Yes, we know that two of the five games were abandoned, but we’ll take an England win however it comes. Our ‘One Day Wanderer’ Tour - led by Howzat Travel Director Steve Eatherington - witnessed the historic and rare ODI series win on South African soil.
To give you an insight into the trip, Steve kept a diary...
Wednesday 18th November
With the UK experiencing typical wet and windy autumn weather, the thought of spending a couple of weeks away in the warmer climes of South Africa was very appealing. Hopefully some good one-day cricket would be served up too, although England's results leading up to the one-day series didn't really do anything to fill us huge amounts of hope.
Four of the Howzat Travel One Day Wanderer tour party had jetted out to South Africa before the main group, taking in Kruger Park or opting to hire cars and catch the other England warm-up matches before the main tour. Myself and the rest of the party arrived at Heathrow Airport on Wednesday afternoon, in preparation for the overnight 10-hour Virgin Atlantic flight to Johannesburg.
Thursday 19th November
We arrived in Johannesburg OR Tambo International Airport at 7.30am, the pilot having just about caught up the hour we spent sat on the runway before take-off back in London. After a smooth disembarkation and baggage collection, we met up with our local associates and boarded the coach for the 40-minute transfer to the Protea Wanderers Hotel. For those people who had struggled to sleep on the plane, this was an ideal opportunity to get their heads down for an hour or two. For others, familiarising themselves with the surroundings of the hotel was the chosen way to spend the day.
The weather in Jo'burg got worse as the day progressed. A cool, overcast day had turned into torrential rain and blustery wind. We thought that coming away to South Africa was going to get us away from this type of weather! Upon catching the news from back home on the hotel TV, we saw that the UK was experiencing flooding in some areas due to the appalling weather conditions and rivers bursting their banks. It had not got quite so bad here in Jo'burg yet, and although there were mini-rivers running down the main road alongside the Wanderers hotel, we still retained hope that things would improve for tomorrow's first ODI match at the Wanderers Stadium down the road - and that we would get to see some cricket!
In the evening, the tour party convened for the Howzat Travel welcome meal - a very enjoyable buffet in the pleasant hotel restaurant. Most of the party were still a little tired from travelling that morning, so opted for an early night. A few moved to the hotel bar and enjoyed a few more drinks, some even bumping into old friends they had met on previous cricket tours.
Friday 20th November
The weather had not improved much overnight, so expectations we fairly low as to whether we would get to see much cricket today. We had a 1pm transfer to the ground, so the morning was at leisure. The hotel buffet breakfast was very nice, and following this, some of the party decided to take a cab over to nearby Sandton, to have a look around the shops.
The majority of the tour party made the scheduled short journey to the rain rain-soaked Wanderers Stadium, with others opting to stay at the hotel and keep in touch with events via the TV coverage, or remain in Sandton at the shops. If the game was to be played, they would make their own way to the stadium. Those who made their way to the ground found their excellent seats in the Unity Pavilion, and watched entertainment in the form of groundsmen trying in vain to keep the pitch dry. The rain continued to come down throughout the day and at about 5pm, the game was officially abandoned, although by this time the entire tour group had already left the stadium knowing that there was no chance of any play.
The rest of the evening was spent drying out (!), eating and drinking at the hotel, with a few of the party attending a nearby wine tasting event, which by all accounts, was a good fun.
Saturday 21st November
Saturday was a full day at leisure and thankfully, we saw some better weather. The tour party decided to spend this in various ways; some went to Sandton, some went to the Apartheid Museum, some visited a local lion and rhino park, others simply made the most of the hotel's facilities, including relaxing by the pool and using the gym.
In the evening, I went to a South African Premier League football match with two of our party. The Orlando Pirates - who played their home games in nearby Soweto ' were playing Ajax Cape Town tonight and were staying at our hotel. Our guest Jill had managed to get some tickets after speaking to the team's head of security. On arrival at the stadium, we were greeted with lots of passionate Orlando Pirates fans dressed in customised outfits, ready to cheer their team on. The match was entertaining, with Orlando winning 3-0, although watching the crowd dancing and celebrating was almost as much fun as the game itself. It was certainly a good experience and we were really pleased that we went.
