South Africa Cricket Tour
23 February 2012
Norwich School U13 Cricket tour to Cape Town
Sunday 12th February
Arrived in SA!!
The journey down to the airport went well, and despite Nico and Tristan enduring full body searches in light of a rogue pot of chutney and tube of sun screen in their hand luggage, we passed through to departures with no other major dramas. Oh... apart from Alfie Cooper's temporary loss of wallet prompting a short lived scare. The guys were in high spirits for the flight...potentially contributing to a good deal of film watching and gaming rather than actually sleeping! Much of the merriment initially focused on briefing the flying debutant of the party of the hazards of air travel, common engine malfunctions, and general flying 'etiquette'. On arrival at Jonnanesburg, a few of the shorter members of the touring party....mentioning no names... were surrounded by concerned looking border officials who questioned where the accompanying adult was with these 7 year olds!! A short flight, and 2 sick bags later, the boys had successfully managed to chat up, and then scare off, another Edwin Doran cricketing tour- the U15 Wales Girls' Youth Development Squad. Our reception at Eikestad School in Stellenbosch was predictably very welcoming and we were soon able to sort the boys out with their respective billets- a very friendly, if not dangerously athletic looking, bunch of guys. A degree of jet lag must have been creeping in as, despite being briefed numerous times about the arrangements, the sight of their team mates disappearing in various 4-wheel drives prompted a slightly bemused response from one of our boys....'Sir! Where are they going??'......'oh, okay then'......'so are we ACTUALLY sleeping at their houses!?!'. It seemed the majority of the boys were going to meet up again later as one of the locals was putting on a BBQ featuring the speciality local ribs and steak. An early night for us all as we ready ourselves for an early morning net session.
Monday 13th February
Refreshed and revitalised, we had a good net practice at 8:30 am today. The guys soon realised what kind of conditions they had to perform in as we all initially struggled to come to terms with the early morning heat. The local area has recently come out of a heat wave so the 27 degrees at 9am was really 'quite a cool start' to the day for the townsfolk! We had a short wander around the centre of Stellenbosch before eating lunch and heading out to our first fixture against Bridge House school. The location and surroundings of this cricket pitch can only be described as stunning. The pitch was in great condition and all the boys were clearly excited at the prospect of opening their South African account.
With captain for the day Alfie W opting to bowl first, we started well and were able to restrict their openers to the odd single here and there. Oscar and Tristan looked particularly dangerous. After about 10 overs it was clear that the heat was having an impact in the outfield as some of the initial energy faded. Bridge House capitalised and a solid partnership between their number 2 & 3 gave them the initiative. Unfortunately quite a few runs began to appear in the extras column as our rustiness and lack of match practice began to show, and Bridge House edged towards 141 for 3 off 25 overs. (Tristan 1-26 from 5; Oscar 0-22 from 5; Alex 1-25 from 5, Coops 1-31 from 5).
The run chase did not get off to the best start, as our top order took a while to get used to the bouncing pitch and the swinging ball. Although the top 4 only put on 12 runs between them, the middle order of Ross (an aggressive 34) and Alex (a counter punching 21) provided some stability. Ultimately poor shot selection and the odd unlucky decision meant we were unable to sufficiently recover and were all out for 107.
All of the guys learnt a huge amount from this experience, from the surprise at playing opponents in shorts, to the harsh lessons of leaving balls around off stump, to the amount of 'banter' and noise made by the local team. If any of us had any doubts at all about the competitive spirit of teams this side of the equator, we were now fully aware of what was to follow for the rest of the week. Despite excellent all-round performances from the youngsters Oscar and Alfie C, particularly in terms of setting the tone in the field, today's player of the day went to Stoney for his contribution with the ball and bat. Champagne moment of the day: joint award to Dan and Alfie C for their panda eye 'tan' lines.
Tuesday 14th February - Eikestad
After another early start, the boys were dropped off by their hosts at 8am. The weather in the mornings has been very pleasant, and a strong breeze in the afternoons has meant that Mr Aston in particular has avoided melting away. Nevertheless, sightseeing and generally being on our feet in the sun has proved quite draining. This morning we ventured to the cheetah sanctuary in order to see the wilder side of Stellenbosch. To everyone's excitement the boys were able to enter the pens and get up close and personal with these remarkable animals.
