Contributing Editor Dan Nicholl reports back from Newlands after four days of Test cricket that saw a triumph of good over evil, a welcome appearance of Smurfs, and further confirmation that Ricky Ponting is far more deserving of the moniker liberally applied instead to his team-mate Peter Siddle throughout the series.Day one: Mike Dabrowski, my Dodos team-mate, is in need of professional medical help. Thursday was his birthday, and he?d duly taken off work to get down to Newlands, from where the natural order of proceedings is to drink large amounts of beer, interspersed with the occasional boerewors roll (sourced from animal of indeterminate origin), and hurl intermittent abuse at passing Australian fielders.
Instead — and lest you missed it earlier, Thursday was Dobs?s birthday — the little Polish winger turned up at the game in his long distance running gear, and at lunchtime, while the rest of us downed unhealthy volumes of Castle, he went off to do hill starts up and down Klipper Road for an hour. On his birthday.
Totally daft, then; also a straight talking analyst, and his observation on Australia?s captain was spot on. In the age of the referral (an addition to cricket South Africa has taken to as skilfully as they did the Duckworth-Lewis system), not walking for a thick, loud nick must mean you think it?s hit the pad, or that the umpire is partially sighted/deaf/Russell Tiffin. Ponting stood for a clear edge, but then didn?t bother to refer it, an admission that he knew full well he?d hit it. Altogether then: Ponting is a?
Tragically, Ponting was out for a duck to a peach from Morkel; two early dropped catches looked ominous, but an inspired Paul Harris and a revived Dale Steyn meant South Africa was batting before stumps, and ended untroubled. Good news for day two, leaving one last highlight for Thursday: after Kevin McCallum and Stuart Hess had stumbled down from the press box to say hello, one of my mates asked as McCallum departed: ?Isn?t that Mark Keohane??. I don?t know which of the two little fellahs would have been more upset.
Day two: Dobs?s birthday weekend really gets underway, as a contingent from Johannesburg arrives to join him, dressed as sailors, and brandishing a large banner reading ?Siddle is a??. And in response, each of the sailors sported a white t-shirt with a large ?W? and a picture of an anchor. Subtle? No, but rather amusing.
Siddle got plenty of abuse, then, but not as much as the day?s third centurion. Prince played an exceptional innings, delighting the crowd but making selection even more interesting for future Tests. Kallis was more measured, but became more expansive later en route to a long-awaited hundred. And the third centurion? Bryce McGane, who saw his hundredth run conceded in his eleventh over, and who was brought back at the end of the day to loud cheers from the crowd; even Siddle couldn?t suppress a laugh from the boundary.
Ponting again enamoured himself to the crowd, trying to get Kallis?s hundredth run nullified after the umpire initially (and mistakenly) ruled it a leg-bye; and Hussey also got plenty of stick — ?Mr. Cricket? Why don?t you play some?? being dished out regularly. It was the birthday boy who had line of the day, though, on a splendid Newlands on Friday: Dobs?s ?Australia?s loss is South Africa?s McGane? will take some beating.
Day three: Friday sailors, Saturday Smurfs, the extended birthday weekend party opting for the blue and white combination on another gorgeous day at the world?s finest cricket ground. Slightly subdued Smurfs, perhaps, after a boisterous Friday; AB was anything but, though, his four successive sixes getting almost as loud a cheer as the McGane got when he came back on to bowl. Throw in a fifty for Albie (breakfast at the Morkel house will be very cold next week), and the Australian bowlers got pummelled. Shame.
Two wickets before stumps included that of Ponting, who should have gone when Harris took a diving catch in the gully; a man who?ll not walk but not bother with referral as he knows he?s out, would probably reason that he?d have claimed the catch, and so refused to walk. Justice a couple of balls later, though, with the Smurfs in full cry as the Australian skipper trudged back to the pavilion. Two down at stumps, with the rest of the home series all but forgotten.
Day four: Thank Bradman the Australians only send Mitchell Johnson in at eight; top four (where he looks like he?d be quite comfortable), and this Test match might still be going on. Instead, we only saw his pyrotechnic approach to the crease some time after the deathly batting of the morning session, and a mid-afternoon stumble that promised an early afternoon at Caprice.
Instead, Johnson almost took us into day five, hitting the ball sweetly, crisply, and with an elegance of stroke that will have his fellow tailenders around the world looking on with disgust. A tail of Johnson, Lee and Clark could cause havoc in the Ashes? but Hilfenhaus, Siddle and McGane (please, please, please let McGane play in the one-day series) couldn?t quite hold on, and so it?s game in four, and a perfect end to Dobs?s Newlands birthday party. Innings victory, three-all for the summer, you?re only as good as your last game, and Siddle is a? No, wait, that?s Ponting.