzat Travel director Rob had done a cracking job at Heathrow in making sure that everyone was present and on board their flight to Melbourne. Once all of the work was clear, I went off to meet up with Leanne at Kings Park for an afternoon’s sunbathing in the blistering Perth sun.

Back at the hotel, we decided to go back through the relevant documents ready for tomorrows onwards flights from Perth, and with plenty of packing still to be done, a night in the hotel room was well and truly in order.

Friday 24th December
After a leisurely breakfast and a little time to pack, it was soon 10am and the remaining 30 Howzat Travellers met at the hotel reception for the flight to Melbourne. On time at 1210, we all departed on the Virgin Blue flight. As we boarded, a young airport assistant called the group forward wishing everyone a ‘Happy Christmas and a Merry New Year’! We knew what she meant…

Anyway, on time and with no difficulties, we were soon on the way over to the Mantra on Russell hotel with a straightforward check-in. I headed straight over to our other hotel – the Clarion Suites Gateway – to meet some of the new arrivals and collect the match tickets.

With the three hours time difference, the evening was passing us by fast, so when Leanne and I headed out for some food at about 9pm, we ended up finding one of Melbourne’s best bars – the ‘Young and Jackson’s – full of friends and travellers, so we popped in for one. One became half a dozen, and half a dozen meant a great night dancing to the local band.

Merry Christmas everybody!

Saturday 25th December
The combined effects of the time difference and the late night really didn’t work for me this morning, and the champagne breakfast I had organised for Leanne and I really wasn’t what was needed! Nurofen and more sleep would have been a better present and one we would have appreciated a little more… Anyway, it’s the thought that counts, well so I’m told…

After a quick turnaround, it was down to reception to deliver the match tickets to the 66 guests staying at the Mantra on Russell. It was soon 12 noon and time for the 15-minute walk to the Terra Rossa restaurant for the Howzat Travel Christmas Dinner.

A Christmas Day out of the UK and away from loved ones and family is not always to everyone’s liking, but the Terra Rossa did us all proud. The day as a whole really could not have gone any better – everybody had a great time and we all drank and enjoyed ourselves long into the evening… Knowing that being fresh for the cricket tomorrow would be of the upmost importance, most took the opportunity of an early night, although a few did head off to the ‘Turf Bar’ for some late night drinking.

Sunday 26th December
Most of our guys headed for the Melbourne Cricket Ground to get through security and find their seats nice and early. Our seats here in Melbourne were perfect on all counts, high up behind the bowlers arm and a perfect view looking down over the MCG.

I can honestly say that what happened next was easily the best day of Test Cricket I have ever experienced in my five years of continuously watching England tour around the world. Strauss won the toss and yet again put the Aussies in to bat (it appeared to me that following Perth, the grounds man had made this drop in pitch a result wicket and it was worked entirely to England’s advantage). The England bowling attack was right on the money and as the ball was nipping, swinging and seaming wickets were falling at regular intervals all morning including the prize wicket of Hussey who was out before the short rain break, England had made the perfect start. After an extended lunch, the day got even better when England eventually bowed Australian out or 98 – the lowest ever score against England at the MCG.

Cook and Strauss then made a match winning start with the bat and England finished the day on 157 without loss. At the close of play, I bumped into David Millard, our customer who after returning home from the Brisbane and Adelaide tour had returned to Melbourne after missing the Perth Test. David has never witnessed England lose away – he even managed to watch England win the ICC Twenty20 with Howzat Travel back in May… having David back in Australia was certainly a good thing!

So, off back into Melbourne feeling extremely lucky and a little excited that we may be on the verge of watching England retain the Ashes on Australian soil, Leanne and I took advantage of the cooking facilities at the hotel and had a quiet night in feeling extremely happy.

Monday 27th December
After the night in, I was up early enough for a run around the botanical gardens, then a nice, leisurely breakfast before the stroll over to the MCG. Australia fought back well, taking the early wickets. However, England showed true grit and by the close were on 444-5, with Trott on 141 and Prior on 75.

Back into Melbourne, the evening was spent over at the Clarion Suites hotel, organising travel arrangements for the forthcoming journey over to Sydney.

Tuesday 28th December
Last night’s work was followed this morning by more work, arranging the ongoing travel – this morning was an ideal opportunity to finalise arrangements and update the notice boards. I can assure you I was itching to the get to the cricket, and when we took our seats shortly after lunch it was with anticipation of England taking early wickets since they had just been bowled out for 513.

