BW Barmy Army on Tour
It was the dream trip to end all dream trips. Christmas in Durban, new year in Cape Town, two Test matches, incredibly cheap booze and food, fantastic weather - what more could we ask for? Well, an England victory would have been nice, but I suppose you can't have everything.
We arrived in Durban to the familiar sight of rain and the news that there had been severe flooding in parts of the city. As the match four years earlier had been completely washed out we were a little worried to say the least, but fortunately the rains eased and a couple of day's safari allowed Rob to turn a subtle shade of lobster just in time for the start of the cricket.
After the Christmas festivities we spent five days at the Durban Test. An unexpected surprise was the fact that we were staying in the same hotel as the England cricket team. I couldn't possibly reveal what they got up to, but no doubt followers of cricket may be surprised to learn that Phil Tufnell was always the first one down for breakfast.
No time for any sightseeing, as we then had to fly to Cape Town. First the New Year/Millennium celebrations which coincided with my birthday (New Year's Day). Unfortunately the Chinese whispers went slightly awry as Auld Lang Syne was followed by a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday to Chris (who?). Not to worry - it was a fantastic way to spend a birthday and I had a very special hangover the next day.
The cricket then followed for the next (almost) four days - England were not quite good enough to make the match last its full course. This did give us the opportunity to finally fit in some sightseeing. The highlight was undoubtedly a trip up Table Mountain (by taxi and cable car, obviously!), though the wine-tasting trip turned out to be a good day (and night).
And then homeward bound. But what about the cricket? Durban was drawn and Cape Town was won by South Africa. If you're interested in cricket, read on.
But what about the cricket?
The omens were not good. England had had a disastrous summer in 1999, being knocked out of the first round of the World Cup and then losing a series to New Zealand. By contrast, South Africa's previous home series had ended in a 5-0 thrashing of the West Indies. When the first Test in Johannesburg ended in a crushing defeat for England we wondered what we had let ourselves in for. However the team rallied to a deserved draw in the second Test in Port Elizabeth, and we arrived in Durban with increased hope.
The first three days of the Durban Test exceeded all our expectations. England forced South Africa to follow on for the first time in thirty-three years, and were in a very good position to win the match. However, thanks to a record equalling 275 from Gary Kirsten, South Africa managed to hold out comfortably for a draw. And so on to Cape Town, only 1-0 down with two matches left and everything to play for. Unfortunately England reverted back to type and lost the game, and with it the series, by tea on the fourth day. (For the record, England won the heavily rain affected final match at Pretoria in controversial contrived circumstances, meaning South Africa won the series 2-1.)
Simon Spencer, February 2000