England Cricket Tour to New Zealand 2018
Tours Managers’ Reviews

New Zealand 2018 - Tours Managers' Reviews

February – April 2018

As tends to be the case when touring New Zealand, our travellers could not be disappointed with the scenery or the competitive cricket during this tour. The ODI travellers were lucky enough to witness an incredible series, of which England were on the winning side of (!) while the spectators who flew out for the Test Matches witnessed an almighty collapse, the first day-night Test Match in New Zealand and a landmark moment in Stuart Broad’s 400th wicket. This is before we even get to the sightseeing options! See how our Tour managers’ enjoyed the tour here…

To view our New Zealand 2018 Tours Click here >

To view our customers’ testimonials Click here >

Nick & Carole Joyce

Meeting up with fellow tourists for a drink and group meal proved to be a marvellous remedy for the long hours of flying undertaken to reach Auckland, the venue chosen to host the first Test Match of our tour. This was to be New Zealand’s first day/night Test on home soil and also the first experience of pink ball cricket for many of our group.

Starting play after lunch each day afforded some time to explore Auckland in the mornings, then an afternoon and evening of cricket followed with a ‘download’ social in the hotel bar to finish off the day! We certainly had some serious downloading after day one with England having collapsed to 58 all out. Rain intervened on day two and three and we found ourselves battling things out till almost 8pm on the last day.

Auckland itself proved to be a wonderful host to us all, the guided walks and bus tours gave us access to the land-based points of interest with ease, including the impressive museum and the beautiful modern cathedral; whilst the harbour and coast offered trips to close by Islands. Waheke Island on a hot day will live in many a memory for life. To our knowledge nobody zip wired down the Sky Tower, but many braved the walkway on the top level and well done to Steve Castle on completing the Saturday morning ParkRun.

We flew on to Christchurch excited about seeing something of the South Island of New Zealand and equally excited about playing a Test Match at Hagley Park, a real country ground surrounded by grass banks. Our hotel was centrally situated on Cathedral Square which made exploring the city on foot very easy. It also provided us with one of the most beautiful walks imaginable to a sports ground, through the Botanical gardens alongside the river.

Christchurch endeared us, it is a city travelling the path of recovery after suffering a dramatic earthquake in 2011 yet it remains vibrant, resilient and full of interest. From the cathedrals (the now famous transitional cathedral built from cardboard, taking the place of the ruined stone building) to the old tram rides, to the gondola, to the choice of restaurants and bars. There was plenty to do and explore outside of playing hours, stories were shared in the bar and Steve, along with Jason Beecham, was cheered on having found another ParkRun to complete!

The night before the Test, an Old Howzat friend, Paul Farbrace, came to see our tour party for a Q&A. The audience, as ever, asked some very good questions and they went away with a greater understanding of how the England management work.

At the cricket ground we were treated to sunshine and the freedom to move around viewing from almost any angle. The atmosphere was ‘just as it used to be’ in the words of more than one tourist. The cricket didn’t disappoint either even though we couldn’t steal a win on the final day, in almost darkness.

During the test, on the fourth evening, we travelled out to Riccarton Park Racecourse for the end of tour dinner. The guest of honour, Sir Richard Hadlee, gripped the room for over an hour chatting with Jonathan Agnew about his own career, the state of International cricket and inevitably, the Australian ‘cheating’ scandal that had blown up during the first test in Auckland. It truly was an evening of insight and humour, plus a very tasty buffet!

All too soon our Test tour to one of the most beautiful and friendly countries in the world had come to an end. All in all, a good short series with one session in the first test making the result a little disappointing.

Some of our party flew home, some flew on to other countries and some of us started an additional week of adventure exploring the South Island.
Having been lucky enough, through our love of cricket, to visit many interesting countries we would be pushed to find anywhere else that offers as many plusses as New Zealand. Not just for the climate, the people or the food but for the awe-inspiring visuals.