When Hughes was run out for 23 England must have been thinking lady luck was on their side it certainly looked that way since they continued to take wickets all afternoon. At the close Australia were in danger of England claiming the extra half an hour to wrap up the Ashes, but as it happened, the England team left the field knowing they would need to take the final five wickets in the morning.

The quick-thinking and opportunistic T-shirt sellers outside the MCG were already selling ‘England Victorious’ shirts and making a killing!

Tonight I joined the ‘All Out Cricket Supporters Tour’ for dinner back at Terra Rossa. Jonathan & Emma Agnew – along with Mark Butcher – were present to make yet another evening work perfectly for the small group on lucky supporters.

Wednesday 29th December
As planned, England wrapped up the remaining wickets to go 2-1 up in the series and – more importantly – retaining the Ashes on Australian soil, an achievement that no English team had managed since Mike Gatting’s team claimed the series 2-1 in 1986-1987.

Watching the lads celebrate with the England supporters was extremely emotional and I loved every minute. Being lucky enough to witness all four test so far was something that I will always remember and one that I will always talk about.

I should also comment that the fans and the Barmy Army’s behaviour at the close was impeccable. I felt extremely proud to be English when every single supporter applauded Ponting as he spoke to the crowd. Being gracious in defeat and acknowledging the English team and supporters was very noble of him. The boys finished their celebrations by performing the ‘Sprinkler Dance’ in front of the excitable crowd.

So, back into Melbourne CBD and back to the hotel, initially to enjoy a bottle of champagne on the balcony and then onto catching up with some work. In the early evening, Carl, Leanne, Jo and I headed off for a few beers at the Young and Jacksons. A few turned into a few more which ended up at Rosies – the Barmy Army headquarters. I think every English man and woman had the same idea and some who had been on the pop all afternoon were a little worse for wear come the end of the day.

An emotional day and a fantastic night with great company – and one we will always remember…

Thursday 30th December
Today was now an unexpected free day and we had provided all customers with excursion information – a fair few took up the offer of a 20% discounted tours with a local sightseeing company, whilst the others decided to stay local and explore St Kilda and other local attractions.

Kathryn, Mark, Leanne and I chose the Phillip Island excursion to experience the penguin parade, along with other stops and sightseeing along the way. Just after lunch, we were collected from the hotel and in summary we all had a great day; more Koalas, Kangaroos, helicopter rides and the day ended with the world-famous penguins.

So, back to the hotel just before midnight for a few hours sleep ready for the early check out.

Friday 31st December
Today was New Years Eve and an early start – we were up and about for the 5am hotel pick-up. At the airport, the Virgin Blue flight from Melbourne to Sydney was filled exclusively with 144 Howzat Travel customers. It’s no surprise that with an efficient all-English flight, the plane left early and landed ahead of schedule into Sydney.

By 9.40am all Howzat Travellers were at their respective hotels and most dropped their cases off and went off exploring Sydney. Just after lunch, everyone was checked in and looking forward to the night’s celebrations.

I personally took the opportunity of a working afternoon, before heading off out with a Steve, Jenn and Leanne for a quieter NYE on the banks on Sydney harbour in Pyrmont. After a few bottles of bubbles and lots of amazing fireworks, it was soon 2011 – the year Leanne and I are getting married! Happy New Year everybody… I’m now passing on the baton to Steve to take you into the new year

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Hello everyone. Steve here… I hope you’ve all enjoyed Ian’s tour diary to date – as he said, I’m now taking over covering the rest of the time in Sydney, then moving on to the ‘Wombat Tour’, where I will be leading a group onwards to Canberra, Adelaide, Melbourne, Hobart and Sydney, watching the T20 matches and some of the ODI series between Australia and England. Let’s roll…

Saturday 1st January
New Year’s Eve in Sydney is apparently one of those ‘things you must do before you die’ and most of the 180-odd Howzat Travel contingent now in Sydney had decided to make the most of it, picking their preferred way to watch the legendary fireworks and soak up the special atmosphere. As Ian has already said, Jenn, Leanne, Ian and I headed over to a nice quiet grassy bank on the side of the harbour in Pyrmont with some friends, and enjoyed some food and drinks away from the crowds. We still had a great view of the fireworks in the harbour from the bridge, in North Sydney and also those being launched from Darling Harbour around the corner.

The next morning, we were still pretty tired as we had only arrived into Australia on the 29th, so hadn’t quite shaken off the jet lag. The first few days in Sydney had been pretty hectic, and when we did find time to sleep we found ourselves waking in the early hours and not able to drop off again. The hectic schedule continued on New Year’s Day, with us arranging to hand out the tickets at our respective hotels at 11am. We spent a couple of hours after breakfast sorting through them all – making sure people were sat together who wanted to be – then handed them out to the keen customers, some of whom were nursing hangovers, sore heads or simply needing more sleep after the late night before.

