All’s fair in love and war

What could possibly better than seeing two warriors in full, uninhibited combat? If it was good enough for the Romans, it’s good enough for today’s sporting audience.

Things have moved on a bit since they fought to the death, of course, and it’d be hard to get the feeding of Christians to the lions in the colosseums of Rome past the department of Health and Safety, but we still enjoy the prospect of sportsmen challenging each other at the edge of their physical and mental capabilities.

Dilhara Fernando went first against Jacques Kallis and drew blood with a vicious bouncer that crashed into the side of the great batsman’s head. Lying on the ground with blood seeping from his ear was bad enough for Kallis, but the physical wound was nothing compared the dent in his pride and the fire in his stomach which had him yearning for revenge.

All he wanted was the chance to pay back. He knew it might not come – if the match had been more evenly poised, or if Fernando was still batting with a ‘proper’ batsman – then he would have been compelled to bowl for his wicket rather than his blood. And he would almost certainly have limited himself to just a couple of ‘head shots.’

But the match was all but won, Fernando was in at number 11 with another tailender for company, and Kallis called for the ball.

“No he didn’t,” said Graeme Smith, telling a gloriously amusing lie with grin on his face from ear to ear. “I thought it was time for a change in the attack and Jacques was the only bowler who hadn’t bowled in the session. So he was the freshest guy and best one to bring back.”

Actually, Smith was right. Kallis didn’t ask for the ball. He demanded it.

“I would have done the same thing,” said bowling coach Allan Donald. “I don’t know why it’s even an issue. There were times in my career when I lined Glenn McGrath up from around the wicket and bowled to hurt him. It’s all part of the game. You have to be able to look after yourself.”

Kallis’s four bouncers in a single over at Fernando – earning him an umpire’s warning – weren’t an issue for Smith. And quite rightly.

“There are a few of us who have been hit on the head and wished like hell we could bowl quick enough to pay it back – but we can’t. Jacques is blessed with the talent to be able to do it, and I thought it was a terrific contest. Great to watch.”

Some people say that physical intimidation and confrontation has no place in international cricket. Wrong. They may not enjoy it, but it has ALWAYS been there. For over 200 years. If they can’t accept it, then perhaps it is they who have no place in cricket.

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