Once through the Canterbury plains we drew closer to the Southern Alps and the spectacle of the glacial lakes. A photograph could not do justice to the purity of colour or the background of the perfect ‘long white cloud.’ We were heading of course for Mt Cook but as our journey progressed, down came the low ‘misty’ cloud, hence we decided to abort our intended late afternoon visit. The next morning however, we caught the mountain bathed in sunshine, standing proud with its snow covered peak, absolutely at its best. Even the driver said it was the best conditions of the year. Another never to be forgotten experience which truly felt like a cathedral of nature.

On to the famous Queenstown. The place for adventurers or equally, the less energetic. Bungee Jumping, white water rafting, power boat rides, the mountain gondola, steamers on the lake and former Gold mining towns to visit, you cannot fit it all in. Personally, we walked and walked. Round the lake, through the woods and gardens – and then lunched! New Zealand wines come very highly recommended and we managed to squeeze in a group winery visit on our one wet day. Many tales of speed boats rides and white water rafting were swapped but no-one put their hand up for a bungee jump – standing on the jumping bridge was daredevil enough!

After a splendid three days in the playground of Queenstown we headed for the scenic calm of the water, onward to Milford Sound. The weather was wet and whilst we knew the sights ahead of us were amazing in any weather, we were all praying for a miraculous change. At least the waterfalls, (yes – all 500 of them, many over 1000ft) – would be gushing. A miracle did happen although we did claim that Howzat had planned it! The waterfalls gushed and the weather cleared as we boarded our boat, to reveal a true wonder of the world. Vertically high mountains; waterfalls at their best (we sailed deep into the spray of one); a sea level glacier (one of only two in the world) and all this escorted by dolphins and as we neared the Tasman Sea, Royal Albatross. Words cannot do justice to this unforgettable day.

Onward to Dunedin, a town founded by the Scottish Immigrants, the station architecture and elaborate interior based on Edinburgh’s, the town has that distinct Scottish feel. Have you ever walked up the World’s steepest street? 12 of our tour party have. More great memories.

Finally, back along the Canterbury plains to Christchurch, a last look around the city, a nightcap drink in the bar enjoying the company of the tour – and then heading for flights home throughout the next day.

Our opinions remain the same, this is a country filled with so much to enjoy. Beyond the cricket and the scenic wonders, it was our fellow tourists that made this trip special. When England revisit – this is a tour NOT to be missed.

 

Gordon Bacon

On the evening of 17th February, the Bay of Island’s group had dinner together in The Grand Millennium, Auckland, the majority of whom had flown in after the very long flight from UK. Not many were burning the midnight oil as the following morning our driver Alan was there for a 9am start for the journey to Paihia – 140 miles due north. On the way, just before a coffee/lunch break, we went to the impressive Whangarei Falls, which was both a leg-stretch and a very good photo opportunity.

We then completed the remaining third of the journey to Paihia and went first to the Waitangi Treaty House. It was at that house on 6th February 1840, that an historic document was signed by both Maori and British settlers, which gave birth to the nation of New Zealand. We had a very interesting guided tour taking in the Treaty House, a traditional ‘whare runanga’ (meeting house) and a large war canoe. The war canoe should, according to tradition only to carry men, however there was one exception made when Princess Diana asked if she could have a ride in the magnificent canoe!

Our base for the 3-night stay in Paihia was the Kingsgate Hotel, situated a few minutes’ walk from the pier and the numerous restaurants & bars.

The following morning, we had a cruise in the Bay of Islands. The captain of the boat gave an excellent commentary and we saw a large number of dolphins, some of whom put on a fascinating display jumping & somersaulting around our boat. After seeing the dolphins, we went to the aptly named Hole in the Rock, which again had the photographers very happy. The sea was too rough to go through the hole, but it was a spectacular sight.

On the way back to Paihia after passing numerous islands, quite a number of the group alighted at the charming small town of Russell, and enjoyed the lovely old, Colonial style wooden buildings.

There was then a free day and, although the weather was poor early morning, it did improve. Quite a number went on long walks, some went by transport further north, towards to most northerly point of NZ, and others had a leisurely day in Paihia, getting rid of the last of the jet-lag.

