Cricket 31.8.2016 03:45 pm

This Test cricket lark is just so easy to play

Jon Swift

Jon Swift

There’s lots to learn about cricket if you just listen.

It was, remarked the Arithmetically-challenged Golfer, a somewhat raucous setting for an afternoon taking in the South Africa-New Zealand Test at Centurion, as the Cricket Chorus chipped in with comment after comment on the Proteas’ batting.

The Arithmetically-challenged One’s mild irritation at what he obviously perceived as an intrusion was quickly shot down in flames by the Former Fast Bowler. “Those guys,” he said from under a set of glowering eyebrows which, some years back, admittedly, had caused more than one batsmen to fold like a chocolate fireman who had strayed too close to the flames, “and not have their names enshrined in Wisden, but I will wager they have forgotten more about cricket than you are ever likely to learn”.

And, sure enough, as the second day of the Test unfolded, it proved to be an insightful and accurate assessment on a somewhat dour afternoon’s play as the Black Cap bowlers toiled, and the South African batting assumed gridlock position in a muted run crawl.

The exception in the Kiwis’ attack proved to be Neil Wagner. “Good honest quick,” said the Arithmetically-challenged One of the left-hander, who had already picked up the wickets of Quinton de Kock, Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma and Stiaan van Zyl and was yet to produce an absolute jaffa, that with a ball rapidly approaching pensionable age, which straightened up off the seam and sent Vernon Philander’s off-stump cartwheeling.

“He may be bowling some negative line stuff, but he has gauged the track beautifully.” The voice of the Choirmaster of the Cricket Chorus could not resist. “You would expect him to perform at Centurion,” he said. “Like Faf du Plessis he was at Affies in Pretoria and used to practice in the net at the back of the Du Plessis home. He also played for the Titans – more of a net bowler than a first choice – but he took the chance, went over and has been playing Test cricket since 2012.”

Not totally surprisingly, this left the Arithmetically-challenged One, a man who considers himself a fount of sporting trivia, with no reply. He had clearly met his match. This was to be underscored as Du Plessis crept his way to a fifth Test century off 225 balls, a benchmark celebrated all round. “Now watch,” said the Choirmaster.

“South Africa will bat on for a while, get the Black Cap heads dropping, declare and then try and dart a couple of the New Zealanders out before the close.” Again, he had called it perfectly.

Du Plessis, still unbeaten on 112, called his side off and prepared to launch his attack at the Black Caps with the scoreboard showing 481/8. The quicks did not disappoint their skipper, Philander having Martin Guptill caught in the slips for eight and Dale Steyn sending Tom Latham back to the hut with four to his name and when Bavuma ran out Ross Taylor the Black Caps were 38/3 at the close and 443 runs behind.

“See,” said the Former Fast Bowler with a huge wink at the Choirmaster. “Cricket’s an easy game … if you shut up and listen.”

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