Our afternoon fixture saw us face the team that had been hosting us for 2 nights, so there was a special atmosphere surrounding the game, and, after the boys had clearly been 'talking a good game' over the past few days, their was an added competitive edge to proceedings. The astro turf wicket that faced us can only be described as hard and fast. There we certainly no cracks to speak of in a pitch that, from our previous experience of the net session, allowed the ball to skid onto the bat if pitched up, and whistle past the throat if dug in short.
The occasion had a carnival feel to it, with school banners flying around the boundary, music being played in the background, and the national flags of the two repspective nations hoisted above their marvellous club house. The boys were able to view the cricket from a massive balcony and there was a constant flow of snacks and refreshments from the very friendly catering staff at the school.
Losing the toss meant that we were fielding first. The rotation selection policy of the tour gave us a new look bowling attack featuring 2 spinners, and the boys that had missed out in the first fixture were eager to impress. Aggressive bowling from our openers drew mistakes from the batsmen, but such was the pace of the pitch that any edges flew to the boundary. Connor, Oscar and Harry all looked dangerous, but the wickets were taken by Alfie C, Alfie W, Will and Rory as Eikestad finished their 25 overs with 158 on the board for the lose of 4 wickets. 24 extras did not help the cause. Ultimately a destructive knock from their captain dramatically accelerated their run rate. This rather large 13 year old smashed a quick fire 51, scoring 26 off the last over.
The initial run chase was slow, but our batsmen were showing far more composure than the previous game. Tom showed good character after his disappointment in the first innings, but was caught for 13 after being surprised by the added bounce. Dan also looked good for his 16, and weathered the storm from their (very) quick leading seamer. We again, however, had to look to our middle order for some stability, and both Alfie W and Connor provided the impetus. Connor took the fight to the bowlers, hitting a good 21, and Alfie hit a patient 34 not out. Despite a valiant English effort, and spurred on by the increasingly vocal female contingent of the crowd, we could only reach 140 from our overs, losing by 18 runs.
Despite our 2 loses so far, all the boys have showed signs of considerable improvement- hopefully everything will click tomorrow! Player of the day: Alfie Woodrow. Champagne moment: Connor's four hit against their leading seamer after he took a very leg stump guard!
This evening we moved out of the wine lands area to our new hosts in Malmesbury. A very warm welcome again greeted us, and all the guys were sent off in 3s with their hosts- most of whom live on big farms in this rural area, and most had swimming pools!
Wednesday 15th February
At this time of the year, school starts at 7:15. This did not go down too well with the boys! We picked the guys up from Swartland early doors and headed down towards the picturesque, if extremely windy, Western Cape coast. We were off to the beach! Following the mandatory games of touch rugby, full contact rugby, French cricket, quick cricket and slip catching, the guys headed down to the waters edge. Any thoughts of swimming were soon put to bed as all 15 boys came running back from the sea having supposedly sighted a shark fin. So....back to the French cricket.
The afternoon saw us play our current hosts at another first class facility and scenic ground. Having been sent out to field for the 3rd match in a row, we had to dig deep in soaring temperatures. The best word for our bowling today was probably erratic. Exceptional deliveries were too often followed by extras or 4 balls. A few guys did stand out. Connor ran in with vigour and consistently found the right line and length. He created numerous chances and was eventually rewarded with 2 wickets. Captain for the day, Alfie Cooper, used the full range of bowling options, and important overs were bowled by Harry, Stoney, and Tristan. (Connor 2-23; Hipper 1-25; Stone 1-25; Steward 1-19). Our fielding was much sharper, and this was exemplified by a stunning catch by Danny, jumping forward from the boundary at square leg. Swartland finished their 30 overs with 178 for 5.
Chasing this would be a tough task. Dan and Tom provided a patient start, but with eyes increasingly on the score board we were pressured into mistakes. Tom soon answered our calls, delivering the champagne moment of the tour to date in the form of two consecutive sixes smashed out of the ground. The 'Barmy army' went wild. Tom went on to score 37 before being tempted into one six too many. Nico went in soon after and looked in dangerous form. Excellent technical shots were combined with a potent mixture of aggressive hitting. Alfie jnr and Conner both got in on the act with big sixes. Pressure, however, continued to mount with frequent dot balls. More positive running in the last 10 overs aided the cause, but with the wickets falling of our middle order, the responsibility was left to Nico to chase down the score. Consistent bowling from the opposition was hard to put away, and excellent fielding from the locals kept us in check. Despite a quality 64 from Nico, we fell just short of the target, reaching 168 for 6 from our overs. What a game! Such was the nature of the game, the individual performances, and the camaraderie between both sets of players, that the result was in many respects insignificant. We had undoubtedly played our best cricket thus far on tour, and we had pushed our hosts all the way. Player of the day: Nico. Champagne moment: Tom's second six, that to the surprise of everyone, not least Tom, went flying over the stand onto the road.
