South Africa 1 Australia 1
It’s never quite as intense when you can’t smell the red and white face paint around your nostrils, but watching South Africa take on Australia at cricket is nearly always absorbing, even as a Englishman from afar. The current series is as magnetic as ever, thanks largely to the flailing failures (flailures? that should be a word) of the batsmen on either side.
Australian tribulations are particularly satisfying. Phil Hughes is the Great White Hope of the batting line-up and he isn’t that great. Although he is white to be fair to him. He’s also a human slip cradle. A Mardi Gras-style parade nearly broke out in Sydney when Usman Khawaja made a whole 37 on debut against England, such was the craving for a new talent to emerge. His average has since dipped to 32.5. Mitchell Johnson runs into bowl with the grace of a pantomime horse whose front portion has just farted into his partner’s face. He took 3 wickets at 85. All good fun.
But it is also strangely comforting to witness the Australians reveal their survival instincts and level the series at the Wanderers (obviously disregarding the pustular look of jubilation on Peter Siddle‘s face). Hughes and Khawaja made runs. Pat Cummins is a very fast bowler and he was born in 1993. I’m literally old enough to be his dad, although that would have required relations with a girl when I was 14, where I was actually just at home playing carpet bowls with myself on my parents’ landing. And even Mitch dusted himself down and made a poised 40 to win the game. In Perth last winter he seemed to strike a rhythm with the ball after showing it with the bat. Perhaps this will be the impetus for a five-fer in the deciding test.
The series is tantalisingly poised. It promises much. A famous showdown between two ferocious rivals.