Leading Edge: Nine days off? Let’s go climb Crib Goch 

Sunday Times


TELFORD VICE in London

TELL you what, let’s bugger off to Scotland and do some fishing. Or to Cornwall, where they say the surfing is decent. Camping, anybody? There’s always golf … hey, the Open’s on at Royal Birkdale. Umm, where the hell is Royal Birkdale?

Is it near Crib Goch in Snowdonia, where more than four metres of rain can fall in a year? If it is, let’s stay far away.

If you have the time and the money, and you enjoy the outdoors, you could do worse than be in the UK in what people here call the summer.

It’s not summer, of course. Not in the African sense of being hot enough to melt the fat off a piece of biltong.

But it doesn’t seem to rain quite as often as in winter, the sun doesn’t go down until after 9pm, getting around — in London, at least — is as easy as minding the gap, and you’re never further from a decent pub than the distance the smell of a pint of bitter needs to reach your nose.

Not that a pint of bitter should be sniffed at, considering it will cost you upwards of the equivalent of R80. Unless it’s happy hour, when the inside of the pub will be all but empty and the pavement outside thick with people enjoying a drink and what they call summer.

It’s a funny old place, but enjoyable in many ways. That’s if you’re on holiday.

But what if you’re part of South Africa’s cricket team, who have bounced back from an awful Lord’s test with a stirring performance at Trent Bridge.

The series is locked at 1-1 with two to play. Bring on the third test already.

Not so fast. When hostilities resume at The Oval on Thursday, nine days will have passed since the end of the Trent Bridge test.

Momentum is a nonsense espoused by people paid to complicate the simple business of trying to win a game. If you won yesterday there’s no guarantee you’ll win today. Just ask England, who were smashed by 340 runs eight days after they triumphed by 211 runs.

But nine days is nine days: what happens to a cricket team when they take their eye off the ball for that long? Especially if they are playing at the most unforgiving level and in an era when matches come so thick and fast there’s rarely time to smuggle in a tour match between tests.

South Africa will be helped, unwittingly, by England distracting themselves by fussing over how many of their batsmen are left-handed — as if any team could have too many — and how to keep fooling Moeen Ali that he is not their best spinner.

As if finding something to do with yourself for nine days that does not snap the surprisingly delicate narrative thread of an important test series is not challenging enough, try having to do so while playing ever more ridiculous parlour games.

At least the South Africans have kept it as simple as possible. Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock have gone home. The rest are, well, around.

Royal Birkdale is in Southport, fellas. Which is north of Liverpool, or a two-and-a-half hour drive from Crib Goch — Red Ridge in Welsh — a knife-edged climb of some 923 metres.

Rather play golf.

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