South Africa Tour 2015/16

The Ginger Botham

Its grumpy old man time again!

The New Years Honours Lists. Just before we fly to Cape Town, Sky News informs us of the elevation of actress Barbara Windsor to a Dame. With a surname like that, I'm sure Freddie would support this award and personally, I think our Babs deserves two awards.

Who could forget immortal acting lines like:

"Oooooh, Doctor Soaper!!"

My money is on Syd Little and Benny from Crossroads cleaning up on the honours list next year.

Herbie beat us out of Durban today. He and Jack were on an 8am flight to Cape Town, which necessitated a very early start. I can only assume this is part of his master plan to obtain match tickets, but frankly it looks as if anyone not in possession of these in advance may struggle. Days 1 - 4 are now sold out so I gather and as Lofty and I have only bought three days worth we may be joining Herbie and Jack on the beach on Day four.

King Shaka International Airport at Durban came as a pleasant surprise. Operational for only two years, this is a brand new airport about 20km north of the city. Sparkling clean, with excellent shops and facilities and.....a KFC. We have now been in South Africa for nearly two weeks and I have not indulged yet, so I just could not pass up the opportunity. Two pieces of red - hot freshly cooked chicken, chips and gravy set me back 29 Rand, so I will have to keep a tight rein on the purse strings tonight, New Years Eve.

Lofty did not indulge in the KFC, preferring to starve himself than eat fast food. He let me buy him a coffee, though. I am coming to the conclusion that he has very long pockets, and very short arms!

Another example of 'small world' on the plane. We were sat next to a South African guy called Andrew Harrison, who engaged us about the cricket. Of course, I showed him the Addis website, and as we got chatting it turned out that he had lived on Guernsey for over a year and knew many of the island cricketers at Lofty's club, St. Saviours. Incredible.

The odds on that must be longer than on Manchester United scoring a goal against Swansea on January 2nd!

More evidence of the Sky cutbacks previously referred to.

Not only was Tim Abrahams sat on our cheapo Mango Airlines flight, but he was also spotted having to cart his own rather large collection of luggage through the airport on the way out. His smile didn't seem as wide as other times we have seen him.

In Cape Town Lofty and I are staying at the Brenwin Guest House in Green Point, which is a fantastic oasis of calm close to the new World Cup stadium. In due course we expect to be joined by Wycombe and Sober Nick there. Herbie and Jack are staying at the well-appointed Southern Sun underneath Table Mountain.

New Years Eve found us in the spectacular setting of the Saigon Vietnamese restaurant where our original reservation for four had been boosted up to six with the addition of Addis Army Mancunians The Diplomat and Worsley Dave.

Lofty had told us that the Saigon was a byo drink type eatery and accordingly we arrived with nine bottles of 'hooligan wine', most of which was especially chosen by Master Vintner Herbie to suit the Northern palate - ie, costing less than a fiver in the supermarket. But when we got to the restaurant - oops. They had their own bar. However, the owner was very understanding with this, and he allowed us to drink our carry - ins for minimal corkage. He also let us occupy our seats from 7.30pm until after midnight. Table Mountain was visible throughout from the restaurant's bay windows with cloud flowing off the top like dry ice and as the cumulative effect of the wine gathered speed, the evening took on a surreal nature.

Later on we returned to Herbie's hotel to sample the bar there and as Howzat Bob appeared as if from nowhere to join us, things were getting messy. When last orders was called at about 2am this was the cue for the immediate panic buying of a number of double gin and tonics. Result - bedtime after 3am and a severe hangover later that same morning.

Herbie drove us all out to Cape Point on New Years Day. On the way we visited the penguin colony at Boulders, which involved a fair degree of uphill and downhill walking. Lofty struggled to cope with this and it became obvious that he had adopted the penguin style of walking on the way back to the car. Herbie's suggestion that we leave him in the penguin colony for sanctuary fell on deaf ears.

When we arrived at Cape Point National Park the Adult admission charge of 130 Rand seemed steep, but we managed to save money by convincing the Park Ranger that 23 year old, six footer Jack qualified for a half price Child admission.

To make the ruse more realistic, Jack was asked to sit stooped on the back seat of our car playing Candy Crush on his phone.

A superb day out was capped off as we drove alongside a family of Cape baboons, who were climbing onto the rooves of passing cars. Luckily, we had no one by the name of Damien in the car, but Jack almost put us all at risk with his repeated requests to 'open the car windows', which did not find favour with myself and Lofty. I am not sure that a savage bite from a rabid baboon would be covered by my free travel insurance.

The first day of the Cape Town test followed and despite the dire warnings about the ticket availability and size of the crowd, we had an enjoyable day and even managed to pick up our missing tickets for day four meaning we will now see all of the action.

