As I walked out my front door this morning, there was something different in the air. It wasn’t the fact that there was sunshine as opposed to rain for the first time in weeks or that it was Thursday and our rotten bin bags were getting collected. It was the simple smell of the first day of the most anticipated and talked about test series in recent years was about to get under way.
This is a sporting event that some believe, and I obviously agree with them, is far more important than some other event going on in the capital this summer… Something about jumping into sand, running around a track, diving into a swimming pool… all sounds a bit juvenile to me, but apparently us normal London folk are expected to deal with an extra 1 million tourists each day clogging up our tubes, causing frustration and delays and oh God help me when I want to punch an American in the face for standing on my foot in a hot and crowded Central Line train!! As far as I have heard, the only decent event is the Woman’s Beach Volleyball, no prizes for guessing why.
You don’t have to be Michael Holding to realise that this test series is going to come down to which batting line-up can deal with the new ball the best. Can Smith, Amla and Kallis hold their own and pick off the bad balls and defend the good ones from Anderson, Broad and Bresnan. And can Strauss, Cook and Trott, deal with the pace and swing of Stein, the bounce of Morkel and the accuracy of Philander! You also feel that the middle and lower order will need to eek out a few more runs than usual, if for nothing more than the frustration factor, holding out against that second new ball and keeping the opposition in the field a little bit longer.
Smith has a great record against England, having slayed his last two opposite numbers in test series in 2003 and 2008, leaving them in tears (Wimps). The Proteas are in great form having not lost a test series in recent years, but they have had a massive blow in loosing Boucher to a freak injury who not only had a great cricketing brain and was a go-to man for Smith in trying circumstances, but was excellent behind the stumps and in the middle with the bat… Can AB deliver behind the stumps and still keep his head with bat in hand? This will be the biggest test of his career by far! England do hold top spot in the world rankings, and have everything to loose… This will be just one of the driving factors behind Smith and co. wanting to knock their rivals off top spot and take it for their own.
As for the supporters, it gives us Saffers a special type of bragging right should we win. You see cricket is the Poms sport and even though half of their modern side is made up of native South Africans, they dont care… They just want the win. When the Boks beat England in a recent tour of SA it wasnt a big issue for them, they expected to loose, but this is different. They are confident they can win, arrogant even! As a Saffer living in London, for us to win this test series would be a bragging point like no other. We could walk into a pub and open our gob and as soon as they hear the accent, a new found respect/hatred will befall us, but nobody would dare question our ability and competitiveness as a sporting nation, we would own the place, men amongst boys, alpha males amongst timid Bambi’s. Bragging rights beyond imagination, greater than even the likes of Harry Potter or the pomp Yul Brynner! In fact if you had to ask me what I would rather have to brag about to a Pom in a pub – a threesome with Megan Fox and Kate Middleton or a series whitewash in this test series against England, it would be the sweet taste of victory and national pride of a Proteas victory! (not by far though)
So before a ball is bowled in this series, before a sip of golden lager touches the thousands of pairs of lips while watching in pubs and lounges around the world, let it be known that this is no ordinary test series, not for the players, not for the supporters. This is bigger than the ashes, bigger than that other event in London this summer (woman’s beach volleyball comes a close second) and even bigger than Rosie O’Donnell in her prime! This is more than a cricket series, this is WAR! And we all know what happened the last time the British took on the Boers… Let the Banter Begin!