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Kenya 2003
A tour to remember

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If the 1999 tour to Sri Lanka had been an almost constant catalogue of disasters then the 2001 trip to Kenya was the antithesis. From the moment the 33 strong tour party arrived in Nairobi we had a ball.

The news on arriving was rather worrying in that the 'Long Rains' appeared to have begun early, leaving the outfield at the Nairobi Club, the venue for the opening game less than 24 hours after landing, underwater. Those who opted for some serious clubbing on the first night safe in the knowledge that there would be no cricket were found wanting when the opposition cheerfully offered to play, undeterred by conditions which rendered fielding almost impossible without flippers.

Batting first, the OCs, with the notable exception of Eds Copleston (29), struggled to make any impression, hindered by the fact that any ball hit off the square was immediately stopped by one of the plethora of puddles which littered the outfield - suffice to say that only two boundaries were hit all day. Fielding was rendered even more dangerous by large wading birds which seemed to be attracted to men in white and rumours that water snakes had been spotted. Our score of 70 was never sufficient, although two quick wickets from Chetwode gave a brief moment of hope; a dropped catch with Kongonis on 30-2 proved the last chance as the tour began with an eight-wicket defeat.

With the trip to Mombasa delayed by 24 hours after Kenyan Railways decided to completely re-jig the timetable, two days were spent in the luxury of the Nairobi Serena and visiting local landmarks by day and local fleshpots by night..

When we did eventually board the train for the 14 hour overnight journey to the coast it was without doubt, we all agreed, an experience but one, like having chest hair removed by waxing, not to be repeated under any circumstances (so Nick Read informed us). Arriving in the stifling heat of Mombasa, a marked contrast to the relative cool of the capital, we were less than amused to learn that we were travelling straight to the ground to play our second game.

In the circumstances we did exceptionally well to restrict the Coast Development XI to 239-6 from their 40 overs, especially after they had started so well in reaching 130-2 after 20 overs. Amit (114*) batted with great authority but we did not wilt in the heat and fielded well throughout. We were always struggling after losing two quick wickets and despite another anchor innings from Copleston (30) and some improvisation from Abeed Janmohamed (41) we never seriously threatened and were bowled out in the final over with 40 runs still needed.

But the consolation came in the form of the Mombasa Serena which provided all we could dream of in the day and Pirates and Bora Bora which filled the dark hours. It was in one of these salubrious establishments that the tour drink, Turbo Shandy (Smirnoff Ice and lager), was born. On the second night Will Stephens and Katie Stonehill announced their engagement which gave another excuse (like one was really needed) for celebration.

With our game against Mombasa Sports Club on Thursday washed out, the opposition kindly agreed to come back a day later to fulfil our third fixture. Richard Thomas, who turned 40 the previous day, took wickets with the third and fourth ball of the day and the home side could have been 0-3 had the hitherto reliable Janmohamed not put down a routine catch off Read in the second over. But the miss was not too costly as we struck back, taking the last eight Mombasa wickets for 46 runs and leaving ourselves with a modest target of 108 to win. Again we lost both openers early, and we could have been in deep trouble when with the total on 20 Janmohamed and Rick Johnson found themselves at the same end of the wicket. Johnson had already taken several strides towards the pavilion when the shouts from the boundary alerted him to the fact that the fielders were proving even more inept that the batsmen, and despite several shies at the stumps Johnson made it home. By the time he was out, completely humiliated by a leg-spinner, the match was won and we cruised home by seven wickets. Cue more partying.

We reluctantly left Mombasa to head back to the capital (by air) for our fourth match at the Nairobi Gymkana, the venue for the ICC One-Day Tournament in the previous September, against the Nairobi Provincial Cricket Association. On arriving at the ground we were amazed to find the wicket in good condition, despite the rain, but the outfield unmown. In places the grass was seven or eight inches high and in several parts there was up to an inch of water. But the Kenyans once again explained that we had travelled a long way to play cricket and that was just what we were going to do! We were glad we did as the match was highly entertaining.

Again our fielding was to the fore as we restricted a potentially powerful batting side to just 159 in their 35 overs, Read (3-16) and Thomas (2-23) being the pick of the bowlers. Johnson and Copleston took two quite outstanding catches. Our reply was perfectly paced with Copleston (50) adding 76 for the second wicket with Chase (41) and then 66 with Janmohamed (32) as we were always up with the asking rate. But with 15 needed from 18 balls Janmohamed was run out and the usually explosive Johnson then contrived to take eight balls in making a duck. Watkinson calmed frayed nerves with a massive six of the first ball of the final over to secure a five-wicket win.