Once that job was out of the way, Ian and I had a couple of meetings, then both opted to spend the rest of the day and evening relaxing. In the evening, Jenn and I we went for dinner with two of my mother and father’s best friends from back home, who also happened to be in Sydney for New Year’s Eve. After a pleasant evening, we had an early night to try and catch-up with some much-needed sleep.

I did hear about some Howzat Travellers, who despite also having late nights on NYE, did venture into the lively Sydney bars to sink a few more drinks and chat about the highly-anticipated forthcoming fifth test at the SCG – now just a day away…

Sunday 2nd January
Today was a free day and Jenn and I had planned to go to Manly on the ferry. Speaking to a few of the Howzat Travellers at breakfast, it appeared that quite a few other people had a similar idea. After packing our bags, we headed on the free shuttle bus to the other end of the city centre to catch the ferry. We knew it was going to be a busy day, but the swarms of people in the ferry terminal made us change our plans immediately. As lovely as Manly is, it was not worth enduring an hour of bustling queues to get there. It would be manic at Manly and even more chaos trying to get the ferry back over… not really the relaxing day we had planned!

We headed out of the terminal and jumped on the first bus we saw, which was heading to Coogee – a delightful coastal resort a couple of beaches south of Bondi Beach. Incidentally, Jenn lived in Coogee when she was travelling some eight years earlier, so it was nice for her to have a bit of a trip down memory lane and for us both to relax and enjoy some sun. We spent a couple of hours on the beach, had some lunch, a few drinks and a games of cards. Although I had a couple of work related phone calls, it was still great to get away from the city and clear our heads for a while.

The weather turned in the evening and we experienced some heavy rain and thunderstorms. We went for a drink at the Lord Nelson pub in The Rocks and had fully intended to walk the length of the city CBD to get there. However, as soon as we saw the rain we decided that a taxi would be a much better option. After a nice evening, we jumped in another cab back to the hotel…

Monday 3rd January
Today was the eagerly-anticipated first day of the fifth Ashes Test match at the SCG. Most of our customers staying at the Rydges World Square decided to make the 30-minute walk to the ground, although some did utilise the shuttle bus service that ran from the nearby Central Station. The cricket itself was a good start, albeit interrupted by rain. Australia opted to bat and slid from 105-1 to 134-4 as England ended day one of the final Ashes Test on top. Tim Bresnan took 2-47 as England made the most of the conditions. Rain took the players off for 90 minutes in the middle of the day and England picked up two late wickets before a second and final stoppage. Michael Clarke made just four in his first Test as Australia’s captain.

In the evening, Jenn and I had full intentions of heading out to have a few drinks but ended up staying in the hotel and having an early night.

Tuesday 4th January
Play started slightly earlier today as a result of the rain stoppages yesterday, and it was an engrossing and fascinating day at the SCG, with England ending on 167-3 in reply to Australia’s 280 all out, with Alastair Cook still there on 61. Cook thought he was out on 46, but the umpire checked with the TV official as he suspected a possible no-ball, and Cook was reprieved. Australia began the day on 134-4 and were indebted to Mitchell Johnson, who hit 53 in a lower-order recovery. Johnson also picked up the wickets of Trott and Pietersen. Strauss had earlier smashed 60 from only 58 balls in an aggressive start to England’s reply.

The evening was spent tonight in the hotel bar – Carl, Nick, Jenn and I had a bite to eat in the excellent restaurant in the Rydges hotel, catching up with some of the Howzat Travellers and reflecting on the day’s play.

Wednesday 5th January
The third day of the fifth test and England were looking good. The smell of victory was in the air and the Howzat Travellers – and all of the England fans in the SCG – were in good spirits. The day ended up with Cook making 189 (making an aggregate of 766 series runs) and Bell hit 115 – his first Ashes ton – as England ran riot. To avoid losing the series, Australia needed to win this test and their hopes were looking bleak when England reached 488-7, giving a lead of 208 at stumps. It was looking like England would be finishing the series off in style, giving their loyal, vocal travelling contingent even more to celebrate!

Today was also a momentous day as Paul Collingwood announced his retirement from Test cricket. To be honest, he’s not had the greatest time with the bat in recent matches, so maybe the announcement was timely, but he has contributed hugely in his time as an England Test player and he was rightly warmly applauded by the England fans in the ground.