The following morning, we set off on the return journey to Auckland and on arrival the group were dropped off at their respective hotels for the start of the Kiwi Tour.

For the two Test Matches I was looking after the Kiwi Platinum group and in Auckland we stayed at the Sofitel Viaduct Harbour. It was a small group which made it very easy to get to know everyone quickly, helped by the fact that 5 of us had been together on the Bay of Islands trip.

Eden Park, Auckland, the famous home of the NZ All Blacks rugby side, was the venue for the first Day-Night Test between New Zealand & England. The events of the first hour of the match are now recorded for posterity! None of the people watching, England fans, New Zealand fans of neutrals who decided to be there, could quite believe what was happening before their eyes. Put in to bat, at 23-8 England were looking as though they may become the unwanted record holders of the lowest ever score in test cricket 26 – current holders New Zealand! At 27-9 it seemed likely to become England’s lowest ever test score, which thankfully still stands at 45. However, despite the efforts of Overton, unbeaten on 33, the 58 all out was the sixth lowest in England’s test history.

Incoming texts from NZ friends were, quite understandably, having a real go! One that made me smile through gritted teeth referred to England’s 5 ducks being, “The Olympic Rings”! From that point, the result was almost inevitable. Despite virtually all day 3 being lost to rain & other rain delays, more poor English batting on the last day meant NZ would go to Christchurch leading the 2-match series.

Of course, the news of the Australian ball tampering in South Africa was a huge talking point. Because of being so often taunted by their Australian cousins, as ‘The guys from the little islands over the Tasman’ the NZ cricket fans, and New Zealanders in general had a field day – so did the Howzat travellers!

I think it’s fair to say that for the greater majority of tourists I spoke to, a 5-day Day-Night test match is not good for spectators, especially those on tour & staying in hotels. Breakfast becomes brunch and lunch/dinner were sourced from the stalls at the ground or bought beforehand. Unless folk left the ground early, it wasn’t possible to have a restaurant meal after the game ended. This is perhaps OK if attending a T-20 or ODI but for 5 days at a test match it becomes a bit tiring.

We had a free day in Auckland before flying to Christchurch, a city still very visibly recovering from the terrible earthquake of February 2011, which killed 185 people. Over 100,000 houses were damaged of which 10,000 had to be demolished, many of these had been weakened by an earthquake in September 2010, which at magnitude 7.1 was stronger than the 6.2 one in 2011. Driving or walking around the city from our base at the Crowne Plaza, just after the seventh anniversary of the tragedy, it was plain to see it will be many more years before the rebuilding is complete.

One part of Christchurch that looked magnificent was the Hagley Cricket Oval and a walk to the ground through Hagley Park in its autumn colours, must be one of the nicest walks to any ground in the world. Our seats were in the temporary stands which had been erected, the only permanent seating in the ground being within the pavilion. Most of those around the ground were either sitting in ‘Director’s Chairs’, low backed folding chairs or sitting on rugs on the grass. It certainly gave it a lovely ‘real cricket ground’ feeling, compared to what is after all, a rugby stadium, in Auckland.

Kane Williamson won the toss for the second time and again asked England to bat. England were again in trouble at 94-5 but thanks to an excellent 101 from Jonny Bairstow & a brisk 52 from Mark Wood coming in at 9, we were all out for 307. We had NZ in trouble at 17-4 then 36-5 but the middle & late order batted well to make 278. A much better all-round batting display allowed Joe Root to declare at 352-9. NZ needed an unlikely 381 to win and when they lost Raval and Williamson to Stuart Broad’s opening balls on Day 5 things looked good for the visitors. England picked up wickets at regular intervals, when Latham went for a 207 ball 83, making it 162-6 and Sodhi the new batsman, a series levelling win was on the cards, but de Grandhomme 45, Sodhi 56 not out & Wagner 7, who collectively faced 368 balls (61 overs & 2 balls!), saw NZ to a hard-fought draw, which of course gave them a 1-0 and deserved series win.

