40th over: South Africa 169-4 (Van der Dussen 28, Miller 12) “Squeeze here!” shouts Williamson as Santner returns, and squeeze he does, a single forced down the ground by Miller the first run from the over, from its fifth ball. Van der Dussen then pushes to mid off, and that’s yer lot. That was a powerplay over, by the way, because this is a 49-over a side game, because, well you know the answer to that one and it’s not rain.
39th over: South Africa 166-4 (Van der Dussen 26, Miller 11) Boult returns and Van der Dussen whacks through cover, only for Munro to shark around the rope, dive, and save the four. New Zealand’s ground-fielding has been excellent today, and he’s at it again when Miller hits to midwicket.
38th over: South Africa 159-4 (Van der Dussen 22, Miller 8) Ferguson continues as commentary discusses the pitch not being such a belter after all – the groundsman told Mark Nicholas that it’s the hardest he’s ever had to prepare, given the presence of rain and absence of sun, a pin-sharp metaphor for the state of things round this way. Two singles and a wide from the over, and where, exactly, is this going? Maybe someone will play a shot once they’ve seen the shine off.
37th over: South Africa 156-4 (Van der Dussen 21, Miller 8) De Grandhomme panels in for the last over of what’s been an excellent spell; Miller gets under him to loft over mid off, but Henry runs it down and they run three. Four singles follow and that’s a bit better, but 156-4 is at this stage is very curious. Someone needs to tell Van der Dussen that the ball cussed his mum down; De Grandhomme finishes with 1-33 off his 10.
36th over: South Africa 149-4 (Van der Dussen 19, Miller 2) We’re shown some rough on the pitch that might appeal to Imran Tahir and repel New Zealand’s lefties, but South Africa have a lot of work to do to make it even halfway relevant. In the meantime, Ferguson stomps in as pace and the batsmen can find only singles, a ball with extra bounce caressing Miller’s back arm a right sair yin. Welcome to the match, old mate!
35th over: South Africa 145-4 (Van der Dussen 17, Miller 1) De Grandhomme continues and concedes five. The attack is on!
“We never played car cricket in Indian schools,” laments Kanishk Srinivasan, but book cricket was quite the popular sport. We’d flip the pages of our Chemistry/Physics/other seemingly irrelevant subjects textbooks and stop at a random page and add the numbers to create monstrous scores. Wickets fell if the last digit of the page number was zero. All done under the negligent eye of our teachers who weren’t bothered enough to see what the backbenchers in a class of 50+ students were up to. Needless to say, I had never found Science textbooks more useful until we discovered those games. Once in a while, the less clever kids were caught and after a fair number of warnings, were also given a day off from school to reflect on their sins, which they ended up using to come up with more interesting games and ways to avoid the attention of the more proactive teachers.”
34th over: South Africa 138-4 (Van der Dussen 12, Miller 1) Yet another quiet one, just three from it. Drinks, and someone should give the batsmen a livener. Which seamless segue leads us to…
“Are you still doing keys stories?” asks Tom Whitehead, “or has the mood moved on? During an evening of relentless refreshment with a cricketing pal, I once ended up with the keys to a certain Sports Bar in London’s West End, We arrived at the bar after closing time to find the place deserted, the front door ajar and the keys dangling in the lock. Gripped by a tipsy sense of public duty we let ourselves in to “keep an eye on the place in case anyone else let themselves in to cause trouble”. Naturally we took the opportunity to “see if the Ashes Test was on the telly” as England were down under at the time.
Of course we totally failed to work the fiendishly complicated multi-screen audio-visual system. We may not have even been on the right night to see any cricket anyway. We did manage to enjoy a couple of pints of cooking lager and a large dram (which we paid for of course) before we were unceremoniously scuffled out by the manager when we went looking for munchies in the kitchen and discovered him playing a rather serious-looking game of cards with the kitchen staff.”
This should be on the syllabus for any citizenship test.
33rd over: South Africa 135-4 (Van der Dussen 10, Miller 0) I wonder if Markram is quite ready for this. Perhaps he needs to establish himself in Tests, then move over to limited overs because as well as not finding the big shots, he wasn’t really keeping the scoreboard ticking.
WICKET! Markram c Munro b De Grandhomme 38 (South Africa 136-4)
South Africa are in shtuck! Markram swipes at one, slices, and Munro ambles in off the fence to take a simple enough catch. Hansom cab for the Proteas!
