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Above: Wynberg's 1st XI in the Clubhouse at Randjesfontein
Saturday 10 February 2018: On Saturday, Wynberg became the first Cape Town school to be invited to play at Randjesfontein against the John Oppenheimer XI (JEO XI). The trip was the culmination of a phone call between Director of Cricket, Andrew Wylie and Craig Lyons and the legendary generosity of the Oppenheimer family in their quest to bring cricket matches to this majestic ground.
The sprawling Randjesfontein Country estate lies about 25 minutes drive from OR Tambo airport. Owned by the famous Oppenheimer family, it is home to racehorses, stud horses, guest houses, private residences and the most beautiful cricket ground I have ever had the privilege to visit. The oval has been home to the Nicky Oppenheimer XI (NFO XI) over the years.They have traditionally been one of the warm-up match opponents against touring Indian, West Indian, Pakistan, England and Australian sides who have toured here ahead of their encounters with the Proteas.
All flights and accommodation were paid for by the family and the catering on the day of the match was such that anyone who walked into the ground to watch was able to tuck into the feast. The outfield of the oval is manicured to perfection. So similar to a bowling green, it was amusing to see some Wynberg boys staring at it upon arrival before bending down to touch it to see if it was real. With its tall poplar trees creating a shady boundary on the one side of the ground and given the ovals location in the middle of Midrand bush, one gets the feeling that someone dropped an English county ground into the otherwise African location.
The clubhouse conjures up images of the members stand at Lords, albeit a far more modern design that lends itself to watching cricket on couches from the open plan lounge/patio downstairs or from the balcony leading off the players' change rooms. It was only when play was interrupted by a classic Highveld thunderstorm at about 4 pm that one realized that it took 4 men to push about 60 meters of wood-panelled glass doors into place to keep everyone dry. The clubhouse contains a library of well over 18 000 books – all dedicated to cricket. While going through the shelves, I came across a family photo album containing pictures taken at the match vs Pakistan in 2002. Seeing how the younger and older members or the Oppenheimer family spent the day watching cricket, lounging around the clubhouse with family pets in tow, it reminded me of images of the Kennedys at Hyannis Port in the 1960’s. There are paintings and framed photos of famous players and memorable matches – all gifts from touring teams that have played there. There is even a bat once used by WG Grace in one of the display cabinets.