The Ashes may have brought a defeat on the field for England, but for those following the team on tour, it was still a great experience with many memories and new friends made!
With the start of the Ashes looming, most of our clients travelling to see the start of the Series arrived in Brisbane in the evening of Tuesday 21st November – and, immediately, the temperature difference (from the UK) was noticeable! My tour, ‘Opener Red’ settled into the Capri by Fraser for our nine-night stay, whilst other clients checked-in to other hotels around the city. The Capri is ideally situated close to the City Centre, and a ‘stone’s throw’ from the beautifully-manicured Botanical Gardens; it is also on the ‘right side of the City’ for the Gabba – and, increasingly during the five days of the 1st Test, clients chose to stroll to and from the ground.
After a day for acclimatisation, we arrived at the Gabba ‘full of expectation’ and in good time for the Toss. Joe Root called correctly, and elected to bat – but, regrettably, the opening partnership was broken in the 3rd over when Alistair Cook was out for 2. There were no further dismissals during the morning session, and a heavy rain shower during the lunch interval delayed the re-start by 95 minutes. James Vince looked set for a maiden Test century, but he was run out on 83 by wonderful fielding by Nathan Lyon. England ended the day in gathering gloom on 196-4.
In view of the time lost on Day 1, play started 30 minutes early on Day 2, but a steady fall of wickets saw England bowled out for 302 – when lunch was taken. There was some early success for the England bowlers as Australia were 76-4 in mid-afternoon, but Steve Smith was displaying the ‘stickability’ which was to become his hallmark during the Series. At Close of Play, Australia had moved on to 165-4.
The 99-run partnership between Smith and Shaun Marsh was broken after 22 minutes of play on Day 3, but Smith continued inexorably to complete his first century of the Series in the early afternoon. Thereafter, he ran out of partners, and Australia were 328 all out midway through the evening session – Smith remaining undefeated on 141. Facing a deficit of 26, England started disastrously – losing Alistair Cooke and James Vince before ending the day on 33-2.
England’s fortunes were little better on Day 4 as they subsided to 195 all out by mid-afternoon – with only Joe Root (51), Moheen Ali (adjudged run out for 40 with thick crease markings!), and Johnny Bairstow (42) offering any resistance. There were three wickets each for Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon. With only 170 runs required for victory, we wondered whether Australia would seek to invoke the extra half-hour’s play – but they didn’t do so, and ended the day on 114-0.
Australia needed only 68 minutes on Day 5 to reach 173-0, thus winning by 10 wickets. We were back at our hotel by lunchtime, but many clients decided to forego the coach transfer in order to take their repast at some of the picturesque settings along the Brisbane River.
As we were not flying to Adelaide until Thursday 30th, many clients had booked the excursions on offer – with the Koala and River Cruise proving to be the most popular, and the Storey Bridge Adventure Climb the most ‘arduous’. Some decided to hire cars and explore the Sunshine Coast as far as Noosa, others visited Australia Zoo.
Our journey to Adelaide was uneventful – and we took the time difference of +30 minutes ‘in our stride’. Our seven nights’ accommodation at the Majestic Roof Garden was ideally located for ‘boutique’ bars and restaurants, and also for the ‘flagship’ stores and shops on Hindley Street! Again, with a free day before the 2nd Test, many clients had booked excursions – ranging from wildlife tours to a visit to the wineries of the Barossa Valley. The tram service to the seaside at Glenelg also proved a huge attraction!
For many, the highlight of their Ashes experience was the inaugural day/night Test Match – certainly it was on my ‘bucket list’! But it did seem odd to be ‘sitting out’ the morning of a Test Match day – with play not getting underway until 2pm. With the Adelaide Oval being so close to the City centre, we walked there each day – with ‘variety’ provided by using the different bridges to cross the River Torrens. Joe Root won the toss again – but, this time, he chose to bowl first – but England’s pace attack failed to take the advantage of the conditions. There were three rain interruptions during the first day’s play – but we were well protected in our high and wonderful vantage point in the South Stand. It was unseasonably cool in Adelaide during the Test Match – and multi-layers were required once the sun had gone down. When play ended at 10.04pm, Australia had reached 209-4 – and we’d even got Steve Smith out! The reported crowd of 55,317 was the highest for a cricket match at the Adelaide Oval (beating the 50,962 attending the second day of the Bodyline Test in 1933) – but many must have been in the hospitality venues as there were swathes of empty seats in the East Stand! Nonetheless, it was good to be ‘part of history'...!