After the cricket, Jenn and I spent the evening with some friends, going to theirs for some delicious food and several bottles of wine.

Thursday 6th January
Another sunny day at the SCG – Prior scored 118 from 130 balls as England reached 644, their highest Test total on Australian soil. The Aussies slumped from 161-4 to 171-7, allowing England to take the extra half-hour as they pressed for the win. England finished the day on the verge of a crushing 3-1 Ashes victory and first series win down under in 24 years! At stumps, Australia were 213-7, 151 runs behind and staring down the barrel of defeat.

A highlight of the day was Tremlett’s destruction of Mitchell Johnson; the Barmy Army – and indeed all of the England fans in the stadium – were singing the now-famous Mitchell Johnson song as he came out to bat. The psychological pressure must have got to him and was out for a first ball duck, bowled out by Tremlett! One of the greatest few minutes of sport I have ever witnessed, and one that all England fans were talking about that evening.

Tonight was the Howzat Travel Ashes farewell party with Jonathan Agnew at the Cargo Bar on King Street Wharf, Darling Harbour. We had hired the first floor of this ideally-located bar, and despite the evening weather being wet and windy, the bar and balcony still offered attractive views across Darling Harbour. Aggers – although suffering with a very sore throat and mindful of his BBC duties the following day – was on excellent, absorbing form and entertained the 180-odd Howzat Travellers present with his take on the series and answers their questions. Some of the group carried on the party into the night, already celebrating the inevitable England Ashes win. However, some made it an early night in preparation for getting down to the SCG to early to grab a good seat to witness what would be a historic and magical day tomorrow.

Friday 7th January
The majority of the fans making their way to the SCG today were those dressed in England shirts, St George’s flags and Barmy Army t-shirts – we outnumbered the gold and green significantly. In fact, based on the Aussie fans reactions across the series, it was surprising to see any at all, showing up to witness what was merely a formality, as England looked to finish off the job they stated with the excellent comeback back in the Gabba six weeks earlier.

Most of the fans occupied the area of the ground where the Barmy Army had been situated all week, keen to take part in the singing, dancing and ecstatic celebrations that the day would bring. England won the final Ashes by an innings and 83 runs to wrap up the series 3-1 and secure their first win down under in 24 years! Oh, how the England fans would celebrate…

All of the bars and pubs around the SCG and stretching into town were full of noisy England fans. Numerous jokes about the Aussies were filtering through the crowds and it was clear that everyone was going to savour this well-deserved victory and celebrate hard! After a few drinks ourselves, Jenn and I made the walk back into the city – Sydney was quiet, with most Aussies clearly very disappointed by the result. Quiet – that is until we walked past another pub full of England fans and the usual array of red and white (including the occasional sunburned Brit) was there to see. Late into the evening I spoke to Ian who was still out enjoying the victory celebrations in the Sydney bars, it appeared a decent number of the Walkabout & Flinders crew had descended on the Captain Cook pub, where I believe Michael Vaughan had joined them in the victory celebrations. Ian – slightly worse for were was telling tales of Andy, Duncan, Heather and Jon doing the Sprinkler Dance along with Harmy the donkey and their new found Kangaroo…

We both agreed that today had been the best day in the history of Howzat Travel, and that the seven-week tour had finished perfectly. Watching England overseas really doesn’t get any better than this!

As Jenn was leaving Australia after the Sydney Test, we spent some quality time together this evening in Hyde Park, before heading out in the evening for some tapas in the city’s Spanish Quarter.

Saturday 8th January
No rest for the wicked! The Ashes series had finished just yesterday, but today was another busy day for the Howzat Travel team. We had our first batch of customers departing Sydney to go back home from 6.30am today. I headed down to the Mantra hotel to see off a group, whilst Jenn made sure that some people departing the Rydges at the same time got off OK.

After a bit of breakfast, we both then jumped in a cab to the airport to collect a group of customer on our ‘Wombat Tour’, who had arrived in Australia to witness the Twenty20 and ODI series, which commenced in a few days’ time. As we had done about 10 days earlier, the group arrived into Sydney tired after a long flight, and we bussed them over to the Four Points hotel, so they could check in and sleep/explore the city as they saw fit.

Over the course of the day, the Howzat Travel team shared the responsibilities of seeing off our customers from the hotels and airport. Once things had calmed down in the afternoon and our responsibilities were over for a few hours, we met up with some friends in one of Sydney’s parks – The Domain – for a picnic. The city preparing for the music festival taking place in the parks and streets up until the end of the month, and we enjoyed the afternoon in the sun to the sound of the nearby stage sound checks!

