Frayed nerves, negative thoughts and cold sweats – there were all there in the South African dressing room at some point through the third day of the Trent Bridge Test and not a single man gave in to them.
The class of 2003 were tested to the limit when two wickets fell in the first over of the day and the innings crashed to a potentially disastrous 132-5. But cool heads and steel nerves came to the fore.
The intensity in an England press box during days such as these, when the home side is on top, is as white-knuckled as any in the cricket playing world. Englishmen have had precious little to cheer in recent years and when their team is ‘winning’ the sarcastic, witty tones that so routinely deprecate their national team turn hard-edged in support.
The atmosphere outside the sanitised environment of the press and commentary boxes is 50 times more intimidating. The drunken roars that greet an English run, or a South African wicket, become louder and louder as the day progresses to the point that South Africans, or neutrals, will spontaneously jump in reaction, even if they are watching the action as it happens.
The only louder sound in cricket can be heard in India when Sachin Tendulkar scores a century, Actually, make that a run. Any run.
Such tension is exhausting for the players and makes the job of concentrating, and therefore competing, that much harder. It was the toughest, most draining day on tour so far and the hardest day of Test cricket experienced by many of the squad.
As it turned out, they lost the test, but they showed they had the guts for a fight.
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