No losers in ‘Battle of the Beards’

Times Media


WE’RE not at Newlands anymore. Not, anyway, at the same Newlands where England blitzed 196 in the 25 overs bowled before lunch on Sunday and 116 more in the 13.5 they faced before putting SA out of their misery by declaring.

Taken together, that’s a touch under eight to the over. Boring stuff, test cricket.

So much so that, shortly before lunch, a man somewhere deep in block Q of the Presidential Pavilion couldn’t help yelling: “Wickets must fall!”

Hashtag? Who said that?

On Monday, the real Hash was tagging England’s bowlers at will; not quite Stoking it but certainly stroking it.

Hashim Amla’s diligent batting was nothing like Ben Stokes’ crash-boom-bang 258. But it was a pity that, on Monday, block E in the Northern stand was also nothing like it had been on Sunday.

Two days earlier, almost all of the block’s 170 seats were filled by men and women supporting SA. They wore whites, floppy hats, and beards – a few real, most freshly removed from plastic wrapping.

“Southern-suburbsy,” was how one of their members described the group, which formed with the help of social media soon after the tickets went on sale months ago.

They called themselves “Hashim’s Army”, and they were impossible to ignore. “Ha-shim, Ha-shim, Ha-shim, Ha-shim …” they sang, upstanding, to the “tune” – we use the term loosely – of 2 Unlimited’s “No Limit”.

Next door in block D, the Barmy Army eyed their noisy neighbours suspiciously … Especially when the Saffers stopped their chant and looked expectantly across the divide.

But even beer for breakfast and hours in the African sun hadn’t dulled the Poms to the realisation of what was required of them.

Soon, “Ha-shim, Ha-shim, Ha-shim, Ha-shim …” was being answered by “Mo-een, Mo-een, Mo-een, Mo-een …”. And so on and so forth for minutes on end.

When Moeen Ali was stationed bang in front of blocks D and E when England were in the field, he had the manners to acknowledge those engaged in the good-natured “Battle of the Beards” behind him.

When Hashim’s Army launched into, “Our economy is in kak but we’re still singing”, and “Make some bacon, but not for Hashim”, the Barmy Army rewarded them with applause and laughter.

So the inmates of cell block D would have been disappointed on Monday when no such fun greeted them – there was neither a beard nor a floppy hat in sight in block E.

And that after they had warbled on Sunday, “Most of us are not working – ’cause we live in Cape Town.”

Ah, well. Shoo-wah to all that.


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