The Gullivers Cricket Forum was held on the Sunday morning in the Hilton Hotel. Jonathan Agnew’s guests were Damien Fleming and Phil Tufnell, and it proved to be a very amusing and informative event. It was then a quick walk to the Oval as play started 20 minutes early on Day 2. Australia progressed to 442-8 when they declared early in the final session – with Shaun Marsh unbeaten on 126. Very heavy rain curtailed play after nine overs of the England innings – but not before Mark Stoneman had been dismissed to leave England at 29-1.
After another early start on Day 3, England lost wickets regularly, and it was only through a ‘rearguard action’ by Chris Woakes (36) and debutant Craig Overton (41*) that they reached 227 all out just into the final session of the day. Nathan Lyon was the pick of the bowlers with 4-60. When Australia batted again, conditions were ideal for swing bowling, with James Anderson and Chris Woakes each taking two wickets in reducing Australia to 53-4 at the close.
The fast bowlers continued to have success on Day 4, with Australia dismissed for 138 after 2½ hours of play – James Anderson returning 5-43, and Chris Woakes 4-36. England therefore needed 354 runs to win with 5 sessions available – and progressed to 53 before losing their first wicket. Three further wickets fell before the close when the score had reached 176-4 with Joe Root on 67 not out.
With the tour coming to a close for our Opener Red and Opener Blue clients, it was time for the End of Tour Lunch. This was held on the final day at the La Boca Bar & Grill as it was a convenient walk from there to the Oval. The ‘prevailing optimistic view’ was that if Joe Root could bat through on Day 5, England could save or even win the game – but hopes were dashed when Chris Woakes and Root were both out within 13 minutes of the start without adding to their respective overnight scores. Wickets continued to fall until Johnny Bairstow was last out, and Australia had won by 120 runs. At least the pre-4pm finish gave everyone more time to pack for the homeward journey!
With breakfast boxes provided, it was an early start for Adelaide Airport, and we landed in Singapore mid-afternoon. With an 8½-hour transit for the London-bound clients, and 11 hours for those heading to Manchester, Gullivers had booked lounge facilities for everyone at Changi International Airport; there was a wonderful selection of refreshments – including local dishes cooked to order – and many took the opportunity to use the impressive shower facilities.
Apart from the disappointment of the match outcomes, the 1st and 2nd Test Tours were lovely to manage – and I hope that all our clients enjoyed themselves as much as I did!
- Peter H
After a 120 run defeat in Adelaide, clients headed west to Perth for the Third Test of the 2017/18 Ashes Series knowing that England must come away with the win to stand any chance of fighting back and winning the Series Down Under!
Flying into Perth on the Monday leading up to the Test gave guests the opportunity to explore Perth and the surrounding areas for a couple of days whilst taking their minds off, what had so far been a fairly unsuccessful tour! Many took the boat over to Rottnest Island to explore the protected nature reserve by coach or by bike, whereas some opted for the more relaxed approach to seeing Perth from the Swan River – unsurprisingly, Perth’s Famous Wine River cruise was the most popular cruise that seemed to go down very well! Fremantle was a popular day out among guests.
In the lead up to the Series and more specifically the Perth Test, there was a cloud of uncertainty as to whether the match would go ahead at the infamous WACA or a stone’s throw away across the Swan River at the impressive looking 50,000 seater, Perth Stadium. In the months leading up to the Series it was confirmed the game would go ahead at the WACA, and so another historical moment for guests as they would get to say that they were at the last ever Ashes match at the WACA. Almost as impressive as attending the first ever day night test at Adelaide, a week earlier!
With Craig Overton overcoming a late fitness test after taking one in the ribs in Adelaide, the team remained unchanged as Day 1 got under way in the blistering heat at the more traditional start time after many were left disorientated by the day/night format of the game! Joe Root won the toss and opted to bat which was greeted by a chorus of ironic cheers after his bizarre call in Adelaide.
What turned out to be a common theme throughout the Series, England got off to a good start with Dawid Malan and Jonny Bairstow scoring 140 and 119 respectively before losing 6 wickets for only 35 runs. Australia made the one change with Mitchell March coming in to the side in place of Peter Handscombe, who went on to score his maiden Test century but Steve Smith was again leading the charge as he finished on 239 at the end of the first innings. Australia declaring on 662 for 9 with a lead of 259. We all know what happened after that as England were all out for 218 and lost the Test by an innings and 41 runs and so losing the series as the Aussies went 3-0 up with only two to play! Not a Test to remember for England and the travelling supporters, however this Test will certainly be remembered for the terrible mistake by the groundskeeper who had his team leaf blowing the square dry after the covers blow off and damaged the pitch. England fans will say that the pitch should take the credit for Mitchel Starc’s ‘Ball of the Century’ that claimed the wicket of James Vince on Day 4.
