Africa rarely disappoints and it has not failed MCC on its tour of Durban and Cape Town.
Touring is about spending quality time with good people, forming friendships and gaining happy memories. Those fortunate enough to be selected for this trip have had experiences they will never forget.
Watching the fourth day of the first Test in Durban from Castle Corner, attending the first day of the second Test at a glorious Newlands, playing at Kingsmead, coaching in Khayelitsha and then spending an afternoon drifting around the vineyards of Stellenbosch immediately stand out as highs.
Even the occasional low has had a funny side to it. A bug has gone round the squad and, how can I say this sensitively, more Imodium has been consumed than biltong.
Tough cricket and topping the Table
On the field we got off to a rusty start and were well beaten in our first game by Crusaders. The fines session orchestrated by the opposition captain may not have met with Arsene Wenger’s approval but it helped rehydrate a couple of our players.
The match of the tour to date has been the game at Kingsmead. It was a last ball cracker. Playing on the pitch used in the first Test.
MCC set Kwazulu Natal 229 in a 45 over game. For most of the run chase the opposition looked well set to win but good captaincy from Derbyshire CCC’s Wes Durston and skilful bowling managed to turn the game around.
A very comfortable nine wicket victory followed in the two day, four innings game against a Western Provence Cricket Association Academy XI.
It was a very humbling experience
The young and inexperienced side struggled to cope with MCC’s strength, boosted by the presence of England’s Chris Jordan.
The rare moments of spare time have been grabbed by the tourists. The top of Table Mountain has been visited, as were a number of vineyards around Stellenbosch.
Tasting the grape allowed Jeff Evans, our Welsh umpire, and a few others to open their vocal chords on the way back to Cape Town. Robben Island has been circumnavigated and The Waterfront area of the city centre frequented.
It always helps having a couple of locals in the party and Graham Grace and Andre Geldenhuys have come in to their own. There has been a strong off-field Ealing CC presence in Cape Town, meaning Chris Peploe has always had someone to speak to.
Making a difference
A number of talented young cricketers benefited from Peploe and the rest of the touring parties wisdom when we visited one of Gary Kirsten’s Academies in the township of Khayelitsha. Kirsten had gathered 25 to 30 talented cricketers to spend a couple of hours going through coaching drills with the squad. It was a very humbling experience.
Owais Shah worked on batting whilst the bowlers learned from Matthew Hunn and Charlie Morris. John Simpson took the short catching drills and the rest happily joined in.
Kirsten informed us that there were more than two million people living in the township and that no sport is part of the school curriculum. Judging by the talent that we briefly worked with South African sport would be as strong as any countries if it began to harness this talent.
Angus Fraser is the Middlesex Managing Director of Cricket and MCC tour manager for the 2015/16 tour to South Africa.