After the game and presentations, the hospitality of our hosts continued as we were treated to a traditional braai (BBQ). Both sets of players had clearly bonded well and, several chicken kebabs later, a full blown intra national rugby match was going on under the flood lights of the school. Exhausted, the boys finally left at about 9:30 to return to their hosts for the final night of billeting on tour.
Thursday 16th February
Phew! Rest day! The hot conditions and early starts had certainly taken their toll on the boys, so our only day without cricket was welcomed by all. Following yet another game of rugby with our hosts, we departed Swartland and headed south towards Cape Town and Table Mountain. The weather conditions couldn't have been more perfect. Once the boys and their three sissy friends (including a certain Mr Aston) had safely negotiated the rotating cable car up the steep mountain side, we were greeted by spectacular views. Despite the top appearing rather different to a table in it terrain, the mountain lived up to its reputation in terms of the scenery and views it presented. Following lunch at the waterfront we just about managed to negotiate our way through the complex of shops and malls in this part of town and made our way to the hotel for an afternoon of 'relaxation' by the pool. As you can imagine, the first 'bomb' of the day sent water flying over unexpected sunbathers. A plethora of pool games followed, as the boys displayed their repertoire for a good two and a half hours. In the evening we managed to find a very nice restaurant nearby and we all enjoyed our first team meal of the trip. You would think that for the boys, life in a hotel pretty much takes care of itself. This was not the case, as a variety of instances may serve to illustrate.
Within 10 minutes of arrival, Tristan had managed to loose his bag, not once, but twice, leaving it in various locations from the car park to the lobby.
Mr Aston: 'Rohan, Stoney, here are your keys'. 2 minutes later, Rohan: 'Sir, we've lost our keys'. They hadn't even made it from the lift to the lobby as two key cards laid scattered on the reception floor.
Rohan actually told us this fact on the 2nd floor stairs. After Mr Aston handed the lost key back, the guys then proceeded to walk away down the stairs to get the lift back up to the 3rd floor!!
A short time later....Knock knock. Hi Oscar. 'sir, is the water drinking water?'. Mr Aston:' yes definitely'. Oscar: 'Ok, thanks. Does that mean we can drink it?'.
Later in the evening, panic ensued surrounding the whereabouts of Alfie snr's wallet and phone. 'Sir I think I've left it at my host's house'. Ok Alfie, have you checked your bags properly? 'Yes.' Even your cricket bag? 'Well it definitely won't be in there.' Ok, well here's a phone, try calling your hosts. Several hours and numerous (expensive) voicemails later......Sir, sir, it was in my cricket bag!!
Danny also struggled in this area. 'Sir, I can't find my wallet. Either I've been pick-pocketed or I've left it on the bus.' Hmmm, let me think which one of those is more plausible. It was on the bus. Alfie jnr, 'sir, are we going shopping?. Yes. 'Ok, so do I need my wallet then? And finally there was Tommo, 10 minutes late to every meeting time, Harris!
Bring on the next day of cricket!!
