Saturday, 26 December 2009

Boxing Day Test: Lunch, day one: Two wickets then too hot as England face the Durban hothouse

WELCOME to a world where thousands of people lug jugs of lager around in the blazing sun at 8am Greenwich Meantime on Boxing Day.
To a city where you sweat in the shade, melt in the sun. To a ground where England are being baked into submission after a promising start to the second Test at Kingsmead.
Durban when the sun comes out in summer is a tropical paradise. If you have constant access to air-conditioning or a swimming pool.
For pale British cricketers, it can be hell. For the first 12 overs, as I predicted, James Anderson, Graham Onions and Stuart Broad were able to bowl their hearts out on a track which had a bit of life in it.
Then, on the hottest day of the summer so far - just as it had been in Centurion - the withering heat and 90 percent humidity began to tell.
Anderson got Ashwell Prince (2) to nick to Graeme Swann at second slip in the third over. In the tenth, Broad came on after Onions' impressive opening spell, and immediately trapped the Centurion centurion and local hero Hashim Amla (2) bang in front LBW.
At 1-3 and 2-10, South Africa were in all sorts of trouble after Graeme Smith had won the toss and elected to bat. But they were assisted by touring coach Andy Flower as England refused to change their side and kept the lamentable Ian Bell as non-scoring batsman No6 instead of drafting in another seamer in Ryan Sidebottom or the all-rounder Luke Wright.
And for the rest of the morning spell, they paid for that. By lunch we had Jonathan Trott, at best an occasional Test bowler, coming on from the Hilton Hotel end with his wobbly dobblers. Ridiculous.
This was a day for four seamers, with a bit of swing in the air early on and hellish conditions to come this afternoon. Smith (29) and the old warhorse Jacques Kallis (28) have added 67 for the third wicket.
England only managed 25 overs rather than the expected 30 this morning, and they face two torrid sessions before the blazing sun goes down over the Berea ridge overlooking the city.
Down in the bowels of the main stand, the honours boards, Lord's-style, show the centurions and five-wicket bowlers going back to 1923, when, like Wembley, Kingsmead first staged an international.
Then this curious gap between 1970 and 1992. Those are the 22 years local cricketers gave up to Apartheid. Barry Richards, Mike Procter and dozens of other talented South Africans were forced to miss the best Test years of their careers because of their nation's disgraceful political system. Just before isolation, they whipped Australia 4-0 with Richards, Procter and both Pollocks tearing the convicts apart.
Things have changed, they've even dug up the old pictures of local Indian and black cricket to adorn the walls, where once it was all white on the night.
Outside though, few of the local Zulus can be bothered with the men in white who spend five days in the sun eking out a draw. They prefer the brand new Moses Madibe Stadium a mile away, purpose-built for the World Cup next year.
Kingsmead remains a typically old-school South African crowd, though the cricket-mad Asians, a massive presence in Durban, once restricted to a small section of the east stand, can now mingle as they wish.
A packed crowd of nearly 20,000, around 5,000 of them British, have been downing jugs of lager since 8am British time. Castle Corner, the notorious Kingsmead nook, are waiting to laugh at us. It has been packed since 9.30am this morning with big, red-backed men and scantily clad women (see above) and the odd surfer dude.
This is what Boxing Day cricket should be all about. Us larking about in the sun while England freezes over.
If only we'd picked Sidebottom. If only Andrew Strauss had won the toss. Meanwhile, we shall make the best of it. Where's that sunscreen...?

No comments:

Post a Comment