A very fitting finale to the tour was an excellent dinner where the special guest was Sir Richard Hadlee. After a very good meal Sir Richard and Jonathan Agnew royally entertained us with stories & anecdotes of the great New Zealand all-rounder’s life in cricket. Following numerous stories of years gone by, many of them humorous, Jonathan asked Sir Richard to tell us the story behind his book, “The Skipper’s Diary”. It turned out that the ‘Skipper’ in question was Sir Richard’s late father, Walter A Hadlee CBE, OBE who, Sir Richard said, had done more for NZ cricket than any other person past or present. Photographs & autographed book brought the night and the tour to a close.

It had been a great pleasure to visit New Zealand again, seeing its spectacular scenery, eating its lovely food and meeting such welcoming people. They may be at the end of the earth from where we live, but they certainly are ‘The salt of the earth’!

Phil Brown

A trip to the Island of the long white cloud is always eagerly anticipated, and none more so than this one as it was to take in both the North and South Islands, a host of unfamiliar places and three new cricket grounds.

Our stay in Auckland was short but sweet.  We were in a convenient location for the buzzing Queen Street area with excellent shopping and food a drink options, and only a short walk from the harbour.

We did have time for a short sightseeing trip, which took us along the sea front to the picturesque mission bay area, then out to Bastion point and the Savage monument, which offers stunning views over the bay. We then had enough time for a brief look around the Auckland museum which to my great delight contains a spitfire used in the film ‘reach for the sky’.

It was then time to head off for the HIGH POINT of the trip – ‘The Sky Tower’ – not for the faint hearted but Boy Oh Boy! A breath-taking view over the city and the bay. A very fitting end to our stay in Auckland.

Then it was time to head off to my favourite North Island City, Hamilton. I call it the Adelaide of New Zealand, it has the same small town feel and a very pretty cricket ground. The hotel was in an excellent riverside location, and only a short walk to the ground for those who wished to walk. We had welcome drinks and were joined by Paul Farbrace! Albeit, he didn’t know he was joining the Howzat drinks and soon scuttled off!

The cricket! A close-run thing but one we should have won! The Kiwi’s just appeared to want it more and were the best team on the day. With Ross Taylor showing he is not ready for retirement just yet with a classy 100 making him a well justified man of the match.

1 – 0

It was an early start the following day do give us as much time as possible to spend in the charming town of Rotorua.

But first we were off to the Wai-o-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, an area where the geothermal activity is right at the surface with steaming hot water lakes and bubbling mud pools. Those of you who can remember the little glass vials that were marketed under the name ‘Stink Bombs’ will know exactly how we felt wandering around with the smell in the air.

With a little time on our hands before check in our driver suggested a visit to the bowling club of Rotorua, which is overlooked by the old bath house which is now a museum, sadly closed for earthquake proofing. But never the less a stunning piece of architecture which is not to be missed. A pleasant beer and the bowling club who made us most welcome was a great option, so much so, some people went back the next day!! Thank you to the ‘Rotorua Bowling Club’.

Our evening in Rotorua was a group event at the ‘Tamaki Maori Village’ a cultural experience, during which you learn how the Maori’s arrived at the island of the long white cloud, and how they survived. It was John’s 75th birthday so he was nominated as or tribal leader and although he was very reluctant at first revelled in power as the evening went on.  At the culmination of the evening is a ‘Hangi dinner’ a meal cooked underground by hot rocks and steam, this produced the most tender lamb I have ever tasted. They entertained us with singing/dancing and at the end on the evening all the men (sorry ladies) were encouraged to come up and perform one last Haka!

Unquestionably a great evening.

The following day it was a short drive to the rearranged venue of Mount Maunganui or Mount Mahogany as it was affectionately known by some of the group. A pretty and unspoiled seaside town with pleasant walks around the harbour, sea front and up or around the mount. We secured a great upgrade to the pavilion at the ground which included a tasty picnic to share with a friend (you had to choose your friend wisely!)

A great all-round bowling performance secured us a 6-wicket victory

1-1

After the comfortable win it was time for the long journey to Wellington during which the stunning views through the volcanic region made the trip pass with relative ease. The reward was the vibrant harbour city of Wellington with a vast array of restaurants and bars which we all took advantage of (some more than others!) There was also time to walk around the harbour area which has been tastefully modernised, and to visit the national museum.

