So, a Saffer, two Americans and an Irishman walk into a cricket game . As Liz (a friend from the Caymans) said, this sounds like the opening line to a joke. It was in fact the crew that went to see Biff (the nickname of Graeme Smith, the captain of the South African team) and the boys open their campaign against the West Indies in the 2011 Cricket World Cup. Let me explain.
It was whilst chilling on the roof of Cozi Guest House in Jodhpur in early February that I mentioned to Jen I had a spare ticket to see Biff and the boys take on the Windies in Delhi in a few weeks. Jen said she’d wanted to see a game in Sri Lanka but that had fallen through and she’d heard that there was “some world cup or something going on in India”! There was indeed.
There were daily lessons/info sessions while we were wandering about Rajasthan and Jen caught on super quickly (so quickly in fact that by the time we went to the game, she was explaining things to Pauli). Whilst lazing about the wickedly chilled town of Pushkar, Pauli and Darragh said they also fancied seeing Biff and the boys and so a Saffer, two Americans and an Irishman headed to Delhi for the Proteas’ opening game on February 24th.
It’s always been a life-long dream of mine to watch cricket in India and I was tossing and turning from around 6 am on the morning of the game (it started at 2.30 pm!). It was a great performance by the boys with AB de Villiers scoring a fine hundred and Robbie Peterson taking three wickets and it was simply phenomenal being there.
Next up I headed to Chennai to see the boys take on the English and this time I was going with two Danish girls I met in Mysore a few weeks before (slowly spreading the word!). While picking up our tickets, two fellow Saffers walked up and asked if we needed an extra ticket, which we actually did since I only had one spare. Over a few beers that evening it came out that Dyl is also traveling around the world to watch the three world cups!!!! Who would have guessed I’d meet someone doing the same as me? (Dyl is traveling with his friend from home Adam and his girlfriend Amy).
Dyl and Adam are as fanatical as me and we’ve been traveling round together since watching the boys, which has been phenomenal. While we bowled magnificently against the English, our batting let us down and it was a bitter defeat against an old enemy.
After a few days in Pondicherry in-between games, we headed to Nagpur for the big one – SA vs. India. I’d said before the game I wanted Sachin Tendulkar to score a 100 and then for us to chase it down and we couldn’t have asked for a better game. It was without doubt the best game I’ve been too and I’ve never experienced an atmosphere like that.
While the capacity of the stadium was just under 50,000, as Sachin approached his hundred it felt like double that. It was certainly louder than when I saw the Springboks beat the English in front of 82,000 people a at packed Twickenham a few years before.
India got off to an absolute flyer with Sachin and Virender Sehwag smashing 142 off the first 17 years before Sehwag fell for 73. The carnage continued with Gautam Gambhir making 69 and when Sachin fell for a superb 111, India were 267 for two in the 40th over! South Africa refused to lie down, though, and a brilliant fiver from Dale Steyn saw India collapse to 296 all out.
In reply, South Africa got off to an ok start before losing wickets at regular intervals. In the end, we needed 13 off the final over and that man again, Robbie P, hit a six over mid-wicket to seal an incredible win with three balls to spare.
After the game I bumped into ‘Vinnige’ Fanie de Villiers and we chatted about that memorable day in Sydney in ’94 when Fanie took 6/43 and we bowled the Aussies out for 111 when they were chasing only 117. “Yis China, that was a long time ago”, he says. “Fanie”, I say, “I remember like it was yesterday”. “Me too” he smiles! We proceeds to invite us to join the SAB crew for a party and so we hopped on their bus and ended up drinking and dancing with the guys at their hotel till after 5 am.
(The SAB crew consisted of 97 people that South African Breweries had brought over for the game – employees, competition winners, bottle store owners with the highest sales., with Fanie invited as the tour guide).
I’m writing this from Kolkata after watching us comfortably beat the Irish. We looked a little shaky at 117 for 5 but JP batted beautifully (as did Ingram) and our bowlers were just too good. I’ve wanted to watch a game at Eden Gardens since I was knee-high to a grasshopper and it was an experience I’ll treasure forever. I had goose bumps on the 20 minute walk from our guest house to the stadium and I look forward to coming back to watch a Test at this iconic venue.
Tomorrow I’m heading to Bangladesh! Dyl and Adam have a spare ticket to see us play on the 19th (and then two QF’s on the 23rd and 25th) and I jumped at the chance to join them – come on boys!