WHILE local hero Stuart Broad’s Ashes quest was cruelly cut short by injury, Melton were there all the way to lend a hand in England’s crushing series victory.
Howzat Travel, based in Burrough-on-the-Hill, bolstered the Barmy Army’s ranks by taking along a 300-strong party of fans Down Under to join the Ashes crusade.
The historic tour was a dream come true for Howzat director Ian Kerr who set up the company with friends six years ago. Ian caught the Barmy Army bug when he first sampled an Australian Ashes series while visiting family Down Under in 1999.
He said: “I managed to attend a few days at the Sydney test match and without any doubt, right there and then, I was blown away by the atmosphere, better than anything I had ever experienced from watching football here in the UK.
“I later realised I had found a new love affair – watching England play cricket overseas was what I was destined to do.
“Six years later I had the idea of setting up a specialist travel company in order to fulfil my dream and Howzat Travel was born.”
Among the Melton travelling brigade this winter were Stuart Broad’s mum Carole and her husband Nick Joyce who was a Howzat tour leader, a role shared by company directors Robert Hall and Steve Eatherington, and Ian’s fiancee Leanne Underwood.
Among the cricket fans enjoying the Howzat experience were Asfordby couple Jason Parker and Stephanie Spooner and Thorpe Arnold CC second XI captain Nobby Keightley.
Howzat were also helped out by Jonathan Agnew, the BBC Cricket Correspondent and former Leicestershire and England bowler who is also president of Melton club Egerton Park.
Aggers invited Ian and Robert into the Test Match Special commentary box during the Second Test at Adelaide as a special 21st birthday present for Howzat customer Michael Collison who was there to witness Kevin Pietersen reaching his first Test double hundred.
Among a tour packed with highlights, stand out moments for Ian included seeing England win a Test on Australian soil for the first time at Adelaide, Australia’s dismissal for 98 on Boxing Day at Melbourne, the New Year’s Eve fireworks in Sydney and the series-clinching victory and subsequent party.
Ian added: “I certainly picked the right series and was lucky enough to attend each day of every Test. Witnessing England retain the urn in Australia for the first time in 24 years is something I will always remember.
“The memories and experiences throughout the seven-week tour have been nothing, but unbelievable. I cannot help but think how lucky I’ve been to see such an historic series.”
* Read Ian’s Ashes blog at http://howzattravel.wordpress.com