On Tour Down Under: Broken Finger, Mended Hearts

I’ve had it up to here with time changes, airports, and living out of my suitcase. One can almost forgive me for feeling more confused than a chameleon on a technicolour rug! However, I was there, witnessing history, when the Proteas claimed their first series win on Australian soil. Ever. All the money I’ve spent and the sacrifices I’ve made were justified (my girlfriend will disagree…).

So to Sydney, for the final Test Match. A Proteas’ victory would mean an unprecedented (and let’s be honest, unexpected) series whitewash, and a world #1 ranking to boot. Another loss for a beleaguered Ricky Ponting and his team, already copping huge flak from the Australian public, would be catastrophic. Anyone who thought the SCG Test would be an anti-climax should have a lobotomy.

The crowd support was terrific all 5 days. Everyone pitched in to support Glenn and his late wife Jane’s McGrath Breast Cancer Foundation, not only financially, but by wearing pink. Even the stumps were pink, and some of the players used pink bat handles! We also tied all our pink bandana’s together and made a chain right around the ground!

A touch gloomy: opening day at the SCG

As usual, the drunken element had the Fun Police (the ironic term for Security, who like to spoil it!) working overtime, as they confiscated and put a knife through many a beach ball. The players, however, ignored rules and returned to the crowd any stray ones that found their way onto the outfield, and were vociferously hailed! The drinking laws were so strict that you couldn’t wear sunglasses at the bar, even at 11am! And many kids were prevented by guards from obtaining autographs, which was ridiculous. The smiles on their faces when meeting their heroes were brilliant, and to curb that enjoyment was ridiculous. No wonder the Aussies are now (almost) number 2!

The last day dragged, but ended in dramatic fashion. The Aussies struggled to finish our fighting team off, and the frustration was tangible. The crowd booed them for dropping catches or not bowling on the stumps! All eyes were on our changeroom to see whether Graeme Smith would bat at number 11 with a broken finger and tennis elbow!

One could sense the disbelief when he marched down the stairs onto the ground, bat in hand. It was gripping stuff and a fitting way to end a fantastic series, even though we marginally ended up losing the game.

Captain Graeme Smith, batting with a broken finger, gets bowled to end the Test

My Australian adventure is now over. I’ve met some insanely devoted cricket fans, got lots of abuse hurled at me for waving my SA flag, and seen some amazing cricket. I’m immensely proud of our team, and with huge sadness, I depart these fine shores.

Read part 1, part 2 and part 3.

This article originally appeared on The South African in 2009.

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