South Africa started their fourth post-isolation tour of England in spectacular style with Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis both posting massive centuries on the first day of the opening warm-up game against Somerset in Taunton.
The ‘cider capital’ of England is a wonderful place to play cricket. Somerset makes Cape Town seem hyper-tense. In the old days, they used to brew the cider from the excess stock from some of the largest apple orchards in Europe, with a few dead rats thrown into the mix to add ‘flavour.’
There are even stories, depending on the size of the brew, that small deer were lobbed into the pot to add an even greater ‘bang’ to the final product. These days, however, it’s possible to buy a bottle of very good cider with a screwcap and no likelihood of fur in the brew.
A tour of England is full of delights but, like criticising Donald Bradman, some of the grimmer realities are best left alone. Like the standard of hotel accommodation, and the price, and the… oh yes, we’ll leave that alone.
England, in late summer, represents all cricket’s greatest myths and romances. The long, sunny days which linger forever with a glass of Pimms, the shady willow trees, the lazy sound of bat on ball…it’s all a bit of a legend these days but it does still exist.
This tour is especially exciting. Those of us who were there in 1994 will never, ever forget the extraordinary level of emotion after the Lord’s victory when team manager Mike Procter fragrantly and happily ignored the ‘ground rules’ and waived a huge SA flag from the players’ balcony in the moments after a stunning victory.
Another magnificent victory followed four years later when England were bowled out for a pathetic 99 in the second innings and then Graeme Smith stunned the entire cricket playing world in 2003 when his second successive double century and Makhaya’s 10-wicket haul secured a third successive win.
The three Lord’s Tests, all amongst SA’s greatest victories, before and after isolation, have helped to build as much excitement and anticipation as has existed before virtually any tour since 1992.
Many thousands of those who will follow the tour will be indebted to Supersport’s television coverage. Many more thousands, however, will rely upon other means to follow the series, mostly on radio. And, as things stand at the moment, they stand to be deeply disappointed because radio broadcasting chiefs have decided that ‘new programming’ will now take the place of ball-by-ball cricket coverage.
A great shame – not for Mr and Mrs Jones from Johannesburg, but for the hundreds of thousands of kids who have been listening for the last 15 years in Alexandria, Langa and Chatsworth.
Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Feel free to get in touch.