32nd over: South Africa 135-3 (Markram 38, Van der Dussen 8) Boult takes the ball, looking to avenge himself, except Markram flows him through the covers for four. He’s a lovely player and quickly goes again, flashing hard, but this time picking out the sweeper as they run one. Two singles and a wide follow and I know South Africa need to win this but they’re playing not to lose.
“Myself and three other fifth years were passing a lunch break in a deserted maths room,” reflexive pronouns Greg Phillips. “A passing science teacher (nicknamed Ming the Merciless, both for his ruthlessness and his resemblance to Max Von Sydow’s Ming in the incomparable Queen-soundtracked film from 1980) poked his head through the doorway and reminded us we were not supposed to be there. As he left, I raised my hand and extended my middle finger, tracking his imagined path on the other side of the wall. Then I looked back at the doorway, hand and finger still in the air, and there he was, having returned to make a follow-up point. I was so guilty, so caught, and so dead. After what seemed like forever but was probably two seconds, he shook his head sadly and left. Almost 30 years later, I am still mildly surprised I lived to share this anecdote.
31st over: South Africa 127-3 (Markram 33, Van der Dussen 6) De Grandhomme returns and Markram tries to get things moving, swiping to deep square, and running in off the fence, Boult, inexplicably, jumps into the catch, knocking the ball with his hand as a consequence before finding himself unable to regather because he’s in mid-air. Whoops. They run one, then add one more and two leg byes.
30th over: South Africa 123-3 (Markram 32, Van der Dussen 5) Santner tosses one up to Markram outside off, and he’s having no such thing, cleansing him through cover point for four. Van der Dussen then turns one away fine for two and that’s a bit better from South Africa. They used to say that you double the score at 30 to get an idea of what a team’ll get after 50 – there’s no way that’ll be enough here.
29th over: South Africa 115-3 (Markram 27, Van der Dussen 2) The pace of Lockie Ferguson is not really what you want when you’re a middle-order batsman looking to play yourself in but with runs needed quickly. But that’s what Rassie van der Dussen has got, and he quickly gets down the other end thanks to a leg bye. The batsmen then swap singles, and this is great for New Zealand.
“Should Chris Morris come in next with a brief to play a T20 innings,” asks Gary Naylor. “In that format, he strikes at 150+, so (say) 40 off 25 balls would transform this innings. As it is, he’ll come in at 8 either in a collapse or without time to make an impact. A wasted asset.”
Yes, South Africa are getting to that point – when the scorecard came up, I was looking at how they might rearrange to get things moving before they’re got moving, and that’s one way.
28th over: South Africa 112-3 (Markram 26, Van der Dussen 1) Van der Dussen gets off the mark with a single.
Drat and double drat.
WICKET! Amla b Santner 55 (South Africa 110-3)
Trouble for South Africa! Santner coaxes turn from a full one that pitches middle, as Amla looks to play a run-down; he misses and loses his off bail! That a really good ball – the bounce was what killed the batsman there.
28th over: South Africa 110-2 (Amla 55, Markram 25) Santner has 0-20 off five; this platform has gone up more slowly than Wembley Stadium.
27th over: South Africa 107-2 (Amla 55, Markram 22) Talking of sportsfolk’s phrase making, as we were, Mark Nicholas has just noted that Lockie Ferguson – who’s back on – “bowls a fast cricket ball”. NFL types never call the the ball “the ball”, it’s always “the football”; is this to somehow assert extra and specific importance via an official, formal title? Markram takes two into the off side, then Amla drops and runs. A wide and further single follow.
26th over: South Africa 102-2 (Amla 54, Markram 19) This is a belting spell from Santner, who’s just turned Markram into a cat. Sorry, I’m currently reading the Worst Witch series, which isn’t bad though not up there with Michael Hardcastle. Four singles off the over.
“A-level physics students had to be told that the circuit needed to be complete?” asks Tom Carver. “Perhaps the deputy had been on his way to have a quiet word with Mr Armstrong’s about his teaching ability.”
25th over: South Africa 98-2 (Amla 52, Markram 17) Amla is 45 from 73 here – that’s a lot of dots. Does he make sure he bats long; does he get going or get out? He takes two into the off side, then raises his fifty by flipping four past mid on … just. “At his best, he’s close to incomparable” says mark Nicholas. Is that possible? Can one be semi-comparable?
24th over: South Africa 91-2 (Amla 45, Markram 17) South Africa are “just letting Santner bowl” as they say. Amla takes one down the ground, then Markram pushes and Williamson dives, stops, rolls and throws … Santner isn’t quite behind the stumps, so has to drag it onto them and Markram gets home on the dive. He celebrates by clouting a half-volley for four, and South Africa are just tickling the gas.
