Biltong and a Kazakhstan shower

Early maritime explorers knew the value of salt and spice to disguise the flavour of old meat and the Voortrekkers perfected the art to such an extent that the non-vegetarians amongst us can all enjoy the delights of biltong today.

Hundreds of years ago, before the merits of personal hygiene were fully appreciated, people used to perform a similar job on themselves using rose water and lavender to mask the effects of a week without a bath. It is said that this custom still exists in certain parts of the world.

In sport, the equivalent is a victory. No matter what the woes and how many mistakes were made, all is forgiven and forgotten with a victory. Success gives those who were criticised the right to dish out two-fingered salutes to those who had the temerity to point out that not everything had been perfect and some things could have been done better before the success.

The best teams (and individuals for that matter), are the ones who analyse victory as well as celebrate it, who ask how they might have achieved it even more efficiently or ruthlessly. If and when South Africa triumph at Newlands, they will have eight months to celebrate the taste of Test victory before they take the field again. Hopefully, the players, management and all the rest of the administrators who go towards making up a successful team will also ask how things could have been done better.

Graeme Smith visited the media centre and provided journalists and commentators with a couple of interesting and amusing anecdotes from inside the change room. Asked whether Jacques Kallis was still as relaxed as usual with the burden of the captaincy, he replied: “Well, he was lieing on the floor asleep before he went out to bat so I’d say he was reasonably relaxed.”

AB de Villiers took the chance to clarify his statement before the first Test of the series at the Wanderers that he wanted to be regarded as a batsman without the burden of being a reserve wicket keeper. “I will do whatever is best for the team, obviously. I hope it will be two or three years before Bouch moves on but, when that happens, if the team requires me to take the gloves then I will do that. All I wanted to say was that my preference would be to bat at number four in the future and try to become the best batsman in the world.”

He also revealed that he had a “soft heart” and that he felt terrible for the unfortunate Bryce McGain – despite clubbing him with as much love as a Canadian hunter reserves for baby seals. “Not being funny or anything but I felt terrible for him. It’s not nice to see someone going through that, this can be such a cruel game. I obviously didn’t want him to take five wickets or anything like that, but I honestly hope he comes back from this and gets another chance.”

And the four consecutive sixes at the start of Andrew McDonald’s over, the 140th of the innings? “I just wanted to put Ricky under a bit more pressure because McDonald had been tight. After the third one Albie walked down the wicket and said ‘listen, you’ve got to make a decision now. Are you going for all six?’

“I said to Albs ‘listen, we’re playing Test cricket here!’ But after the fourth one I decided I was going for it – why not? But he bowled a good yorker. Afterwards he asked me if I wouldn’t mind being at the non-striker’s end while he was bowling.”

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