Early the next morning we undertook an eventful the six hour drive to the Mara Lodge, with exceptional wildlife being seen en route. Despite arriving amid a remarkable downpour and having no four-wheel drive vehicles to hand, most of the group decided on an afternoon safari; less than half-a-mile from camp our four vans all became stuck as the road was washed away from under us. There then followed a comical 30 minutes as various drenched OCs grunted and heaved the vans back onto firm ground before retreating back to camp.

The following day was (thankfully) less eventful and highlighted by a bush breakfast and lunch in a clearing overlooking hippos frolicking in the river. But we were back in 'get out and push' mode (with the exception of the President) for our mud-splattered return trip to Nairobi via a visit to a Masai village where the President again disgraced himself by asking any tribesman he could collar where the best ganga could be found.

That night we took on the visiting Surbiton team in a hockey match which we won 7-4 (despite having no goalkeeper and allowing our opposition to field 13 players for the second half). The way Man of the Match Nick Read carved his way through Surbiton's defence with an ease which had been all too lacking during his season in the 2nd XI left the locals amazed. If only the defenders hadn't been women...

The final match against Kongonis took place in similar conditions to the first game but this time we were prepared and scored a respectable 205-8, Chase smashing 70. The home side never recovered from being 14-3, and despite some less than penetrating slow bowling from Watkinson (4-53) they were dismissed for 111 with nine overs remaining. After such a disappointing start it was pleasing to end up with a 3-2 winning record. The last night was spent at the Janmohameds' where Abeed's parents hosted a superb dinner for the squad.

It was universally agreed that the only problem with the tour was that it was impossible to better. The Kenyan people had proved themselves to be perfect hosts and wherever we went we were treated superbly. The testament to the success of the trip was that several of the tour party will be returning to the country under their own steam in the future.

In respect to the tradition that what goes on tour stays on tour individuals can retain their dignity at work (assuming they don't roll up their sleeves to reveal one of the tatoos which seemed such a good idea in Mombasa), no stories of nightfighters will emerge, and THAT photo of an OC stalwart passed out on the boat will not be made public (assuming the £100 promised by the victim is paid by Speech Day).

A final word of thanks to Mr Janmohamed for allowing us to stay in the quite outstanding Serena hotels; even seasoned travellers in the group admitted that they had not experienced such personal and genuine service in a big hotel. Also we indebted to David Waters of Sporting Safaris (Kenya) Limited who organised all aspects of the trip, put up with our requests for itinerary changes with good humour and even accepted our dodgy umpiring decisions. It is fair to say that a sporting tour to the country could not take place without his involvement.

And so onto Florida in Novemberů

Tour Party Steve Bailey, Graham Brown, Mike Chase, Michael Chetwode, Ed Copleston, Tim Evans, Roscoe Heillman, Abeed Janmohamed, Rick Johnson, Nick Read, Stu Steele, Will Stephens, Richard Thomas, Henry Watkinson (capt), Martin Williamson
John McDermott, Sylvia McDermott, Melissa Bentley, Jen Chase, Louise Chetwode, Mike Payne, Justin Robinson, Mel Williamson, Mike Payne, Justin Robinson, Colin White, Liz White, John Cooke, Pauline Cooke, Laurence Parry, Val Parry, Jeremy Cole, Vivian Cox.

 Stats and Facts

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 South Africa 2009

The sixth OC tour took us to Zambia and South Africa
Click here for a full tour report Click here for the tour blog and photos

 India 2007

The fifth OC tour took us to India ... Delhi, Mumbai and Goa
Click here for a full tour report Click here for the tour blog and photos

 Australia 2003

The fourth OC tour took us to Australia, with four matches in Sydney and one in Queensland
Click here for photos from the tour
Click here for a full tour report

 Kenya 2001

The third OC tour saw us travel to Africa, from the beachlife of Mombasa to the lions in the Mara ... plus a game of hockey on the way
Click here for photos from the tour
Click here for a full tour report

 Sri Lanka 1999

Rain and more rain blighted the second, and without doubt wetest, OC tour
Click here for photos from the tour
Click here for a full tour report

 Antigua 1997

The first OC overseas tour took us to the Caribbean
Click here for photos from the tour
Click here for a full tour report


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