Sunday 22nd November
Glorious sunshine greeted us all early in the morning as we rose, had breakfast and made the journey to Centurion for the 2nd ODI match ' or 1st if we take into account that the match at the Wanderers was abandoned! The Howzat party had some great seats in the main grandstand. The ground has a nice relaxed, family atmosphere to it, with lots of locals taking picnics and settling down on the grass banks to enjoy the match.
The match itself was excellent, with South Africa batting first and achieving 250. England put in a patient performance, building momentum to a fantastic finale, winning by seven wickets. Paul Collingwood got man of the match with an unbeaten 105, with Jonathan Trott also putting in a superb performance with 87 runs.
The day had been fantastic; the weather was great and England had played well. On our return back to the hotel, some people reappeared at the bar after freshening up, some opted for an early night - the day's sun, alcohol and tomorrow's impending morning transfer to Cape Town meaning that some packing had to be done too.
Monday 23rd November
After breakfast, we checked out of our rooms and boarded the coach for our transfer to the airport, for our 11.20am flight to Cape Town. The journey was smooth, and the weather hotter in Cape Town than we'd experienced so far. On arrival at the Protea Victoria Junction, most people took the opportunity to explore Cape Town and the V&A Waterfront, with others deciding that they were going to relax by the pool, in their room or in the hotel bar.
I checked in, took a trip to Newlands to pick up our match tickets then took a walk to the Waterfront to get my bearings and some food. Cape Town was certainly impressive, with the magnificent Table Mountain overlooking the city, and I was really looking forward to the three days, for which I had lots of sightseeing excursions planned.
Tuesday 24th November
We had provided our guests with sightseeing options for the three days at leisure in Cape Town before the cricket on Friday. Some of those had taken us up on these and others had chosen filled their days their own way - going to the beach, utilising the 'jump on - jump off' tour buses around the city, or just exploring on foot.
I had a full day planned with trip up Table Mountain in the morning, followed by a city tour, lunch and a boat ride over to Robben Island. Table Mountain was one of the most spectacular experiences I've ever had. Its presence overlooking Cape Town is just awe-inspiring, as are the views you are treated to once you have taken the cable car ride up to the top. We were lucky to have a clear day enabling us to see for miles in every direction. The vastness of South Africa hits you as you take in the magnificent sights of mountain ranges spreading to the north east and to the south towards Cape Point. Robben Island - which hosted the prison where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for many years - was also fascinating, with tours being hosted by former prisoners. We were shown round the islands and the prison and the island and were touched by the stories told to us by our guide all about life in the prison.
Wednesday 25th November
Another free day in Cape Town and trip to the Stellenbosch wine region was the chosen activity for half of the group. Setting out first thing in the morning, we enjoyed a couple of cellar tours, three wine-tasting sessions, including one at the excellent Vergenoegd Wine Estate. We also took some time wandering around Stellenbosch itself - a leafy, quaint university town situated right in the centre of the wine region. Some of the group took the opportunity to purchase some wine to take back home with them, the most popular being the Vergenoegd Port, which most of us agreed was superb.
Thursday 26th November
The third full day in Cape Town was our final day of leisure, and a trip to the Cape Point peninsular and Table Mountain National Park was on the cards for several of the Howzat Travel group. We enjoyed a trip to Hout Bay and a boat ride to visit the seals on Seal Island. We saw the fantastic African Penguin colony at the Boulders, walked through Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, visited historic Simon's Town and travelled along Chapman's Peak, enjoying the superb breathtaking views of the Atlantic coastline that it offered. Cape Point itself and the Cape of Good Hope were awe-inspiring, with the entire group remarking that this experience was one to be savoured. Dozens of photos were taken throughout the day, which we all agreed was great fun - but very tiring!
Friday 27th November
After a morning of leisure, we made the short journey to Newlands for the 3rd ODI match, which was a day-nighter. Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann came into the side replacing Sajid Mahmood and Adil Rashid to beef up the bowling attack. The weather was glorious, the stadium picturesque with the mountains in the backdrop, and England supporters were feeling confident although wary of a South Africa backlash following the win at Centurion. South Africa won the crucial toss and elected to bat. With the odds and history now stacked against England, a backlash they received! South Africa scored a record equalling 354 runs, setting England a seemingly unassailable target. We made a good effort but when the wickets started to fall, we capitulated and were all out for 242.
