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Back troubles and batting masterclasses

Not a great week for myself, being ruled out of the rest of the Momentum one-day series against Pakistan and the first four weeks of the Indian Premier League due to this persistent back injury I’ve had for some time now.

I just can’t go on playing through the pain. The national team's medical staff gave me the advice to rest up and sort it out, so that I don’t do any more damage to it and so that I’m ready for the Champions Trophy later in the year. I’ve worked hard to get where I am, and I didn’t want to take six or seven weeks off, but it really is the best thing for me.

I’ve actually been struggling with my back for a couple of years now. Just to give you an indication of how much of a problem it’s been for me, I’ve basically had physio or a rub-down every day for the past year or so. I’ve also been ingesting anti-inflammatory pills as if they were smarties! Not the smartest move and not something you can keep doing for a prolonged period.

Now the focus is on resting and using every tool to get the back right. That includes spending time in an oxygen chamber three or four times a week. What happens is that I lie there for about two hours and they pump about 90% oxygen into the chamber, and it speeds up the rehabilitation process. On top of that, I’ve got a couple of strengthening sessions a week to get the supporting muscles up to where they should be.

Enough with the back now, let’s talk about that game last Sunday. Without getting carried away, I can honestly say that the batting of AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla was some of the best I have ever seen up close. All of us sat in the dressing room at Bidvest Wanderers and were in awe of what those two guys achieved. It wasn’t an easy wicket to bat on in the morning, but those two guys made it seem like a cake walk. It was actually tough sitting there for so long, and I knew that matching their performances would be difficult. So, I just concentrated on sticking to my game plan, going hard at the bowlers and fortunately that resulted in me getting some quick runs.

The wicket was easier to bat on in the afternoon, but Shahid Afridi still played a great knock, hitting the ball further than I’ve seen for a long time. In fact, the six he hit off Ryan McLaren is easily the biggest six I’ve ever seen. I was standing at long-on and that ball looked like it had a rocket on the end of it! We can laugh about it now, but at the time it was quite serious, as we were in danger of losing the game. There was a bit of ribbing in the change room afterwards, led by the main joker, fitness coach Rob Walter, and I contributed a bit as well along with Morne Morkel, but Ryan took it in good spirits, saying that was definitely the biggest six he’s ever been hit for.

The chat from AB before the Pakistan innings focused on it being a good deck to bat on, so we knew that even though we had made over 300, we still had to go hard at the Pakistani batsmen, as that is our strategy all the time, to be aggressive and try and take wickets. That involves using the short ball well, as well as being aggressive in the field.

Now I’m leading the life of a ‘normal’ person, spending time at home and just focusing on getting my back right. No cricket, so I’m around more, and Imari is cashing in by getting me to accompany her to a wedding this weekend.

Will report back on the back next week.

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