“Cricket is a fine game, which ebbs and flows but you must enjoy it.”
Not my statement, but what popular journalist Dennis Freedman says. Probably, Dennis is right. Not because he has over 180,000 followers on Twitter that it’s a given that whatever comes from a successful person is gospel truth. But probably it’s only fair to say that cricket has its own moments, rather weird ways of connecting with fans.
Anyone watching South Africa, who finally resumed their international season, albeit with a loss against England (in the First of the 3 T20s) might agree.
Surely, no total is good enough nowadays, but can you ever call a 179 a pitiably small number?
Yet, as it turned out, it wasn’t enough to curtail England, sorry make that Jonny Bairstow. The brave batsman who one may confuse with Rupert Grint blasted 86 off the needed 180.
And in doing so, even non-cricket loving Harry Potter-fans would appreciate the fact that the Englishman smoked nine 4s and four 6s.
In the end, Her Majesty’s men seemed about as comfortable in overcoming an ask of 9 an over (there were four deliveries left to play) as what one finds in a happy camper, one without a care for the world.
But much before Rabada, Hendricks, and Shamsi- not the lamest troika in the world got exposed- one man took the fight to Her Majesty’s men and truth be told, in a majestic fashion.
In firing his maiden T20 fifty against England, Faf du Plessis- not captain de Kock, not Rassie, Bavuma either- fired fifty-eight runs.
And all he took in doing so was no more than forty deliveries.
On his part, Faf du Plessis’s 58 off 40 was akin to a fighter flexing his biceps very much like Faf would do inside the gymnasium following the painfully-correct tedium of not missing a single gym-sesssion.
Muscles pumped, head in control of the proceedings, not lost in pressure, and that familiar Protea resilience to hold the fort.
Bavuma had departed for just 5.
The newly-made white-ball leader in de Kock may surely have wanted someone on whom one could rely.
And Faf, with 1,465 runs in cricket’s most entertaining format didn’t disappoint.
On the contrary, in a team composed predominantly of youngsters- de Kock, 27 (9,300 plus runs from all three formats), Bavuma, 30 (1,845 Test runs, 30 games), Rassie van der Dussen, 31 (1,424 international runs from just 41 games)- it was a 36-year-old who did the talking.
Glad, van der Dussen, Faf’s closest ally in that very under-appreciated Protea win in the ’19 World Cup, hung around long enough to score a fine 37 yesterday.
But it was a loss that many would feel should never have happened in the first place.
Much of the pandemic-marred 2020 has been grief-ridden for the cricket world (as with other sports, but obviously).
But for South Africa, who’ve endured arguably their worst emotional and cricketing phase in the past year, starting off with a win should have only eased tense nerves.
Remember, a lot of the tensity is down to chaos that this group of eleven brave men at Newlands and twenty-four in the limited-overs squad have had to put up with for little fault of their own.
That said, they must take pride in that the old guard stood firm, leading with the bat, albeit not as the the leader donning the captain’s hat but one who showed the way that the fight isn’t over.
With 2 more T20Is to go, can Faf get support from the rest of the crop and turn it around for South Africa?
Gladly, I’m no punter and you don’t need to put up with wild hunches.
Faf du Plessis T20 stats v prominent teams