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!