The Prof and I were trawling through the Ashes Diary, and came across the following entry on day 3 of the Australia-Sussex game at Hove in July. We had a quiet chuckle. Then The Prof checked his notes based on the original phone call he had with Puff at the time about what he said to Tsolikele and what really happened on the field during play. We then double checked it with Citizen Kane who added some refinements, mainly about himself. I checked with Tsolikele who confirmed his actions and what he saw. He said he is still amazed. He wished he had a photo.
Just for context, the Sussex match fizzled out to nothing. We could not dismiss them (7/368) inside 100 overs because Trapper and The Kid couldn’t hold onto the catches. They could not dismiss us (2/152) because they lost interest. The excerpt below is from my dairy entry.
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Puff is due at Gatwick tomorrow, expecting to play at Old Trafford. Mr Bean is cock-a-hoop. “I’m certain Puff’s superior technique and personal discipline will get him through the tough times at the crease. Just like in the CT,” he told Sarah [Ed. The girl from Marketing] and I. She looked at him with sarcastic kindness – something The Prof says comes from deep in her childhood. “I am not bitter” he said beseechingly. Sarah was busy flicking pins into a set of voodoo dolls lined up on the serving board in the breakfast room. “I just feel I’m trapped in a space for ‘Defects’..”
“I think you mean Rejects,” I corrected.
“..thank you.. a secluded space for ’Rejects’, ringed by barbed wire and a sign that says to leave all your possessions at the gate.”
“Don’t worry,” I said, “you will be fine once you get used to it. There are many paths to redemption.”
The Prof finally told me what happened between Puff and Tsolekile in Pretoria. It started during South Africa’s first innings when Tsolekile was 44no. Apparently T had thumped a few through Puff at point just before drinks in the middle session. After drinks, Puff asked him about his mother (the only line he has and the one line he used in Delhi). T asked Puff about his brother and then promptly slammed a few more through point to the boundary to pass 50. T could see Puff turning redder and redder pawing the ground like a Spanish bull. He banged another one just out of reach of an outstretched paw.
“You are too short maarrtee to be at point ” T said “Can you see de ball coming?”
“I think he abused you Puff,” said Citizen Kane [Ed. The newest Citizen] who was bowling a few pies. “How about you bloody save one.”
“I’ll hit it softer next time maaartee,” T said slicing one deftly past point, again. “Chin up.”
T stopped to put on a Father Christmas beard he had been using as a thigh pad, which was very funny but did not impress Puff. The Captain brought Puff into the slips cordon as T closed in on a ton.
“I’d love to take that beard off bwana.”
“Come and try.” T pointed to the dressing room and the crowd. They were all wearing beards.
“How’s your brother maaartee? Has he finished high school yet? What a girl.”
T then smacked a couple through mid-wicket. The Umpire called “over” and Puff approached T.
“What is a punch worth these days, maaaartee?” T replied bending over laughing. Everyone was laughing. The junior Wicky, Citizen Kane, long-off, the Umpire at square leg, sections of the crowd and the commentators “By the way maaartee, Hollywood forgives you.” More laughter.
“Is that all you have maaartee? Sod it, man! No technique and no sledge. You’re Rooted maaartee. Well and truly Joed!” T said, pretending to remark his crease. “Do you like rabbits, maaartee?”
“Bunnies mate, white furry bunnies like you maaaartee.”
“Are you wearing a box bwana? I can’t see anything there” someone said from behind the stumps.
“It’s hard to see. It’s here maaartee” T motioned, outlining it on his creams.
“Looks the shape of your bat Puff,” junior Wicky remarked. He thought Puff was a Test GOD.
T passed 100 easily.
“Do you wear glasses, maaartee?”
“No, you fibbler.”
“That explains a lot maaartee.”
Puff thought this was going a bit far. At the next over change the following encounter took place.
“Maaartee, come here. I’ll show you.” T made to open his trousers and unstrap the tape on his inside thigh. The Umpire intervened at this point but only after Puff got a good glimpse. It was just as T had said it would be.
“Born with it on the high veldt, maaartee. And yours? Come on maaartee. Show and tell” T said, trying to get a good look through his grill.
Puff turned a reddy shade of deep red, redder than the reddest South African sunset.
“Maaartee, you surprise me,” he yelled. You could have heard the laughter as clearly in India as the spectator did from long leg who was jumping up and down all excited. Citizen Kane began to rethink his citizenship. He could have taken the other boat to South Africa where they know how to sledge. The road not taken, the one less travelled by…
“I’ll help you out maaartee,” T said at last. “The night dropped. The stars came out. Everyone was happy. A duck came. A breeze blew. Another duck came. A fire started.”
“That’s random bulldust.”
“Just like your superb batting maaartee. Random.”
T blasted past 150 without a worry.
No offence to anyone. Just cricket.[Ed. Puff tweeted the world after stumps stating how satisfying it was to be back playing cricket. He said he had lots of fun in the South african heat, learned amuch about the high veldt and engaged in a bit of “friendly banter” with the wicket keeper which he said was “very funny”. Diplomats call this a frank exchange of views which usually ends with a mealy-mouthed communique of some description]