With the early finish on Day 5, it allowed some free time before the End of Tour Dinner for those clients who were heading home. Supporters bid farewell to fellow travellers, with much of the discussions revolving around the cricket. The night however belonged to Paul Smart and his impromptu comedy sketch that had many in stitches!
As we touched back down in the UK, guests were still not sure what was worse – England’s performance or the freezing, wintery British weather! Despite this, those travelling to the 3rd Test had a fantastic time. The combination of a stunning destination such as Australia, and great tour camaraderie, ensured that everyone could happily see past the cricket result!
- Sam A.
With flights departing from Manchester and London Heathrow, staff were in place to welcome all our clients to the airport for check-in. With the majority overnight flights, it had been a long day for most already, however everyone turned up excited for the tour ahead and couldn’t wait to board the plane! With flights going via Abu Dhabi, Singapore and Hong Kong, we all touched down in Melbourne on Christmas Eve with a large part of the day left to get settled in our rooms before our welcome drinks functions in the evening. With various tours gathered at different hotels to be welcomed by their tour managers, a few drinks on the house meant the groups were mingling well already and most made the most of their first night in Melbourne by heading out for dinner. My specific group were fantastically located at the Crowne Promenade, with a huge variety of restaurants on our doorstep, not to mention the Casino upstairs for the late-night entertainment!
Christmas morning saw an early start with transfers departing for our Christmas Day function at around 9.30am. The destination? Possibly one of the most unique places to spend Christmas day, The Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), more commonly know by the locals as ‘The G’.
Upon arrival guests had the opportunity to enjoy the National Sports Museum before being invited for drinks and canapes with views of the cricket square, before being seated for the all-important Christmas lunch. With three courses polished off, and the open bar being used to its full capacity – we were treated to one of Melbourne’s top bands Hit Nation, playing popular songs to ensure the clients were up dancing and making the most of Christmas Day! Clients were transported back to their hotel to spend the rest of the evening relaxing before the big Boxing Day Test the next day.
The 4th Test, MCG, Boxing day – an overwhelming experience as 88,000 + cricket fans took their seat in one of the most iconic cricket stadiums in the world. The atmosphere was electric in anticipation of the first ball and this continued throughout the day. Australia finished the first day on top, however were bowled out for 327 on day two, with England finishing 192-2 at close of play with Cook and Root unbeaten on 104 and 49 respectively. Day three belonged to England, with Cook 244* with contributions from the middle order and an exciting 56 from Stuart Broad, a timely return to form for him. England started day four 491-9, however Jimmy Anderson lasted all of one ball before the Australians had to pad up for their second innings. The rain delays ate up a large proportion of the game on day four, with the realists among us believing that only a draw was now possible. Australia started the fifth and final day trailing by 61 runs, and despite England’s strong first innings, this now made it very difficult for a result. Steve Smith did what Steve Smith always does and showed an absolute masterclass in Test match batting, finishing 102 not out, supported superbly by Warner and Marsh – the match drawn as Australia end the day 263-4.
Despite the result, the cricket was enjoyed by all who attended and a highlight for many of our tourists was our Gullivers Cricket Forum held one evening during the Test. This is a fantastic opportunity for our clients to discuss all things cricket with cricket celebrities and their fellow tourists. We were lucky enough to have BBC Test Match Special’s Alison Mitchell chair this fantastic Q&A alongside England Team Manager Phil Neale and ex-professional cricketer and cricket correspondent Vic Marks. A wonderful insight into the current England set up, with some pertinent questions asked from the floor!
With the Test match wrapped up in Melbourne, next stop for the final Test was Sydney, and New Year’s Eve! The journey to Australia long enough as it is, and with some not looking forward to the flight from Melbourne to Sydney, we knew that it was imperative to get everyone to Sydney swiftly and safely – luckily, having Josh (our resident Aussie) from our flights team on the ground meant that our Gullivers Private Charter Flight ran ever so smoothly. Having checked clients in the previous day, boarding cards were distributed prior to arriving at the airport, so after a simple bag drop we were on the plane in no time and arrived safely in Sydney – the clients were thrilled with the speed and efficiency of the flight, there is no easier way to get to Sydney!
After being greeted by the ground team, all 187 clients from the charter flight boarded their transfers and were at their hotels soon after – while other clients landed later in the day to also be met by the team and taken to their respective hotels for their time in Sydney.
