TELFORD VICE, Kingsmead
AS pitched as the battle was on the field on the second day of the first test at Kingsmead on Sunday, things also got heated between former SA and England players on the supposedly safer side of the boundary.
“Nick Compton is batting too slowly; you need to score at least three runs an over,” Herschelle Gibbs dared to say in the commentators’ lounge as England’s No. 3 went about constructing his six-hour-and-then-some, 236-ball 83 – an innings as worthy as it was sturdy but not one to stir the blood of his grandfather, Denis Compton, who famously went through opposing attacks as fast as he went through tins of Brylcreem.
Gibbs’ comment was fair, especially as it came from a batsman who not only used to cut fast bowlers for six but would practise doing so.
However, the always-otherwise, no-fours-before-Armegeddon Geoffrey Boycott took issue with Gibbs at considerable volume: “Herschelle bloody Gibbs! I loved you as a player but you have about as much brains as a bloody squashed tomato!”
Gibbs had no comeback, perhaps because he couldn’t decode what Boycott had said in his Yorkshire pudding of an accent.
But jabbering Geoffrey wasn’t the only perturbed pundit at Kingsmead on Sunday.
Around noon, England were nine wickets down but hanging on even as Morne Morkel and Kyle Abbott toiled hard in search of that last, elusive wicket.
Graeme Smith, taking a break from a commentary stint, appeared on a landing at the Umgeni River end of the ground and watched another over pass fruitlessly by.
When the last ball had been bowled, Dean Elgar turned from his position in the slip cordon and faced the Umgeni River end.
The prominent figure of Smith caught his eye, and the former SA captain took his chance to convey his advice to the middle.
Smith cocked his right arm and ripped his hand downward with a snap of his fingers. Once. Twice. His message was clear – get the spinners on, dammit.
“Should’ve been on 20 minutes ago,” Smith muttered as the moment passed.
An over or three later, Dane Piedt was duly introduced – perhaps on Smith’s say-so, perhaps as part of Hashim Amla’s grand plan.
But it was Dale Steyn who ended the innings by trapping Steven Finn in front, and not with one of the off-spinners he sometimes sends down in the nets just for the hell of it.
Which should have been a lesson to all concerned: shut up and bowl.