Wanted, a Tasmanian Devil for Proteas team

Jon Swift

Jon Swift

There was, if truth be told, no hint of the doom and despondency which was to follow less than a day later as the sun above the cricket oval crept ever closer to the trimmed fringes of the outfield and the braai coals glowed.

This was a double celebration of the captain’s birthday and a celebration of a notable win on the field fought out on a hot Highveld afternoon in February – hard graft in anyone’s scorebook.

At this juncture, it has to be admitted that the two protagonists in the confrontation between bat and ball are unlikely to be troubling the national selectors though in the circumstances to follow, who can state this as a certainty? – but the aftermath of the match held everything which is essentially good about the game at club level – exultant winners and somewhat chastened losers exchanging banter, beers, backchat and boerewors rolls, simply enjoying the moment together.

The victorious captain – christened Afhand Luke in deference to Paul Newman’s classic Cool Hand Luke after a serious klap on the thumb left him juggling an ice pack and a beer on his birthday – was in fine form otherwise.

And, despite the discomfort, why not?

The Tasmanian Devils, a diverse combination of characters it must he said, of some staying power, had come on top against their rivals the equally quaintly named Willy’s Uncles.

The Tasmanian Devils had chased down the 170 runs asked of them in short order and now it was time to party.

“I suppose that with another season under the belt, I should start thinking of eventually retiring,” Afhand said to the Arithmetically-challenged Golfer, the self-styled expert on all sporting matters, “but right now, even if the thumb is throbbing, I am having too much fun.”

In this, he was not alone nor was he any less buoyant about the chances of the sorely injury-struck Proteas in the second one-day international against India at Centurion the following day.

“Surely,” said Afhand, serious things on his mind, “we can’t bat and bowl as poorly as we did in the six-wicket loss at Kingsmead … or can we?”

Tjaart, the skipper’s cricketing – and it must be admitted, carousing – buddy and a marathon runner of some note, simply shook his head and kept his counsel.

It was, in the cold light of what was to happen, a more than sensible decision as the Proteas proceeded to self-implode at Centurion in a manner as bizarre as anything ever likely to be witnessed in the humbler lower leagues of the glorious game.

Even more astounding was the ludicrous decision of the umpires with India strolling inexorably towards the trifling 118 all out posted by the Proteas, to take the sides off for lunch with just two runs required for their eventual nine-wicket devastation.

“Perhaps,” remarked the Arithmetically-challenged One, “they should have asked Afhand to take them out a tray of boerie rolls or even earlier perhaps and instil a bit of Tasmanian Devil in the batting”.

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8 December 2018 THE VAAL

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