A CRICKET team stranded for a fortnight in a coronavirus lockdown 6,000 miles from Oxfordshire have finally returned to the UK.

Stanton Harcourt’s South America tour was thrown into disarray by the introduction of rigid controls in Peru, which saw them confined to a Lima hotel.

But their long wait for news about a repatriation flight finally bore fruit and the group landed at Gatwick yesterday – ironically the same day they had been due to return from Colombia if the trip had gone to plan.

Matt Eagle, one of the touring party, said: “We all said one day we will look back on this and it will be a good story, but at the moment we’re just relieved to be home.”

The group had initially been offered sky-high prices on charter flights home, but the decision to sit tight paid off when the British government announced plans to lay on planes.

Oxford Mail:

  • Club stalwart Chris Pascoe in the makeshift departure lounge  

Patchy communication made for a stressful time.

However, after a ten-hour wait at the military airport in Lima, the group was able to board the flight home.

Eagle said: “We were just told ‘get to the airport at this time’.

“Everyone turning up was a bit worried they might be turned away. “Hundreds of Brits were there desperate to get the flights back.

“We got to the airport just before 7am and didn’t take off until 5pm. It was organised, just a lot of waiting around.

“We were sat on a coach for hours because it’s a military base and a lot of different countries had flights coming in and out.

“The security consisted of a dog going round sniffing bags.

“Luckily they managed to get everyone who was there home, but we know of others in more remote places that can’t get to the airports because of the curfew.”

Among those still in Peru are a group of Australian cricketers who were touring with the Oxfordshire contingent as part of a long-standing link between the clubs.

Oxford Mail:

  • An empty Gatwick Airport yesterday

Eagle, 27, plans to self-isolate now he is home, but the group, who have not had any health issues, were not given specific instructions after landing.

He said: “We were probably safer in Peru than the UK, which has had a lot more cases. One of the Australians paid AU$5,000 (about £2,400) for a charter flight and was then quarantined for two weeks when he got back to Sydney.”

Stanton Harcourt were at least able to play some cricket in Brazil, Argentina and Peru.

Given the restrictions in place at home, there are no guarantees when they will next be able to play.

There has been talk of next year’s tour heading to India, but despite the experience Eagle is keen to return to South America.

He said: “I want to go back to finish what we started, but I think there may be people in the group worried about going abroad again.

“We have all said we have made the best of the situation.

“Although everyone was worrying about us and it wasn’t the best of situations we tried to enjoy ourselves.

“Surprisingly it’s gone really quickly.

“It was a bit like Groundhog Day in the hotel, because there’s only so much you can do.

“We were lucky we had a bar.”