14 Apr 2014

Royal visit takes in cricket match

10:08 pm on 14 April 2014

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were greeted by enthusiastic well-wishers and played cricket during their tour of Christchurch on Monday morning.

Prince William and Catherine were taken on a tour of the city centre and met families of quake victims during a packed morning in the earthquake-hit city.

The royal couple inspected the 2015 Cricket World Cup trophy.

The royal couple inspected the 2015 Cricket World Cup trophy. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

The couple played a mini-cricket match with children at an ICC-hosted event in Latimer Square, where Prince William got some bowling tips from Sir Richard Hadlee after bowling Catherine a wide ball.

Catherine took took her turn at the crease.

Catherine took took her turn at the crease. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

William getting into his stride.

William getting into his stride. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Catherine adopted a classic batting stance as the ball flew far to the left, drawing a cry from the crowd. William's next three bowls to Catherine were more on target, two of which she hit with the plastic yellow bat. Then it was Prince William's turn.

"Be nice," the duke called to his young bowlers over his shoulder as he headed for the bat.

"Good ball," he said after missing the first bowl. The second, he hit low and flat. The Duke thrilled the crowd with two high shots, but managed to escape without being caught out.

The couple then formally greeted the 28 young cricketers from seven city schools.

Meeting with families

The royal couple flew into the city on Monday morning and were greeted in an official welcome by Ngai Tahu representatives.

Mary-Anne Jackson.

Mary-Anne Jackson. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Prince William has built strong ties with the city since devastating earthquakes in Canterbury three years ago in which 185 people died. He visited Christchurch shortly after the quake on 22 February 2011.

A cheer went out from the crowd as the Duke and Duchess arrived by van at the CTV memorial site to meet relatives of those who died in the February 2011 earthquakes.

They spoke at length with families of quake victims Jayden Andrews-Howland, 15, who was killed in a bus, Jane-Marie Alberts, 44, who died in the PGC building collapse, Dr Maysoon Abbas, 61, who died in the CTV collapse and Ian Foldesi, 64, who was killed by falling rocks on the Port Hills.

The conversations were cordial, with smiles rather than tears marking the occasion. Mr Foldesi's family brought to the site his labrador dog Tetley, who found his body.

The couple was scheduled to meet only four families, but crossed the grassed site to meet many more people, including CTV receptionist Mary-Anne Jackson who fled the building just before it collapsed.

Liana Bush, whose father died on Riccarton Road, says she was impressed by how informal the event was and she was delighted to be able to speak to Prince William.

Ms Bush said he asked who she had lost in the quake and how they were coping. She said the Duke and Duchess seemed very down to earth and caring. Prince William accepted her gift of a merino cape for baby George.

An elderly woman in a wheelchair gave Catherine a bouquet of flowers while a group of children asked Prince William how their New Zealand trip had been. "It's going well so far, no dramas," he said.

Latimer Square

Catherine is given balloon flowers and other presents for baby George.

Catherine is given balloon flowers and other presents for baby George. Photo: Twitter / @GovGeneralNZ

The Duchess of Cambridge stepped out in Canterbury colours, wearing a Luisa Spagnoli red skirt suit with a black belt and black pumps.

Rows of people eight deep gave the couple an enthusiastic reception during their walk in Latimer Square.

Catherine was inundated with gifts for baby George, including balloon flowers, toys and a sheep pillow. She had to pass them off to helpers only to be handed more.

Christchurch 13-year-old Tilly-Belle Robinson gave the duchess a book she wrote herself titled George meets the Kiwi. "She said she would read it to George tonight," said Tilly-Belle. "She's beautiful."

A group of parents of twins were pulled out of the crowd to personally meet the Duke and Duchess. The group of five mothers and their twins were among about 5000 people who turned out to see the royal couple as they walked through Latimer Square.

One mother, Jodie Gould, says it was a once-in-a-lifetime moment. "The first thing William said was, 'These twins look a bit daunting'. They were just so polite, so friendly ... they're genuine and it radiates. You can see it and feel it."

The Duke and Duchess then officially opened a new information centre at the Botanic Gardens before travelling to the Wigram Airbase for a lunch with 500 invited guests.