Coach2.0 instructed the 11 to play the game by the Rule book when he addressed us all before the start of play.
“I don’t want to sandpaper over the last week or tape over the weeping press conferences of the Newlands 4” his hologram said as it walked among us and through us. Coach2.0 had gone to the other side. He was still present spiritually but he was gone mentally and physically.
The Prof and I appreciated his attempt to lift the weight of our collective guilt with comedy. No one else was impressed. Sarah, the Head of Marketing pulled the plug in Coach2.0 abruptly when he began his Master Class on the dark arts of reverse swing. It was left to The 46th Captain, The Evangelist, to set the tone for day 2:
“It’s quite simple. If the bowlers dismiss the Africans quickly we get to bat for 6 sessions and regain the trust of whoever used to trust us.”
“Mostly our sponsors and a couple of diehard fans”, Sarah added. “Magellan has gone back round the Cape of Good Hope with a ballast of wet Weetbix. No one else really matters. Moral outrage is one thing. Cold hard Benjamins are another. I wish we were an Australian bank. They wear ignominy like a raincoat.”
“Thanks”, the Evangelist resumed. “As I said, if they score 400, we are toast. We have a mountain to climb with the crosses we bear. Redemption is not easily won.”
Sarah distributed the Laws of Cricket which included several highlighted areas about desperate use of the DRS (the Watson Law), walking when you know you are OUT (the Broad Law), saying nice things to the stump mics (The Sponsor Law), saying nice things about the opposition batters’ clothing, girlfriends, wife’s and families (the McCullum Law), how to shield on-field obscenities from inquiring cameras (a tertiary Education Course for Teachers offered by CA), and foreign objects considered to be ball tampering (a new Leadership Course offered by Oxford University).
The Evangelist then tuned into Brendan McCullum who said something about the spirit of the game. A picture of Jesus floated across the background. ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. This is the new religion.
“Enough of this stuff” someone muttered before the lights came on. The offender was identified by voice recognition and removed from the starting 11. I think he was a bowler. As Brendan says there is no line just the spirit of the game.
The Prof and I waited at the exits to shake the hands of the XI and wish them well. They mostly appreciated our gesture once we changed our CA Forensic Investigator t-shirts for regulation training strip. Our main task was to confirm that all the playing XI had developed stigmata on their hands and wrists. This was the brain child of the Head of High Performance. His hypothesis is that the team has been engaging in systematic ball tampering since Port Elizabeth and that the guilty parties will be easy to identify because they will be wearing dark glasses and black gloves. We checked everyone. Darren, the team psychologist, was the most suspicious. He was wearing dark shades and a fake beard so I nodded to security who spirited him away for a wash down with a fire hose and a cavity search. Homeland security pegged him for impersonating Third Degree Burns.
On the field we were flatter than a pile of sodden pancakes. The wind could have blown us over. Instead, the South Africans chiefly the villain of Durban, Quinny de Kock, Bavuma, and the lower order blew us into oblivion. When Morne lucked out the score was north of 450. Only a miracle could stand in the way of the SA attack.
Miracles are in short supply, today being the 7 day anniversary of the Newlands incident. Everyone is taking responsibility for something right now which has confused the playing XI. The bowlers say they are responsible for bowling out the other side unaided. The batsmen say they are responsible for putting on a score. We used to have someone responsible for shining the ball, and someone responsible for coaching. Then four people accepted responsibility for sandpapering a ball, which is a lot when one reflects on how many people it takes to change a light bulb. [Ed. There is a greater chance of electrocution from sandpapering a ball than there is from changing a light bulb]. Then we had someone responsible for Crisis Management (The Head of Integrity and the Head of High Performance). They haven’t been sacked yet, but they will be after we conclude our investigation and rewrite their report. The Prof and I have taken over.
Today responsibility was everywhere and nowhere. When our lads padded up and took the field to bat for 2 days as The Evangelist requested, we failed to deliver. Mr X held up an end for a stylish 50 or so, but even he succumbed to the nagging line and length of the SA attack – rightly regarded now as ‘the best in the world’. The new imports did nothing and the middle order keeled over like the General Belgrano in quiet surrender. The Prof wasn’t surprised, apart from Quinny’s brush with a toy bee drone The Prof has circling around the stumps for most of the last session. He had bet big on a meltdown to bolster the Players Pension Fund. He is anticipating some big lump sum withdrawals. As he said over dinner, it takes more than an Evangelist and a team handshake to change a mindset.
Abraham Lincoln once said “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today”
SA 488 and heading for a certain series victory. Australia 110/6 and prostrate before their sponsors.