23rd over: South Africa 84-2 (Amla 43, Markram 12) Simon Doull wants Latham up to the stumps, and then Markram comes down and takes one on the pads. “Any international keeper worth his salt would be at the stumps right now,” fumes yerman as they chap a leg-bye. Glorious. Five off the over.
22nd over: South Africa 79-2 (Amla 41, Markram 10) Four singles added to the total – this isn’t so intense now, and is dallying around the “one for the purists” territory. But we’re still set fair for a thriller.
“Peter Salmon’s pub based cricket game sounds like fun,” emailes Brian Withington. “I was wondering about the scarcity of scoring threes and discovered that in York there’s a pub near the Minster called the Three Legged Mare, known affectionately as the Wonkey Donkey. Presumably sighting the Fox and Hounds would cause heated debate about the size of the pack?”
Which brings us back to Rory Stewart. Mornington Crescent!
21st over: South Africa 75-2 (Amla 39, Markram 8) De Grandhomme tanks through another one, conceding just two. This is like the 1992 World Cup final.
“A-level physics,” says Smylers, “the teacher (Hi, Mr Armstrong) arrives to find some of my classmates connecting the 5000 volt (but very low current) power supply to the door handle. Naturally he admonishes them, pointing out that for somebody to get a shock they’d need to be completing a circuit by touching two separate objects. So we ‘casually’ position a trolley near the door, and send a pupil out the fire escape to go round to the main door and see whether somebody entering would naturally push the trolley with one hand while still touching the door handle with t’other. While he’s out, we connect black to the door handle and red to the trolley. Our tester’s about to reach the door when … the deputy head cuts in front of him. The circuit worked, but the unimpressed deputy head did ask the teacher to step outside for ‘a quiet word’.
Superb – A-level physics lads were lads.
20th over: South Africa 73-2 (Amla 38, Markram 7) Santner rustles through another over unmolested – who are South Africa going to go for? It’ll take a serious bowling performance to win this with 270ish.
19th over: South Africa 71-2 (Amla 37, Markram 5) De Grandhomme, who wrestles crocodiles in his spare time, barrels in and crumps Amla on the pad first up; they think about a review, but it was perhaps going down … no, hitting the top of leg so umpire’s call. Amla then nabs a single and that’s it for the over; it’s a bit Test-match, this – South Africa need to get a wriggle on if this pitch is as good as we’ve been told.
“I’m able to watch live cricket for the first time in a good decade. I’m sure this has been noted before, but Colin de Grandhomme is big chap, isn’t he? Are there any other appropriately named cricketers?”
There are some good ironically-named footballers – Melo, Bravo, Noble, and such…
18th over: South Africa 69-2 (Amla 36, Markram 5) Santner comes on for a tweak and they knock him about for three. I reckon South Africa will be looking for 300ish here.
17th over: South Africa 66-2 (Amla 34, Markram 4) They’re struggling to get De Grandhomme away, and after Amla adds one more, he finds the away movement to beat Markram outside off. That’s drinks.
16th over: South Africa 65-2 (Amla 33, Markram 4) Ferguson begins with a bouncer and really, it’s odd how few there’ve been given how quickly how soft the white ball gets. Amla snatches a single thereafter, before Markram gets away with a drive through cover . I’m not certain he got all of that, but the big stride and bat speed forced it to the fence anyroad.
“Your story about the prank by the teacher,” says Sean Cunningham, “reminded me of a time when I was a little distraught at school and took out my anger by writing a bad word on the bathroom mirror using soap; realising someone was in the stalls I scarpered. A minute later the head boy charged into the common room demanding everyone empty their pockets to see if anyone had the ‘chalk’ use to write the word; guess what I had in my pocket?”
Gray’s Sporting Almanac?
15th over: South Africa 60-2 (Amla 32, Markram 0) This, right here, might just be the match. If these two can’t build something, this innings could well struggle. De Grandhomme into the attack and induces one play and miss from Markram after Amla adds a single. He needs to make something substantial from here.
WICKET! Du Plessis b Ferguson 23 (South Africa 59-2)
Hit that! Ferguson sends down the first bumper of the innings, then flings down an absolute jazzer of a yorker, hissing, spitting, screeching and screaming past the bat and into off stump. That was a sensational delivery – you’d be pleased with it.