This week, Cricket Australia confirmed the fixtures for the Proteas’ Test tour there in November.
At the bottom of the list was the third Test in Adelaide, with an asterisk next to it. To be confirmed. Under review. Ball firmly in South Africa’s court.
South Africa’s sense of adventure – on the cricket field, nogal – was wedged firmly between a rock and a hard place last week with an announcement that made it clear Cricket Australia are hell-bent on playing a second Test under lights, after last year’s spectacle against New Zealand made such a visual impression.
Never mind that a lot of players were uncomfortable with batting at twilight, and that picking up the pink ball was a bit of a problem.
Never mind that the contest was a whirlwind affair, gone in three days, with runs scored at a rate only bettered by wickets tumbling.
One must admit, it looked like a lot of fun, and the atmosphere smacked of novelty and celebration.
But, and this should be quite important, the quality of cricket on display was not quite up there with what Australia and New Zealand can serve up in “normal” Test conditions.
It was kamikaze cricket in a business suit, with the tie suitably loosened because it went beyond regular office hours. Call them party poopers, but South Africa’s Test cricketers are being especially nervy about jumping on to that party bus for the sake of it.
For one thing, Australia will already have the experience of last year to fall back on and, even then, some of their senior players are still not sold on the idea, even if Australia’s suits are already counting the dollars in their heads.
Secondly, South Africa are desperately trying to patch up their Test form and credibility, after their worst year in a decade.
They are at a particularly low ebb, and seemingly keen on going back to their familiar hallmarks of pride, patience and pace-heavy tactics.
Who would blame them for trying to find a more level playing field, after the grubby hand they were dealt in India?
Of course, there is already a swell of sentiment insisting that South African cricket must “get with the times” and shake off their notorious conservatism.
Those cajolers point to dwindling numbers in local stands, even while South Africa were ranked as the best team in the world.
They point to the future, and say the next generation of fans want to have their cake, eat it and have a beat in the background.
The thing is, the T20 format already provides plenty of that candy-floss cricket.
Besides, attendances in South Africa have never been relative to the product.
Newlands generally sells out, even when one of the minor nations are in town, and even when the Proteas were struggling.
There is a culture there that makes a spectacle of the entire occasion, much like Lord’s and the MCG do.
They will always flock to the mountain, because the cricket is a side-show to the social element.
They don’t need gimmicks to sweeten the deal.
To the traditional South African Test cricketer, the inaugural day-night Test offering may have appeared to be a minute steak, dressed up with plenty of elaborate side dishes.
Ultimately, a Saffer wants the steak to be the main event on the plate, and there is nothing wrong with that.
To each their own. If AB and company crave simple steak, after a year of exotic dishes, they shouldn’t have an asterisk placed on their choices.
– The Sunday Independent
To the traditional Saffer, the day-night Test offering is akin to a minute steak, dressed up with plenty of sides.
Original source: Twilight zone awaits AB and Co