Worcestershire are gearing up for their latest tour to Abu Dhabi more than a century since Paul Foley – after whom the Foley’s coffee house and eatery is named – organised the first similar venture overseas.
Former County club secretary Foley, who played a massive part in the club’s formative years, arranged a tour under the title of ‘The Gentlemen of Worcestershire XI’ to Holland in August 1895 and then for Worcestershire CCC to Dublin in July 1902.
The Worcestershire Gentlemen organised tours in August 1914 to Hamburg, ultimately cancelled when The Great War was declared, and between the wars to Jersey and Guernsey (three times), Denmark (twice) Holland, Portugal and Berlin.
The County undertook a near two month tour in the late winter and spring of 1965 following their first County Championship triumph.
Entitled ‘The Champions World Tour’, Worcestershire played 15 matches in Kenya, Rhodesia, Calcutta, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Thailand, Hong Kong and Hawaii while a game in Los Angeles was rained off.
Twelve months later, after retaining their Championship crown, ahead of the 1966 season Worcestershire went to New York City, played six matches in Jamaica, and returned home via Miami and Washington DC.
Before the 1980s, county cricket was predominantly played for a four month period between May and August so there was normally the opportunity to play pre-season friendlies in April on home soil in better weather conditions.
However, as the first class and one-day season extended into April and September, and overseas travel became much cheaper, more and more counties opted for warm weather destinations.
In October 1980, a post season Worcestershire CCC Benefit ’80 tour featured six matches in Barbados.
A pre-season County tour to Kenya, Malawi and Zambia was planned for March-April 1982 but was called off because of lack of sponsorship.
In early April 1989, County Champions Worcestershire played three rain affected matches in Queensland and Hong Kong.
Twelve months later, as defending champions, Worcestershire headed for the Bahamas in March 1990 but rain washed out all fixtures and the players practiced and trained near the beach at the Atlantis Hotel, Paradise Island.
In March 1991, Worcestershire did battle in six matches in Zimbabwe and the following year featured in five games in Johannesburg, Transvaal and Pietersburg, South Africa.
A planned five game return to Zimbabwe in March 1993 was called off but in April 1994 a quintet of matches did take place in Harare, Kwekwe and Bulawayo.
Two years later, Worcestershire CCC arranged in five games in Barbados in March followed by the same number of games in Bulawayo, Trelawny and Harare in 1997.
In 2000, the players participated in a week long training camp in Portugal (March-April) and in 2003 were based in Johannesburg for four matches.
Johannesburg was also the centre of operations for five games in 2009.
In March 2013, a large plastic tent was pitched on the square at Kidderminster CC for pre-season practice and since then Worcestershire have flown to Abu Dhabi every pre-season.
*Thanks to Andrew Thomas, author of ‘Pears 150’ – a book still available on matchdays during the season from the Supporters’ Association club shop priced £28 – for the above information