Whilst the team (including Members of the Reject Club who think they almost played but didn’t) is still heavy with celebration, tucked up in the Cape’s starched bed sheets, The Prof and I sat above it all on the steps of the Rhodes monument on Devil’s Peak drenched in the early morning sun. Below us, Newlands stood bare stripped of the bikini colour, ebullient chatter, and gladatorial climax of the final hours yesterday.
The Prof was in his element wandering through precise recollections of his fifth day highlights from the players’ box, much to my amusement. Sarah joined us shortly afterwards. She was very chatty after her promotion to ‘Director of Marketing’ during last night’s celebrations. I scribbled the best of the Prof’s highlights in an old notebook.
Puff was bored stupid. He counted them. 8 players around the bat for hours on a hot day. SA dug in deeper than an underground mine.
“Are you going to score a run”, he shouted to Faf.
“Just hit it mate. Its big and red.”
Faf looked at him for a while taking his measure. Short, hide stronger than a Rhino, mo’ like Charley Chaplin, grin like a chimpanzee, feet spread like a cockalorum. He ignored his taunt and took guard. His bat was an extension of his arm. He was in control.
“It is so boring, so bloody boring.”
Faf slid a single through mid-wicket.
Someone in the stands said it was an owl. Then someone said it was a dog.
Faf knew it was a wolf. He smiled.
“Owwwhoool, owwhooool, grrr, woof”.
“That’s enough. Step back. You’re scaring me.” Wicky looked up. The sun was in his eyes. A quarter moon was faintly visible.
Puff replied “I’m bored. The people at home need some entertainment while they’re blocking it.”
Faf watched Puff between balls.
When Puff moved closer, Faf lifted a plastic sleeve of white salt from his pocket and sprinkled it around him in a wide arc.
“Stay away from this maaarrtee for your own protection.”
Puff advanced for a closer look.
“You’re kidding me?”
Puff felt uncomfortable.
Faf took from his pocket a small wooden crucifix attached to a leather strap. He held it up to Puff who winced, and placed it over his head. He felt alert.
Faf signalled to Smithy to call for the Vampire killers. Puff turned a sheepish green. The sun was hot on his back.
Later, Faf fluffed a dolly from Trapper. OUT. [Ed. He assured me at the after-party that the two events were not related]
It was after tea. Our bowlers were knackered. Ryno’s shattered knee had more pinpricks in it than a nail bed. Tatts looked like an old FJ Holden that had gone too far in one day into the African hinterland. Rockets was misfiring. Big Vern and the Steyn-remover were batting us into a death march.
“Awwww.” Vern crumpled like a paper moon.
“What sort of ball was that?” Vern asked, as he stood up. He was covered in magic spray.
“A ball that hit your pinky unintentionally. No offence.”
“What about my hand, maaarrrtee?”
The Umpires spoke to Rockets and told him to get his act together.
“I’d never bowl rubbish like that”, Steyn shouted to Vern. “I’d just badge you with a fair ball.” Vern laughed.
Rockets told Steyn to get lost. The Captain ran up to Rockets. “Do it again. Bounce the ball first.”
“You can’t hoodwink him”, Steyn replied. “Get ready for another under-pace ball.”
The Captain told him to shut up. He wanted to tell Rockets to break Steyn’s arm but he was at the non-strikers end.
As he was walking back down the pitch, he pointed at Dale and said “You’re a blatherskite. A f…..ing blatherskite.” Steyn had no idea what this meant. The Captain didn’t (he had read it once in an old comic). Neither did the Umpire. Yet everyone knew it was probably offensive. As The Captain ran back to first slip, Steyn told him he was a knob.
The Captain checked that they were playing to 6.10pm. He was anxious. Wickets were rarer than the clap in a convent. The Captain looked at the SA dressing-rooms. They had a big board looped over the balcony counting down the overs. Less than 20. Damn. If only he had an RPG to fire into their wheelhouse.
It was tense. The Captain received all sorts of hand signals from Coach2.0, basically telling him to take wickets or [unprintable]….. Coach2.o had already dismembered Apple’s pet teddy with a knitting needle. The Captain knew his favourite after shave lotion would be next – Coach2.0 hates it. He snarled. It was easy for the batsmen. All they had to do was block, block, block. And wait for 6.10pm.
Tatts was bowling. He aimed a straight one – one of the few after tea – right at Vern’s jugular. He was good enough to get his head out of the way, but it feathered his glove on the way, knicked his shoulder and ballooned to short leg. The Umpire’s finger went up. Our lot went crazy yelling as loud as a bunch of red Indians on the warpath. Vern gave the review signal. The bikini crowd was chanting no ball. It was hard to hear anything.
“Review maaarrrtee. Not out.”
“What? You can’t be bloody serious. Clear as daylight”
“Review bud. N o t o u t” Steyn added. He wasn’t sure what was happening, but thought he may as well have some fun. It was pretty tense.
We were out of control when the NOT OUT decision confirmed daylight between glove and bat.
“What sort of foggish bestiary is that”
The Umpire took offence. “Not out. Not out”, he sang.
“You must be [deleted] kidding. His [deleted] glove was on the [deleted] bat. That is [unprintable oath of unimaginable frustration].”
As Jimmymax said nonchalantly, the engagement was willing if a little extreme.
I head the Captain yell “That’s it. Back into position”, yet even he let things drift momentarily our of control.
Coach2.0 was lucky he had no hair. If he had an RPG he would have blown the centre wicket all the way to The Oval, the last time he thought we had some Umpiring luck. As it was, he prevented CA Digital Media from tweeting “That was a poor decision”. All he said was “Illingworth must be an ailorophiliac. I hate cats.” He grabbed the binoculars to spy on Orlando. He was as placid as a cat. He saw Coach2.0 and held up a chalk board ’14 to go.”
The rest is history.
The sun rose higher. Sarah reminded us that breakfast was on till mid-morning. We left Rhodes in his monument unmoved. I asked The Prof if he thought Puff had a career later as a farceur. Sarah laughed “No. Maybe as a chat show host in the US.”