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A special time on and off the field

What a special test victory over Pakistan! And what a great time to be involved with this South African test team. I feel very privileged. What has impressed me about my teammates is that they are number one in the world, yet they are still putting in incredible performances.

I’ve already used the word ‘special’, but that’s what the week really was, starting with all the celebrations around Graeme’s 100th test as captain. We all felt quite honoured to be playing under a guy who became the first man in history to captain in 100 test matches.

A couple of nights before the game we all went round to Rob Fleming’s place in Johannesburg. Rob is one of the main guys with SAB Miller, one of our top sponsors, so it was great of him to have us round for a braai, which was very chilled. Graeme is actually mates with the guys from Prime Circle, the South African rock band, and they came along and played a couple of songs for us with just a guitar and microphone, which was really awesome.

Then came the game, and I thought Graeme took a really difficult and selfless decision to bat first, particularly as he knew that he would bear the brunt of the new ball on a tricky surface. He didn’t try and protect himself by bowling first, and that says a lot about him as a captain, as he always leads from the front. He also saw a couple of cracks in the surface and the feeling was that we didn’t want to bat last, facing up to their spinners.

I thought the opening stand between Graeme and Alviro was really impressive in very tough conditions. It was then nice for the two Affies boys – AB and myself – to put a partnership together, and it was crucial, because we needed something to bowl at. We always knew our bowlers would do the job, and it’s always a case of us just making sure we put the runs on the board, because we’ve got the bowling attack to follow that up.

I’m going to use that word ‘special’ again, because that’s what sums up Dale Steyn’s performance in the first innings. All of us batters always say that we’re very lucky that he’s in our team and we don’t have to face him in a game! You know, facing up to that bowling, at pace, with the ball swinging late, is just the most difficult thing, and I’m not surprised the Pakistan batters struggled. Dale has proved once again that he is well and truly the best in the world, and when he bowls like that, he’s just about unplayable.

Our seam attack in general is just so nicely balanced at the moment – you’ve got pace and swing with Dale, accuracy and seam movement with Vernon, and pace and bounce with Morne. For us, it’s the perfect balance and a real handful for our opponents.

What was a nice break from the cricket was the Red Hot Chili Peppers concert on the evening of the second day of the test. About half of us went and we had great seats in a box, although it looked like lots of fun down there in the golden circle. They’re probably not in my top five bands of all time, but I enjoyed seeing them live and they really put on a show. One man who enjoyed it more than me was Dale – he’s probably the biggest Chili Peppers fan in our team and I think he even flew down to Cape Town to see them again after the test! He had great plans to be in the golden circle or in the mosh pit, feeling the vibe! We actually left the concert about half an hour before the end, avoided the traffic and got back to the hotel in good time for a good night’s rest.

I’m now enjoying a couple of days off, before we head off on AB’s bachelor weekend. Fortunately, there are a couple of days after that before we reassemble for the Cape Town test. We then got a good couple of days to put in some hard work, because we want to make sure we’re prepared for Pakistan, who we still think are a good team. We definitely won’t be taking them lightly.

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