TELFORD VICE, Newlands
’TWAS the day after New Year’s Eve, when all through the ground
Not a cricketer was stirring, not even a sound;
The stumps were pitched in the nets with care,
In hopes that England would soon be there …
Thirty-five nervous net bowlers waited like bit part actors in the wings at a dress rehearsal for the arrival of England’s finest at their training session at Newlands on Friday.
Long before the appointed hour, they were ready and roasting without complaint under a stinking hot sun, their excitement ticking like a time bomb.
What would happen if someone hit Alistair Cook in the head? Or cleanbowled Joe Root? Or bowled badly enough to make Nick Compton look as if he might score more than a run a session?
What if England, like Godot, never came?
“’Bout half-an-hour, fellas,” Laurie Ward, a cricket coach who found his way to Tableview from his native Jersey, told his twitchy charges. “They’re just warming up on the outfield.”
Warming up? For half-an-hour? In 30-something degrees? Mad dogs? Englishmen? Both?
Another Jersey boy in the bunch was not Frankie Valli but Ben Ward, Laurie’s son.
“He’s the Jonny Bairstow lookalike over there,” dad said, pointing out a teenager who did indeed look like England’s ginger ninja of a wicketkeeper. “I’m not sure how much bowling he’s keen to do – he just wants a selfie with Jonny.”
At 17, Ward the younger was already a well-travelled cricketer having played Jersey’s under-15 and under-19 teams since 2013. “They fly him over for their games,” his father said.
Yudhajeet Barua fretted furtively under a mop of two-minute noodles where his hair might have been. Barua, now in his second season with Greenpoint Cricket Club, is a leg spinner from Kolkata who sticks out more for his bleached curls than his obvious Indianness.
“In SA, my name is YB,” he clarified, just in case some of his Greenpoint teammates read this.
A day later and you could smell the sunblock for kilometres all around as Newlands swarmed with sweaty Saffers and Poms queueing for beer and boerie rolls.
Two-thousand of them were sat snugly together on the temporary stands at the Kelvin Grove end that resembled nothing so much as giant braai grids – which is pretty much what they were by the third session.
Not that there would have been much sweating done in the luxury box that housed the England wags, who were waited on with trepidation by Newlands staff who remember what happened when the Australians were in town in March 2014.
When an attendant tapped Steve Smith’s girlfriend, Dani Willis, on the shoulder to tell her she had dropped her handbag, his thanks was a shrieked: “Don’t touch me!”
Whereupon Candice Warner showed some of the stuff that helped her make a husband out of David Warner: “Dani, get some manners or go home.”
Sporty? Spicy? Scary? Nah. Just posh babies.