With so many New Year’s Eve options available, Gullivers clients were looking forward to seeing in 2018 in their own special way whether this be on a boat overlooking Sydney Harbour and the famous fireworks, or enjoying fine dining in the City – there really is no better way to see in the New Year!
New Year’s Day saw the first of a few days at leisure – with the chance to relax at one of the many beaches Sydney has to offer, or alternatively book on to one of our many excursion options including the Sydney Harbour Cruise, Escape to the Blue Mountains, Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb and the Hunter Valley Wine Tour.
With Sydney explored, bridges climbs, many variations of Australian wine tasted (and a few sore heads), the first day of the 5th Test at the SCG was upon us. This iconic ground boasts one of the most stunning views in world cricket, with the Sydney cityscape a stunning backdrop to the historic Pavillions.
Day one was cold and a little wet, delaying the start of the cricket for a couple of hours. However, in typical Australian style, once we’d had all four seasons in the space of an hour, it was time for the first ball to be bowled, followed quickly by a lovely bout of sunshine and clear blue skies!
England chose to bat first, and after losing three wickets before the hundred came up it looked like Joe Root’s men were up against it. However, with Malan joining the captain at the crease, the pair dug in and showed great grit and determination whilst plaining some textbook shots. Australia ran out of ideas, and with less than three overs left in the day and Root sitting pretty on 83 not out, supported ably by Malan on 55 not out, Root played a loose shot clipping the ball straight to square leg. England now four wickets down and a handful of balls left in the day send out Jonny Bairstow – with many questioning where the nightwatchman is. Inevitably, Jonny Bairstow follows the lead of Joe Root playing a loose shot to a superb outswinger from Hazlewood – caught behind by Paine. England lose two wickets in the space of just a few minutes and that is the last ball of the day, closing on 233-5. Australia are handed the day and England now have a fight on their hands.
Day two saw Australia continue to take control once England were dismissed for 346, adding another 113 runs to their overnight total. Fine batting from, Warner, Khawaja and the inevitable Smith saw Australia close the day 153 runs behind with eight wickets in hand. The third day saw more of the same with Khawaja cruising to his century, finally being dismissed for 171, with Steve Smith remarkably losing his wicket, caught and bowled by Moeen Ali for 83. Was there still hope? Unfortunately this bought both Shaun and Mitchell Marsh to the crease, two brothers who defied any ounce of hope England fans had by finishing the day 98 not out and 63 not out respectively.
The evening of day three saw our highly anticipated Sydney cricket forum, once again a great opportunity to pick the brains of cricketing personalities. Phil Neale and Vik Marks joined us once again, with sports commentator Jim Maxwell providing a unique view from an Australian point of view. Another great evening enjoyed by all our clients with some hilarious stories told by all.
Australia firmly in control at 479-4 continued day four as they finished day three, with both Marsh brothers surpassing their centuries in emphatic style and Australia declare 649-7. The day didn’t get much better for England and the match was teetering on a knife edge, with England finishing the day 210 runs short of Australia and only six second-innings wickets intact – Australia were one wicket from England’s tail. Could England bat out for the draw? With captain Root retiring ill, Australia swiftly made their way through England’s batsmen despite the resounding Barmy Army support – England were bowled out for 180, it was all over and Australia secure a thumping 4-0 Series victory. Despite this, the clients thoroughly enjoyed the cricket with some England highlights to cheer about, and some fantastic Australian bowling (and batting from Smith) which you can only admire.
All that was left before we departed was to say our farewells, and what better way to do this than our tour final meals. Organised by our tour managers, the final meals are an opportunity to enjoy great food and a few drinks with our tour groups before the journey home. For a lot of our clients, mine included, we found that they mingled and made friends so easily with other tour groups that we had no choice but to organise a large final meal with no less than eight tour groups in one place! 135 clients thoroughly enjoyed our final meal held in Darling Harbour, with another 80 clients located in a restaurant opposite, a perfect final evening on tour.
Australia had been a blast, the sun had shone (mostly), the locals were as hospitable as ever, we explored, enjoyed the culture, the food and drink, and the cricket was enthralling. We saw records broken, stunning catches, bats raised and bowling attacks take the game away from the opposition – it really has been an incredible Ashes Series Down Under. The result may have not gone our way, however the memories and new friendships will last a lifetime. We can’t wait to come back….once we’ve beaten the Aussies in our own back yard first of course!...
- Drew B.
Take a look at our fantastic 2017-18 Magellan Ashes Series Facebook album. Despite the cricket result, our clients across all five Test venues had an amazing time - feel free to tag and share!