England won the toss and batted. Progress was steady all day long and although wickets fell, including two in two balls for Rabada, who got Taylor for a golden duck, no panic was evident, the next man just got stuck in and got on with it. In the final session as the bowlers tired and toiled in the heat, the run rate started to lift-off, with Stokes and Bairstow cracking the ball to all parts. By stumps England had accumulated 317-5 and the South African supporters looked as despondent as their team when they finally trudged off the pitch.

The England supporters enjoyed their day, and one man in particular. Although once again the Barmy Army had little or no profile, this did not deter a middle-aged southern simpleton to our left from attempting a full on crowd whip up for most of the day, fuelled by countless pints of Castle Lager.

This guy fascinated me almost as much as the cricket. Dressed in a Benny Hill style pork pie hat, drunk as a skunk, but old enough to be a granddad, as indeed the Saffer fans loudly pointed out.

He climbed onto his seat at regular intervals and waved his arms in the air like Icarus trying to take off. We were treated to most of the 'Englander' songs and then later, as the Premier League football results filtered through and he found out that West Ham had beaten Liverpool, he also started 'blowing bubbles,' which did not please a family of Liverpool fans sat in front of us. But who knows? We may have seen the advent of the 'New Jimmy Savile!'

The Addis Army presence has been boosted in Cape Town. Tremers is here, sporting a trendy new line in cricket polo shirts, with Wes Morrick the South African pro from his home club Aston Rowant. Wormsley James has brought his flowing locks over and it is now so long since his head has been near scissors maybe we should rechristen him 'Rapunzel'.

Higgy is now here as are Long Eaton buddies Richard and Luce. Sober Nick has also now arrived at the Brenwin. Just one absentee really. Three guesses?

Wycombe of course.

He was due to arrive just after lunch, but when the text messages about planes being stuck on the runway at Johannesburg Airport and the total inefficiency and hopelessness of South African Airways in general, started to flow from Wycombe's phone, we knew we were in for a chuckle.

Sure enough, he did not arrive in time to see any cricket, and as he is just here for this one game he may only now see three days of play. A long pilgrimage for little reward if you ask me. Talking of which, we endured an abortive trip to Camps Bay that evening, spending eons stuck in traffic, and timing our return perfectly to meet a Pride Parade or similar head on, which held us up for nearly half an hour in a static traffic queue.

If I could have a pound for every time the next day I heard Lofty say:

"I'll be quite happy if I never see Camps Bay again as long as I live!"

I could afford to retire twice. Whether this repetition strategy was in fact a pointed hint to Herbie, we will probably never know.

My run forecast for day two was for England to reach 450 all out, but Ben Stokes spoiled all that with a breathtaking onslaught. From the very first ball, fours and sixes were thrashed in all directions by Stokes and to a lesser extent Bairstow. Some of the most brutal hitting I have ever seen saw an astonishing 197 runs piled up before lunch, with Stokes hitting a double ton and Bairstow completing his maiden ton just after the break. By this time we had retired to the train carriage pub next to the ground to celebrate in time honoured fashion.

England finished on 629-6 Dec. and the only surprise to me was that they declared at all.

In our boozy celebration were still teetotal Herbie, Jack, Wycombe, Nick and Lofty at the outset, later joined by Higgy, Tremers, Rog, and David Laing.

As the beer and cider flowed, Wycombe took more than his fair share of stick.

Seeing that he was wearing a Wycombe Wanderers shirt about two sizes too small for his now ample frame, I also noticed the sponsors name on the front.

A local ice cream company.

Patting his belly, I remarked:

"I bet Beechdean Ices put this logo on all their tubs!"

Which seemed to amuse more than a couple of people.

Bless him, he takes it all in good heart.

The afternoon carried on until Herbie took us home in a drunken haze, and we didn't bother going back into the ground to watch Hashim Amla bat. By the close South Africa had lost just a couple of wickets, but it all seemed academic after that wonderful morning, which must be the best batting I have ever seen, much better than that other all rounder in 1981. The Ginger Botham has arrived, folks!

In the evening Lofty, Wycombe and I enjoyed a Thai meal and as we were all somewhat worse for wear I can only remember excerpts of the tipsy conversations. I hope you find them as amusing as I did.

On the appearance of Wycombe, who unexpectedly came to join the waiter:

"This man is a famous sports journalist from the UK. Upsetting Premier League football managers is his speciality."

On the appearance of my starter:

"Are those buffalo Wings, Midnight?" "No, Wycs, they're chicken."

On Wycs latest relationship with a South African girl who already has a four year old child:

"Don't you mind an instant family,then, Wycs?"

"No, not at all. Whats worse is, she has a black Labrador as well!"

Lofty : "Ugh. A crapping machine!"

Finally Wycs on Herbie's new teetotal lifestyle:

"I think Herbie must be going through a mid-life crisis of some kind. He's gone vegetarian as well!

Lofty : "He's not a vegetarian. He ate some fish last night."

Time for bed.

Regards, Midnight

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