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Warm-up flop a good reminder

It’s been a bit of a whirlwind travel-wise with the last week or so made up of a trip from India to Amsterdam to England, and now I find myself in Cardiff ahead of our opening ICC Champions Trophy game against India.

It was great arriving in Amsterdam to join the guys for the pre-tournament stuff, which included a game against the national side.

I had been to Amsterdam before and I just like the vibe there. They don’t speak much English, but us Afrikaans-speaking guys find it okay, because of the similarities between Dutch and Afrikaans.

It was also an opportunity to cash in on being in Europe, and a couple of us who are more ‘fashion’ inclined took to the streets to do some shopping and stock our wardrobes!

Dale decided to enlist my help, as he regards me as someone who knows a bit about fashion, but I told him I don’t get out of bed for less than €200 a day!

Not a problem, as I took him shopping and tried to find some things that suit his personality. Dale is a bit of a rocker/bad boy surfer – he likes bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers – so I managed to find a few outfits that suited that. Not an easy task!

I had missed most of the team-building, like the cycling around Amsterdam, the canoeing and the running, so when I got there it was just fitness and preparation for the warm-up game.

If I’m honest, I was a little nervous as I hadn’t played a game in ages even though I kept myself fit in India and spent time strengthening the back.

There’s just no substitute for match practice and I was chuffed to get some runs against the Netherlands.

It just felt like I hit the ball so nicely and that bodes well for the weeks ahead, even though it didn’t go so well against Pakistan in our final warm-up game. I was also happy that the back held up.

That Pakistan game was a big disappointment for us, even though it was only a warm-up game. We want to win every game we play for South Africa, so it was a big let-down, particularly as it was a poor performance by the batting unit.

Just the day before I spoke to coach Gary Kirsten at practice and told him how well the batting unit was hitting the ball. 24 hours later, I felt like I had put the commentator’s curse on my teammates!

Even though the result was not what we wanted, we took a lot out of the game against Pakistan. It was a reminder that the English conditions are quite unique, particularly the games that start late morning.

The ball goes around a bit, and it’s a bit like a test match, where the bowlers have the upper hand at the start, with the swinging conditions. That’s something we’ll have to bear in mind, and during the first 10 to 15 overs we’ll have to be a bit cautious.

It was great flying into London, as it’s one of my favourite cities in the world. I immediately took five guys off to one of Jamie Oliver’s restaurants.

I’m a big fan of his and I consider myself a bit of a ‘foodie’ as well. So, it was great to expose my teammates to one of his places. The food was outstanding.

That was all the off-field action we saw in London, and we were soon on a bus to Cardiff, which is a four-hour journey.

I quite enjoy the bus trips here, as it’s an opportunity to just relax, watch movies and gather my thoughts, whereas an airport trip has a lot more to it.

I’m hoping we earn the right to go back to London for one of the semifinals, with the other one taking place in Cardiff, and the final at Edgbaston in Birmingham.

Right now, the focus is on hitting our straps from the start as it’s a short tournament where one bad performance can see you eliminated.

India are first up, with their strong batting line-up, and then it’s Pakistan, who I think are one of the sides to watch. They’ve got a really good bowling attack, good seamers and spinners and their batters are dangerous as well.

You know, we’ve got a bit of everything and, if we play well, I expect us to go far. But every team has a chance and I think it’s one of the most open tournaments in some time.

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