Friday 17 February
We spent this morning relaxing at the hotel and wandering into town for souvenir shopping. It was then off to Paarl for what had been built up as our toughest test yet against Gimnasium. (It was only after the game that their coach said his opening batsman last year played 22 games without being dismissed once!!). For the first time on tour we were put into bat. The pitch was a bazaar looking thing, with the strip not fully joined at the edges to the rest of the square. The result was spongey...very spongey! It took a while for our openers to adjust to the sticky and slow pitch, with various balls popping up unusually high. Both were dropped several times early in their innings, and they made the opposition pay. Scoring, however, was tricky as the ball didn't come on to the bat at all , but we had managed to rack up 78 for 0 after 15 overs. Openers Tom and Ross were soon out for 43 and 44 respectively after trying to accelerate the run rate. Although Nico and Alfie jnr kept the score board ticking initially, their dismissals triggered a good old fashion English batting collapse. Numbers 5 to 11 contributed a grand total of 2 runs between them, as we slumped to 123 all out. This was the first time on tour that we really didn't do ourselves justice. Perhaps it was the pitch, or maybe the soaring temperatures, but nevertheless we failed to learn from other people's mistakes and didn't show the necessary discipline regarding shot selection. We were up against it with the ball, but all players were keen to make amends. Although some pressure was created we couldn't sustain this from both ends. Tristan and Oscar picked up the openers, but their number 3 hit a fluent 53 before being collected by Coops. Coops went on take 2 more wickets, but it was Kit who took centre stage as the tension mounted. He hadn't bowled yet on tour due to a shoulder injury, but he returned in style with his familiar right foot, left foot bowling action. It was Kit's first ball on tour....right foot followed left foot, then right, then left, right, left, right, in pretty quick succession as he approached the crease. The ball was dug in short, the batman flayed, and the edge was taken by Nico. A wicket with his first delivery! Not bad going! Kit finished with figures of 4 for 8. Tristan also had a stand out performance in the field, pouching 3 skyers. Unfortunately due to a few misfields, dropped catches and extra balls, we fell agonisingly short of our first victory on tour. Gimnasium hit the winning runs in the evening sun with only 1 wicket remaining to the delight of the home fans. This was a hard one to take, but in reality we probably just didn't quite play well enough across the 60 overs to snatch victory from a competent Gimnasium team. Indeed, it was clear that Gimnasium reflected the culture of sporting excellence within SA. Numerous internationals are associated with the school, and such is the climate, they are able to play a huge number of evening fixtures. Their 1st XV rugby team for example played upwards of 45 fixtures last year. We were, as always, treated to a great match tea before departing to the hotel for our final night on tour.
Player of the day: Kit
Champagne moment: Alfie W's final over fielding, putting body on the line to prevent a single.
Saturday 18th February
Another early start was the order of the day as we prepared for our final fixture of the week. We arrived at our venue at 8:30am to play the Southern Peninsula Cricket Academy. The venue had actually been changed earlier in the week to a military air base on the Cape Town coast. Despite this unusual location, it boasted a spectacular view and a backdrop of Table Mountain and the Cape Town sky line. The guys were faced with another astro wicket so they would have to adapt their game from yesterday, particularly as the outfield looked particularly slow and bumpy. Fielding first, we made a very good start. Clearly feeling more at home with the cooler morning temperatures, the openers Connor and Oscar bowled tight lines and kept the run rate to a minimum. We appeared to be in the ascendancy after 15 overs, although it was increasingly becoming clear that this was a hard pitch to score on. Some tidy bowling from Connor (1 for 16 from 6) and Alfie Woodrow (1 for 18 from 5) gave us a real chance of restricting the opposition to a score that we could chase with confidence. Rory came to the party later on and expertly cleaned up their tale with figures of 3 for 16 from 5. Once again, however, the extras column of 25 and a few other misfields had allowed the opposition to eek out 118 from their 30 overs. Not a daunting total, but one that was probably around about par for the tricky conditions and pitch.
Openers Alfie C and Nico looked comfortable at the crease, but consistent bowling and tight fielding from the locals again meant that we soon came under pressure to score faster. One area for improvement in the forthcoming domestic season is certainly our running between the wickets, and the rotation of the strike with quick singles. Although Alfie C tried hard to do this as other batsmen fell around him, a thigh injury eventually led to his run out for 25 runs. Disappointingly our batsmen didn't fire on this occasion. Kit restored a glimmer of hope later in the innings with a gutsy 13, but our inability to execute the right shots to short balls generally created uncertainty in the ranks and meant we were all out for 91. The guys were all too aware that this was a sad way to end as they had shown glimpses of being capable of much more. A positive reflection on improvements for the future, combined with yet another friendly BBQ and mingling with the opposition, meant that once again the experiences gained from this match out-weighed the eventual result.
Champagne moment: Connor's marvellous catch near the boundary to dismiss their danger man
Players of the day: Connor and Rory for their super bowling under pressure.
Batsman of the Tour: Thomas Harris
Bowler of the Tour: Alfie Woodrow
Most improved player: Connor White