The tour party arrived in Johannesburg early on a Sunday morning on 18th September, with the city experiencing its first rain in six months. It was a pleasure to be hosted by Jeppe Boys High, a school that has sent several successful sportsman to Westlake in recent years.
Our match against Jeppe introduced the boys to some of the variable conditions we would be facing on tour. The outfield was predictably quick, but the pitch was sticky after the earlier rain. Being sent in to bat, WBHS struggled to consolidate any meaningful partnerships and were eventually bowled out for 134, with Ethan Schaumkel top scoring with 46. The end result – a 6 wicket defeat.
Leaving the Highveld and jetlag behind us, we flew to Cape Town knowing that competition would likely get tougher. The boys enjoyed a ‘rest’ day climbing Table Mountain and exploring the beaches of False Bay. Our second match against Paarl Boys High was set in the idyllic mountains, an hour inland from Cape Town. Playing a T20 match, WBHS dominated from the outset, with Ryan Schierhout smashing 104* off 50 balls, and Jarrad Harford assisting with 51* to post 196/1. With a 66-run win under the belt, we could afford to feel a little more confident as we faced four top Cape Town schools the following days. Our third match was a day-nighter at Bishops Diocesan College, a school with impressive indoor facilities that kept the non-playing boys busy for hours. Batting first, Bishops made the most of the excellent pitch and conditions to post 234/9. We knew that chasing under lights would be tough, and Campbell Knowles (20) and Ryan Quinn (18) started well before wickets began to fall at regular intervals. Quinn Sunde top scored with 30 in a 117 run loss under testing evening conditions.
Our fourth match at the Jacques Kallis Oval at Wynberg Boys High was another tough match. Electing to bat, Wynberg’s opener scored an excellent 127 to take his team to 238/4. Westlake struggled to put any pressure on the tight opposition bowlers, and were all out cheaply. We had seen the aggressive South African batsmen actively look for runs and ‘play their shots’, and the team resolved to show more intent against South African Colleges (SACS) in our final match in the Cape. Batting first in another T20, Ben Beecroft (32) and Ethan Schaumkel (30) anchored two solid WBHS partnerships, before two batting collapses resulted in the side finishing 122 all out. Knowing the total to be about 20 runs short, the bowlers kept the pressure on until the SACS captain finished the job in the final over – a close 4 wicket loss.
Having fought hard against SACS, our next match against Durban High School in Durban was disappointing. Being sent in to bat, Westlake initially started well before the DHS first-change bowler ripped through our batsmen, finishing with the astonishing figures of 8-19. Luke Ranson and Sam Collinson made a late partnership to carry the team to 98 all out. An eventual 6-wicket loss to our hosts indicated how tough the cricket was going to be in Kwa-Zulu Natal.
The Michaelmas Cricket Tournament hosted by Maritzburg College attracts teams from all over South Africa, with Westlake being the only international side in 2016. School sport is taken very seriously by all those participating, and first up we faced Pretoria Boys High, well known for being particularly ‘vocal’ on the field. Bowling first, Westlake saw another opener score a ton, guiding his side to 255/6, with Ryan Schierhout the pick of the bowlers (3-35). In reply, Ryan Quinn (27), Schierhout (45) and Harford (24) showed good intent to chase the score, but the team were ev
entually bowled out for 142. Our second match was played on a small ground against CSA TAP XI, an invitational team made up of the best cricketers who did not attend any of the school sides at the tournament. Batting first, CSA TAP made a convincing 335/9, with Westlake rueing several missed fielding chances. Undeterred, and facing a pair of genuine quick openers, the Westlake batsmen played aggressively to make 209 all out, made possible by Ethan Schaumkel’s flamboyant 78 including several huge sixes. The next day’s match against South African champions, St Stithians was always going to be tough. Chasing 350 after watching both openers reach centuries, both Schierhout (64) and Schaumkel (46) were the only meaningful contributions on a sorry looking scorecard. However, the boys saw first-hand the class of the opposition, and it was a privilege to play against the very best.
Our final match of the tournament and tour took place at a small ground nestled amongst the sugar cane plantations and maintained by a local farmer. Eston Cricket Club was a stunning place to conclude our tour. Even better was the
performance as Westlake dominated in all facets of the T20 match against a King Edward the V11(KES) team that were as good as some of the better sides we had faced on tour. Sent in to bowl for the fourth game in a row, Westlake restricted KES to 101, with Ryan Quinn taking four catches and snagging two run-outs. In the chase, Ben Beecroft (53) guided the team to the win, with Quinn fittingly hitting the winning runs for an 8-wicket victory. In returning to New Zealand we are able to reflect on a tour with many happy memories and some tough lessons learnt. Playing ten matches in little over two weeks against some of the most competitive schoolboy sides in the world will prove to be excellent development for the boys who were fortunate enough to travel in 2016.