Most memorable and special day in my career
Greetings from an Adelaide hotel room and a rather exhausted cricketer. It’s nearly midnight on the final day of the second test against Australia and just a few hours ago we secured an unlikely draw to keep our hopes of winning the series alive.
Right now I feel like I’ve just woken up at 3am with the worst-ever case of jet lag! The body is incredibly sore and I’m just so tired. But nearly eight hours of batting, facing nearly 400 balls in the most intense test-match conditions will do that to you!
I’ve had a few hours to reflect on what happened today, and to play a major part in helping my team secure a draw from a hopeless situation is just a dream come true. Quite simply, it’s difficult to put into words how I feel.
To make my test debut against Australia was first of all a great honour, and to then score some runs – 78 – in the first innings was fantastic.
As a boy, my childhood dream was always to score hundreds for South Africa in test cricket. To then get the opportunity to do that in the second innings was very special.
What makes it even more special, is the fact that I was able to play some part in changing the outcome of the game for the better, because it wouldn’t have been remotely special if we had lost. It’s just a humbling feeling and a dream come true.
It’s definitely the longest I’ve ever batted and the only way I was able to do that was by breaking it down into sections. I went into bat late on day four and, at that stage, it seemed like I would have to bat for the better part of eight hours if we were to save the game.
Once we got through day four, AB and I set our sights on getting to lunch on day five. But, when AB got out after lunch it was a big blow and I suddenly felt less resilient.
I struggled for about 20 minutes after that, but fortunately Jacques Kallis came in and settled quickly. Then I got the same feeling when he was out after tea. The Aussies were back in the game and their tails were up. But our bowlers did a fantastic job with the bat and we got through.
My game plan was simple – I wanted to be as straight with the bat as possible, because there was some reverse-swing and I didn’t want to be playing around my pad. Also, to leave anything outside the stumps and if it was short, to play the pull shot. Luckily for me that worked out, as did a couple of DRS decisions.
As you can imagine, the Aussies were pretty verbal the entire day -- from the moment we got out there. They just kept coming and coming at us and the longer we held on, the harder they came at us as they were getting desperate. I definitely think they thought the game would be over by lunchtime.
I actually got quite emotional the closer I got to a hundred. I didn’t think about it much until I got to 94 and then it hit me. I’ve always dreamed of getting a test hundred for South Africa and especially against Australia. I tried not to think about it, but it was difficult and I think I had goose bumps for about 15 minutes.
You spend your whole career thinking about how you will react if and when it happens. But when I got to a hundred, I actually didn’t really know how to celebrate and that was why it probably looked quite low-key. Also, I knew that there was still a lot of hard work to be done.
Coming off the field and into the change room was one of the most special moments in my career. To have some of the greats of South African cricket, like Kirsten, Smith, Kallis, De Villiers and Amla, coming up to me and telling me that my knock was one of the best they’ve ever seen was just amazing and humbling. I was shocked, exhausted and felt like I couldn’t stand.
We stayed at the ground and I had quite a bit of press to do. But after that we headed back to the hotel and into the team room where we just had a couple of drinks and some really good chats among ourselves.
It was a draining five days for all of us, but those few moments really did cap the most memorable and special day in my cricket career.
Now we’ve got a couple of days to rest before getting up and doing it again in Perth. Don’t worry, we’ll be rested and ready for that all-important third test………even though right now I feel like I need a month’s rest!