We hit the ground running in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, with a brief visit to Super Sports Park, home to the Titans and the National Cricket Team, before playing our first matches against Cornwall Hill.
The B Team match was a close affair with an excellent innings from Arran McKitterick and good bowling by Henry Langford.
The A Team had the honour of playing under lights, and although we came out second best, the standard of cricket for U13s was extremely high.
Afterwards, we headed to the beautiful Draakensburg mountains for our next two matches. Wins for both teams with all the boys given opportunities with both bat and ball. Hugh Fleming made a good half-century while Dill Howell, Toby Barton and Ed Timberlake batted the A Team to victory. Tibo Black’s off spin was very productive and there were three wickets for Charlie Gray, Josh Barratt, Leo Mazrani and Will Fountain. Zubin Chinwala and Seb Patterson also found a better length.
Time for a break from cricket and the opportunity to develop some different skills! Surfing was a highlight with Tom Bosley looking very much at home on a board. Although the coldest day on tour, the boys wholeheartedly enjoyed all the activities organised.
The next morning we were lucky to tour the National Stadium, Kingsmead Stadium and the home of the famous “Natal Sharks”.
Thomas Moore School were our next opponents, a school very similar to our own. These were probably our best matches with both teams evenly matched. Once again Dill Howell and Toby Barton guided us to victory with some class batting while Dylan Gadsby held the innings together in the B team.
A trip to Phezulu Safari Park gave the boys the opportunity to get up close with some very dangerous creatures. The boys relished the chance to hold snakes, crocodiles and even a tarantula. William Welch was in his element, and even Mr Smith held the venomous arachnid. Mr Hanley cleverly got behind the camera avoiding contact.
St Charles put out a very strong side against us with seven provincial players included. Although we put up a good fight, they out muscled us. Power rather than finesse won the day. Ed Timberlake played an excellent innings and there were more wickets for Will Fountain. The B Team’s chase was led by Arran McKitterick and Luke Skinner, who both batted well.
The live dissection of a dead shark should never be missed and Zubin Chinwala was selected to get up close and personal with the apex predator. As a reward for rave reviews about manners and general behaviour we bought all the boys a sharks tooth memento.
Next stop was Shakaland, home of the Zulus. The boys enjoyed an afternoon of culture that included spear throwing, Zulu fighting and even drinking the dreaded beer. Dancing followed with the inevitable bartering for souvenirs.
The next morning we were able to fit in a brief visit to a township school to give them a few gifts. It was an eye opener for the boys to see such happy, young faces in such poor conditions.
Match six was a return fixture with Felixston near Empangeni. Following lunch in the Golf Club, there were pleasing innings from Dylan Gadsby, Oscar Bailey, Tibo Black and Charlie Gray in the B team and Dill Howell, Freddie Bell, Tom Bosley and Ed Timberlake for the As. Barnaby Lawford and Toby Barton were also dependable behind the stumps. Will Fountain was once again amongst the wickets as was Louis Clarke, Ross Jemmett and Will Welch.
On the way to Hluhluwe game reserve we stopped off for a boat cruise on Lake St Lucia for sightings of both crocs and hippos. The boys enjoyed a two-night stay in the Hilltop Camp, taking in some spectacular views. The game drive sightings included lion, elephant, giraffe, buffalo, kudu, impala, nyala and of course pumba (warthog). Even when swimming the boys were watched by baboons and monkeys: an incredibly special experience.
When the squad arrived at Howick, we enjoyed the 95-metre falls, bartering for souvenirs, and visiting Nelson Mandela’s Capture Sight, which is on the spot where he was captured and sent to prison for 27 years. The long walk to freedom is quite a spectacle.
Our final matches against Howick Prep School looked to heading towards close finishes but, with thunder and lightening around, it was deemed unsafe to continue. The A team had been set a target of 138 to win thanks to some excellent spin bowling by Tibo and Ed. The B team were slightly on top through good batting by Luke Skinner, Dylan Gadsby and Ross Jemmett.
The last day was spent travelling and after a pleasant flight we arrived back to the cold and rain!
All the boys were great ambassadors for both school and country. From air stewardesses to hosting parents the messages were the same “what delightful boys they are”.
This was my 10th and final tour to South Africa and I am pleased to report this was one of the smoothest and straightforward to run. Many thanks to Mr Hanley and Mr Geffen for their tireless efforts, to Mrs Eismark for her organisational skills, and especially to Mrs Smith for everything she does. I have loved every minute of my experiences and I hope the boys’ memories are as vivid as mine in years to come.