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….!