“I can’t bear it any more,” said big Vince van der Bijl. And with that he turned his seat around and faced the back wall of the subsidiary press box assigned to the South African media.
“What’s happened??!” he roared after every ball. “Nothing, Vince, Kempy just missed another Warney leg break.”
“What’s the bloody score – what’s Rudolph got?” he roared.
“Why don’t you turn the chair around and watch?” we asked.
“Too hard. It’s exhausting, I’m knackered. I can’t watch…what was that??” he replied.
Such are cricketing superstitions. At one point Colin Bryden of the Sunday Times stood up to go and relieve himself after a conveyor belt supply of nervously sipped cups of tea and bottles of cool drink finally took their toll on his bladder.
“Sit down! Where do you think you’re going?” thundered the Big Man, grinning from ear to ear. “Nobody moves while we’re not losing wickets.”
It was approaching tea with Kemp and Rudolph about to complete the best part of two sessions batting together and a grand total of 52 overs, a match saving effort.
At which point Tony Greig entered the fray, taking light relief from a spell in the Channel Nine commentary box.
“Hello boys,” he smiled, aware as always of the risks of overtly displaying the residual South African-ness of the EP-born former England captain.
“Let me tell you,” he said as Kemp lunged forward at another Warne delivery without looking terribly comfortable. “You need to stick with this bloke. I know a thing or two about being a big fella from Queenstown and not knowing anything about facing twirly blokes like Warne, and it takes a bit of exposure before you can play them. And this bloke is a lot better than he looks at the moment,” said Greig.
This intervention was enough to persuade Big Vince, albeit briefly, to turn around. “He’s got it, has he?” inquired Vince, carefully avoiding first hand sight of the game.
“No question,” said Greigy, “he’s a big man but he’s no mug. He’s a damn good batsman. He just needs time to see what’s happening with the bowlers, he’ll learn quickly.”
By now there were 20 overs of the day to survive. Big Vince passed the time showing his adopted colleagues a sample of e-mail video clips he had received on his lap-top, many of which were hilarious but mostly too clean for the media’s prefered taste.
Eventually, having done everything in his power to stop us working (but not concentrating on the game as we kept him in touch), he allowed himself the luxury of turning his seat around to see the action. There were four overs to go.
“We’ve done it,” he sighed. “We’ve bloody well done it!!”
At which point he shook our hands in shared congratulation and took his graceful leave to meet the team.
“You make it look like we’ve played a part,” said a cheerful Bryden.
“Oh you have,” said Vince. “More than you know.”
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