Saturday, 19 December 2009

When sunny Centurion pales into insignificance. Come on Arsenal!

SOMETIMES the ebb and flow of Test cricket can get to you. Just as England wilted today on day four of the first Test at sun-soaked Centurion, so this journalist finally lost heart.
I went back to my dad's to recuperate when Hashim Amla passed the 200-ball mark. The bearded one, unlikely to be sponsored by Gillette any time soon, was simply too good for England's attack and took the game beyond us with a magnificent century.
Aided by AB De Villiers and Mark Boucher, a torrid day ended with Morne Morkel slapping Stuart Broad for 14 runs off an over. Then the declaration and a grinning Graeme Smith saw Morkel produce an unplayable ball which Andrew Strauss had to touch to Boucher and England, at 11-1, remain 353 runs from victory going into the final day.
The good news? It's absolutely hissing down out there. After four sizzling days, the tropical rains have returned. England may yet escape with a soggy draw.
Meanwhile, this being South Africa, I was treated to three successive games of live football. First Liverpool went down 2-0 at Portsmouth - my dad's team - then Manchester United, playing without a defence (they're all injured, an argumentative Sir Alex Ferguson ended up with Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher at centre-back) were thrashed 3-0 and now Arsenal are attempting to reverse the string of giants killings against Hull.
And word reaches me via my son's text that Manchester City's Mark Hughes, fresh from a rousing 4-3 win over Sunderland, is about to be replaced by Italian Roberto Mancini. Criminal. Hughes is one of Britain's great managers. But give the foreign billionaires ownership of our clubs and this is what happens. We'll end up like South Africa, with a string of international bosses who can barely speak the language!
Sometimes the cut-and-thrust of Premier League football and the freezing pre-Christmas jousting outweights the lure of sun-drenched cricket. Especially when England are losing their grip on a Test. This is one of those days.

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