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Reflections on South Africa, part 2

January 21, 2010

After England’s Durban brilliance, the second part of our man in South Africa’s trip now – as Andy Mountford travels from Durban to Cape Town to enjoy a test match in the shadow of Table Mountain…

…suitably refreshed after a 2 hour flight sat in front of former England bowler Matthew Hoggard, and a couple of days to relax and marvel at just some of the fantastic scenery Cape Town has to offer, we moved onto the (sold out) Newlands Test.

One of the main differences between sold out Tests abroad and over here, aside from the weather and generally superior setting, is the fact that foreign ticket touts didn’t seem to cotton onto the fact that, once an England fan has paid £1000+ to come out for a Test match, (s)he doesn’t think anything of paying £8 to watch a day’s play, even if it is double the face value.

The glorious Table Mountain dwarfs the Newlands ground - andy mountford

Whilst this is a personal loss for your average tout, it reflects appallingly on the greed of the ECB and their insistence that £80 is a reasonable price to watch a day’s cricket, often in a soulless stadium with little chance of seeing a full day’s play, due to weather and slow over rates. Many England fans we spoke to over there will not go and watch their team in their own country for this reason, which surely must be to the detriment of the English game?

Back to the cricket, a 12000 strong and extremely vocal English contingent roared on their charges, but England were guilty of squandering opportunities when they arose. Because the ground was full, many independent England fans could not congregate together, aside from the official tour parties. This led to a very strange atmosphere of tourists and locals being deep in conversation, when suddenly one half would break off at random intervals to join in a chant or wave the rather colourful flag of the Rainbow Nation. There was never any hint of trouble or vitriol in either Test, despite the lack of segregation and the copious amounts of Castle lager, shipped in from the brewery behind the famous Newlands stadium, that was being consumed by both sides. As the game wore on, it became apparent that South Africa, led by their overweight/robust (delete as applicable, depending on which side of the fence you sit) captain Graeme Smith, who bludgeoned a superb 183, were taking a vice-like grip on proceedings.

Graham Onions saved the draw in Cape Town

England were visibly wilting in the face of this ferocious assault and the searing heat. The temperature on the 3 middle days touched 40 degrees, making a mockery of those who claimed Cape Town would be a pleasant climate. It wasn’t only the cricketers who were flagging in the sweltering temperatures, many England fans headed for the shade and air conditioning of the local Springbok pub to watch sessions of play on their big screen. This led to problems in itself. Despite the fact the match was being played in the next building, the pictures were still delayed. Thus, one could hear when a wicket fell from the roar of the crowd whilst they were still watching the bowler running in. Fortunately, this problem did not affect England much in the Test, such was the dominance of the South African batsmen following the first morning.

England were left having to avoid losing their last 7 wickets on the last day to keep their slender lead intact. Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell did the bulk of the work in the afternoon session, keeping the home side at bay with some resolute defensive shots. When Bell got out with 3 overs to go and Graham Onions had to replay his Centurion batting masterclass, did anyone really think the great man would lose his wicket…? Clearly, judging by the manic celebrations from the England players and fans, and the dejected looks on the faces of the South Africans, everyone in the ground thought it would be 1-1. Fine cricketer or not, surely Onions wins the award for the best Barmy Army song (to the tune of Hey Jude):

Onions
You bowl it well
They’ve got Johnson
But you’re much better

Onions, when you peel the batsmen will cry
They’ll wonder why
You’re Graham Onions, Onions, Onions, Onions…

Nah nah…. Onions

Genius.

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