Then came the main event the 3rd ODI, it couldn’t be another last over thriller could it! The pitch was a shocker, described by a certain tour manager on live TV as a ‘mouldy old carpet’ and produced a very low total for England to defend. However, despite a great 100 by Kane Williamson, we won by 4 runs due to some great bowling by Ali, Rashid and a great last over from Woakes.

1-2

It was now time to cut new ground for me with a short flight to the South Island. Nothing could have prepared me for Queenstown, undoubtedly one of the best places I have ever visited in the world. With stunning views over the lake and apparently limitless activities. Things that the group were involved in included jet boating, wine tasting, boat trips, golf, trail walking, cable car ride, Milford Sound trips, and more bars/restaurants than you can shake a stick at. A pattern was forming, we all wished we could spend more time in each venue! Who would have thought that cricket could get in the way! One thing is clear no trip to New Zealand is complete without a trip to Queenstown.

Dunedin didn’t have a chance after Queenstown, but it did provide us with our first taste of watching cricket on the grass banking. Something I had not done since Cape Town many years ago. The University Oval is a small ground with a beautiful back drop, we eventually secured a nice spot behind the bowler’s arm. We made a blistering start with centuries from Bairstow and Root, but a middle order collapse meant that we posted a total that most thought was 20 runs short of par. The Kiwi’s batted well but it was the exceptional unbeaten 181 from an injured Ross Taylor that secured another last over thriller in favour of New Zealand. There was another first for me at this game – sunburn and frostbite in the same day!

2-2

The journey from Dunedin to Christchurch hugs the eastern coast and offers wonderful views out to sea. One thing that never fails to amaze me about New Zealand is how unspoilt and beautiful it is, they don’t do ugly here!

But they do Farm… A lot! In fact, I think our driver may have been a farmer in his youth, not sure what gave it away!

Christchurch is still rebuilding from the earthquake seven years ago, and it still bears a lot of the scars from that sad event. Our hotel is the only tall building evident in the city, and on our first full day there they reopened the iconic fountain and park opposite the hotel.

Most of the group spent the morning sightseeing around the city, we went around the red areas and saw some of the devastation first hand. Then out to hills overlooking the city, it was a shame about the weather but still a worthwhile trip.

We had our farewell dinner the night before the final game of the series and a wonderful time was had by all, with James Taylor as our special guest. What nice young man he truly is, and he spoke candidly about his experiences as and England player and about his illness.

The finale!

After the dismal weather the previous day it was a great relief to wake up to clear blues skies and that’s how it would remain for the entire day. Since the earthquake international cricket is played at the Hagley Oval, a picturesque ground just outside the city centre. The pavilion is the only permanent fixture at the ground the rest is grass banks, so we departed the hotel early to find a good spot. Despite the big queues we were able to secure an area in front of the press box (tent!)

The toss was crucial and at last Morgan got it right, he elected to bowl as we all suspected.

What followed was the best bowling display of the series with Woakes taking his customary early wicket and finishing with figures of 3 for 32. He was ably supported by both spinners, and at one-point New Zealand were 93 for 6. A gritty partnership between Nicholls and Santner looked to get them up to a reasonable total, but after both reached measured 50’s Nicholls holed out to Morgan off Curran and Santner did the same off Woakes with a great catch in the deep by Hales. We were still talking about how good the Hales catch was when Johnny Bairstow pulled off a stunning one-handed diving catch on the boundary which for all money looked like a certain six! Certainly, the best outfield catches of his career, and a definite candidate for best of all time!

New Zealand all out for a well below par 223

Bairstow then decided to show the Kiwi’s how it was done with back to back centuries, the fastest by any England opener in ODI’s off just 58 balls, the second 50 in just 20 balls. With Hales playing a supporting role the pair raced to 155 after just 24 overs. Bairstow went for 104 by the rare dismissal hit wicket, but the job was done, and we cruised to a 7-wicket victory. It was a great end to a great tour!

2 – 3