You had to respect South Africa for a superb batting performance. Two games to go and one apiece - the series was poised nicely for Port Elizabeth on Sunday. On our return to our hotel, we all went straight to our rooms to pack and get to bed, in preparation for our early flight the next morning.
Saturday 28th November
We were up early to transfer to Cape Town airport for our 7am flight to Port Elizabeth. On arrival in Port Elizabeth, we made the short 10-minute coach trip to the Garden Court King's Beach Hotel, a recently-renovated hotel situated just off the beach and with great views over the coastline. The England and South Africa teams arrived to stay at the hotel shortly after us, so some of the group took the opportunity to get some autographs, chat with the players and have their photos taken with them.
The day was at leisure so we all spent some time either catching up with some of the sleep required after the early start, getting our bearings in our new location and exploring the area. With several restaurants within a short walk from the hotel, we had plenty of choice of places to eat. The reports were that all were very good.
Sunday 29th November
We all rose, had breakfast then boarded our coach bound for St.George's for the 4th ODI match. The weather was a little overcast, a slight breeze but very little threat of rain. We took our seats and soaked up the superb atmosphere, as colourful and entertaining as any other so far on the tour, but with the added factor of a very tuneful and infectious South African brass band in the stand to our right pumping out a variety of foot-tapping tunes for the duration of the game!
In the match itself, South Africa won the toss (again) and elected to bat first (again!). It was a very different story to two day earlier, and thanks to a superb bowling attack spearheaded by Jimmy Anderson (who took five wickets), South Africa were all out for 199. The target was very achievable and with the helping hand of a slight improvement in the weather, England played a very professional and composed game to win the match by seven wickets.
Monday 30th November
Today was our only full day of leisure in Port Elizabeth and half of the group were booked on a tour to the highly-recommended Addo Elephant National Park. We made the one-hour journey to the park, which is apparently home to the densest population of elephant in the world. Despite this, it was not until lunchtime that we saw any! What with it being a bit of a grey and overcast day, the elephants weren't to be found in their usual watering holes. We did see jackals, tortoises, kudu antelope, zebras and many species of birds before we came across the elephants. There was a chance that we would also encounter three other of Africa's so-called 'big five'; buffalo, lion and rhino. We did see some buffalo but unfortunately the lions and rhinos were not to be found.
After an enjoyable lunch at the park rest camp, we saw plenty more of the elephants and took the opportunity to take dozens of photos of them roaming around, socialising and playing. The journey back to Port Elizabeth though the park was enjoyable, taking in more of the attractive scenery.
With us having an early transfer to Durban the next morning, it was early nights for the majority of the group, some being so tired after the day's exploits that even the evening meal was skipped in favour of sleep!
Tuesday 1st December
We arose, had an early breakfast and transferred to Port Elizabeth Airport for our flight to a very overcast and dreary Durban. Our transfer from Durban airport to our hotel was just over half an hour. Once we had checked into our rooms, we explored the area around the hotel - as best as we could without getting drench with the rain having set in at around lunchtime. Out hotel - the Protea Edward - is situated on the 'Golden Mile' beach front and we all had views of the India Ocean from our balconies. With the football World Cup coming to South Africa next summer and Durban being a key host city - with seven games being played at the new Moses Mabhida Stadium - it was immediately evident that the city was experiencing a lot of re-development in preparation for the thousands of football fans expected to descend on the city.
The first evening was spent trying out one of the various eateries, whether it was the hotel restaurant or other restaurants in the local vicinity. We had been advised not to walk around Durban at night, so if anyone ate out, we booked ourselves taxis from the hotel concierge.
Wednesday 2nd December
This was the first of two full days of leisure in Durban before the final ODI match on Friday. A 'People Mover' bus service had it's main terminal stop just a few yards from our hotel, and with a 15Rand all day pass, you could jump on or off buses as often as you liked - an ideal way to explore the city, which is what some of the group decided to do. The weather had improved although you still had the feeling that rain was never far away. There was no sun, but the temperature was still warm and quite humid ' typical for Durban.