Early in the evening, we headed back to the Four Points for a few drinks with the Wombat Tour party – who had spent the day either sleeping or exploring. We also had the opportunity to say goodbye to Ian and Leanne, who were heading back to England.

Later on, Jenn, Carl and I headed to Hyde Park to join the Sydney Festival partygoers and have a few drinks. The park was very busy – the evening was pleasant and music could be heard from several directions. Stages had been assembled in the parks and streets and the Sydney people were in good spirits. We had heard that a band – Arrested Development – was playing on St Martin’s place, so we went in that direction to have a look. The band were apparently very popular as we could not get anywhere near the stage and had to watch on the large screens set up around the area. As we walked back to the hotel later on, all of the roads in the city were shut and the streets were filled with revellers.

A marvellous spectacle and a fitting end to a great week in Sydney.

See you on the next tour!

Read Steve's Twenty20 Internationals and
ODI Series Tour Diary here

 


Howzat Travel, a Cricket Australia Travel Office Licensed Travel Operator for the Vodafone Ashes Series 2010/11. (CATO Licence Number: CATO1011/025)

The Cricket Australia shield device is a trade mark of, and used under licence from, the owner Cricket Australia by whom all copyright and other rights of reproduction are reserved.

The image of the Ashes Urn is a registered trade mark in the European Union of Marylebone Cricket Club. THE ASHES and the image of the Ashes Urn is a registered trade mark in Australia of Cricket Australia. THE ASHES is a trade mark in the European Union of Marylebone Cricket Club and The England and Wales Cricket Board.

 

 

 


Howzat Travel at the SCG


At the SCG


Phil at Fortress Gabba


The Gabba on the 5th day


The Gabba


Ready Steady Cook!


The Barmy Army salute


The English contingent


Carlsberg dont do scorecards...


Trott's 100


Record partnerships


Strauss applauds


Man of the Match


The best scorecard in the world


Aussies in the Oval


Al didnt miss a trick, rub it in lad..!


Bradman - legend


Test Match Special visit


View from ABC Radio


Michael meets Michael on air at TMS


CMJ and Aggers up in the box


Decision time


Good call Swanny!


Off you go Doherty


Start your engines


Simon, Michael, Ian, Rob & Phil after the win at the Oval


Party time!


Bill and Bob enjoying the moment


Seal Bay group


Seals galore!


Wild koalas


Wallaby


Remarkable rocks


On the rocks


Get off my lunch!


Admirals Arch


Kangaroo coastline


Langmeil Winery in the Barossa Valley


Enjoying the wine


Barossa group


Colin at Wolf Blass


It was perishing in Adelaide!


Glenelg


Perth welcome meal with the Agnews


The WACA - opening morning


Leanne loves the 'roos


Ian & Leanne with koalas


Tut tut, you're nice!


Pinnacles Rock Desert


More Pinnacles


Watch out for kangaroos!


Cottlesoe Beach, Perth


Freemantle, Perth


Christmas at Terra Rossa


MCG on Boxing Day


Another quick wicket


The best Boxing Day ever


Home time

Phil at Fortress Gabba
MCG after play


History was made


He's got more runs than you!


Red army!


Another Aussie wicket


Dr Charlie enjoying the view


Not a bad three day crowd


Happy English supporters


Straight down the barrell


Action shot!


English contingent


Cheers Trotty


Ending 24 years of hurt


England!


Time to party


Says it all...


Well done England


The patient crowd


Man of the Match


Not required


The real sprinkler


Stephen enjoying the moment


The Three Amigos


Phillip Island


Helicopter rides on Phillip Island


Sydney NYE fireworks


New Year's Eve


Auld Lang Syne


Up close


The Coat Hanger


Sydney Opera House


Sydney Aquarium


Ice Cream Man


The Sydney Cricket Ground


Review Time


Pink Day celebrations


Record scorecard


The final ball of the Ashes


3-1 series victory


The SCG clock


The fans enjoy...


Winners!


Vaughan awards Strauss the Urn


Celebrations!


More celebrations!


So Cooky, why was your batting so good?


Lap of honour


Colly retires from Test cricket


Straussy celebrates


It's been emotional...


Fully-deserved


Jimmy holding Stuart & John's flag aloft


Barmy Army celebrations


Chalky & Heather


Arise Sir Bresnan


Not-so-great Australian beers


Good times!


Carl in sprinkler mode


Duncan on form


The party continues


Getting messy


Probably time to go home!



 

   


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