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Reflections on South Africa, part 1

January 18, 2010

So, England may have lost the fourth and final test to South Africa heavily, but a 1-1 draw away is not a bad result, even if the two draws were somewhat harsh on the hosts.

And of course thousands of travelling England fans enjoyed their trip to Centurion, Durban, Cape Town and Johannesberg. Our Man in South Africa, Andy Mountford, went to the second and third tests, seeing a cracking England victory and a cracking England draw and has offered The Videprinter his reflections on the tour, starting with Durban, where he travelled over Christmas Day and Boxing Day with his friend Martin…

And what exactly are you so happy about, Kevin Pietersen?

….Missed the first day (watched a fair chunk of it at one of Martin’s mate’s houses in Joburg whilst waiting for our connecting flight whilst drinking Windhoek lager and eating barbecued sausages at half 9am, probably the earliest start to a day’s drinking ever), but got into the hostel just in time for the England fans to start returning, mostly Southerners who insisted on high-fiving me and Martin, referring to us as “guv’nor” and singing expletive-laden chants about Graeme Smith’s run out, whilst blaming it on his weight.

2nd day was mostly marred by a mixture of bad weather and a furious assault by Dale Steyn on Graeme Swann. Strauss redressed the balance by sending the Barmy Army into raptures with a rapid 54 towards the close of a truncated day’s play.

England fans in Durban

It was also the first time we got a taste of the famous “Castle Corner” atmosphere, being entertained at lunch and tea by “Danny and the Angels”, a middle aged Scottish geezer with his 2 (what I assume were his) late-teenage daughters. They upheld the fine British tradition of pub rock with a repertoire which, from memory, consisted entirely of Mustang Sally and Suspicious Minds on an hour-long loop. The near-exclusively South African public in Castle Corner upheld the equally fine British tradition of drunkenly singing along in the most tuneless possible manner.

Castle Corner is also famous for the pitchers of Castle lager one can purchase from what can only be described as “scantily-clad fitties”. When you buy said pitcher off said fitty, you have your photo taken with them and go into a prize draw to win a year’s supply of Castle lager and a bat signing by both teams. Not a bad deal really, and perhaps a novelty that should be considered by the ECB to justify the extortionate prices they ask for?

Another good deal organised by the South African authorities is the “Cash is King” promotion, which is essentially a prize draw into which everyone in the ground is automatically entered by virtue of a 6 digit number printed on their entry ticket. When this number is called out at tea, the lucky ticket holder has 60 seconds to scramble onto the pitch, in order to claim a cash prize (usually from Ryan McClaren) of 10 000 rand (approx ¬£1000).

Regarding player performances, as viewed by those I spoke to, Pietersen still seems to split opinions, half saying “we need to give him time to get back into the rough and tumble of Test cricket, he’s been our best player for 4/5 years, we can’t ditch him after a few poor games”. The other side of the camp seems to be a growing restlessness in what they perceive to be his selfishness (the Centurion run out) and his poor shot selection (the slog sweep against Harris in Durban).

I didn’t find many who would have picked Bell for the 2nd Test when it started. At tea on the 4th day, following his superb 140 and stunning catch at short leg to dismiss Prince, he was the hero of the hour and many were tipping him for “Man of the Series”. It’s a funny old game as they say.

Stuart Broad - bigger than his dad

The best atmosphere of the match was the hour or so either side of tea on the 4th day when South Africa fell to 50-6, Broad rousing the rabble with a stunning spell of seam to dismiss Kallis, De Villiers and Duminy (first ball). Following Duminy and Kallis’ wickets, the ground was more like a football stadium with 6000 England fans leaping around, hugging one another and toasting Stuart Broad with Castle lager and songs thus:

He’s big, he’s bad
He’s better than his Dad
Stuart Broad Stuart Broad

On the final day, tickets were free in the grandstand, as England fans clamoured to see the last 4 wickets and a famous victory for the tourists. Once Boucher fell to a wonderful catch down the leg side from a sprawling Prior, the Army could relax and the first airing of their own version of the popular festive number “Jingle Bells” got an airing, with the added line “Oh what fun it is to see, England win away”!


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