As previously mentioned, Durban's new Moses Mabhida Stadium is hosting seven games in the World Cup and had its official opening ceremony the week before we arrived. Several of the group decided to go and check it out. Of all of the new stadiums we had seen while on our travels round South Africa, this was certainly the most striking, a key characteristic of it being an stunning arch with a funicular, which carries visitors to a viewing platform at the top. The opportunity to enjoy panoramic views of the city and the ocean was too good to miss, so we paid the 50Rand to experience this for ourselves. Form the top, you can see for miles and really get a clearer understanding of the vast, sprawling scale of Durban, and the amount of development work that was taking place all over the city.
After a leisurely walk back to the hotel (with the rain coming just as we got back!), some of the group convened in the hotel bar for a complimentary whisky tasting session hotel, before making our different arrangements for evening dinner.
Some of the girls in the group even went to the local theatre to see 'My Fair Lady', which by all accounts, was a very fun and entertaining evening.
Thursday 3rd December
Another free day and I had decided to spend the day at uShaka Marine World, along with several of the group. After a heavy rain shower in the morning, we boarded the People Mover bus and made our way a short distance down the coast to the '5th largest aquarium in the world' and water world theme park. For anyone visiting Durban, this really is a must and you can spend a whole day here looking at the hundreds of species of sharks, rays, and all manner of fish and marine life. There are also regular dolphin and seal displays in the park auditoriums and you can witness feeding time for not only the fish and occupant of the tanks at the aquarium, but also the park's waddle of African penguins!
After a fun day at the park (where I even got kissed by a resident seal called 'Shadow''. don't ask!) we had an evening meal planned at a 'Roma's Revolving Restaurant', where we were treated to some more spectacular panoramic views of the city ' this time, by night.
Friday 4th December
We all woke up to a grey, cloudy day, which had apparently followed more rain overnight. After lots of speculation about whether we would get any play today in the 5th ODI match, we made the short coach journey to Kingsmead with our fingers crossed. There were a few thousand people in the stadium when we arrived, optimistic of seeing some play. That optimism increased when the rain covers came off and the players came out at started warming up, but it was all in vain. The rain got heavier, the players went back inside and the covers went back on ' and stayed on. The match was abandoned mid-afternoon, by which time we and most of rest of the crowd had anticipated this and made our way to the hotel already. It was odd watching the presentations on TV ' to England for winning the series 2-1 and Paul Collingwood for 'Man of the Series' ' we had come to South Africa and witnessed a historic win for England, but the end felt light a bit of a damp squib and it was a real shame that two of the five ODI matches we had travelled out here to see had fallen victim to unseasonably wet and miserable weather.
The rest of the day was spent having a few drinks at the bar whilst watching the football World Cup draw live on TV. A decent draw for England so something else to celebrate'
Saturday 5th December
With an airport transfer time of 11.30am we all had a fairly late breakfast and checked out of the our rooms. It was time to go home and many people's thoughts turned to Christmas and that the festivities would be in full swing when we got back. Christmas shopping, Christmas cards, putting the decorations up ' it was all waiting for us back in cold, dark England!
The journey home was fine and suffered no delays. Many of the group using up their last few Rand notes at the airport buying gifts and duty free. We all said our 'goodbyes' to each other and reflected on what had been a very enjoyable tour.
Out of the five matches we came out to watch, the three that actually went ahead were three of the most different matches you could hope to see. Batting performances at each end of the scale, superb (but very different) wins for both South Africa and England and some excellent individual performances ' particularly from Collingwood with the bat and Anderson's wonderful five-wicket haul in Port Elizabeth.
South Africa is truly a fascinating country ' we had stayed in four different cities and each one had been very different to the rest. For me, I have to say that the highlight was Cape Town. It really is such a beautiful part of the world, fantastic scenery and plenty of do. I think most of the Howzat group also felt the same and some were even talking about planning their next trip to Cape Town as we made our way home.
Thank you to everyone who joined me on the Howzat Travel One Day Wanderer tour to South Africa. We had a great bunch that all got on well and many new friendships were made. Hopefully, we'll all see each other again sometime in the future. You never know, we might be luckier with the rain next time.