Following cricket around the world in the '90s and early '00s, before 'better internet', was often enjoyed with the same media contingent that fed the news, view, scores, and more back home. As such, tour after tour, equally as enjoyable as the cricket was meeting the journos again, especially when 'dinner and/or drinks' was often paid for by Rupert Murdoch (don't tell him)!
Getting together with these familiar faces from home on foreign soil not only meant time well spent at a bar, but being invited to join special events outside the cricket such as going to the Khyber Pass in Pakistan in 1998, or being selected to play for the Australian Media Team as they took on their host opposition contingent.
Not wanting to miss a rare opportunity to play on a Test cricket ground, on the fine Thursday morning after the tied ODI between Australia and South Africa in Potchefstroom, the Trans-Indian battle continued after South Africa Media defeated Australia Media in Johannesburg two weeks earlier. This time Australia media was captained by Malcolm Conn (Connman), with South Africa captained by Fergus Ryan (Fergus)!
PHOTOS: All Photos Are Of The Jo'burg Match As All Photos From Potch Were Lost On Someone Else's Phone! :(
Overshadowing the glory of being selected to play, Darren (Moulds) and myself were sadly relegated to 12th & 13th man duties, which included running drinks to our unfit batsmen every 2 overs, instructing the scoreboard to correct their mistakes, answering mobile phones, taking interviews, relaying team tactics, and, shamefully, fielding for South Africa after one of their lads twisted a heart muscle disguised as a rolled ankle!
After South Africa won the toss and elected to bowl, our opening pair of Connman and Rob was dazzling from the outset with a vast array of shots to all parts of this amazing Test Venue in South Africa’s North West Province, putting on a delightful 50 before Rob was bowled for 25. Connman followed soon after for 38, caught at mid-wicket. In a spirited display, the locals took two more quick wickets; the tragic run-out of Channel 9’s big-hitting left-hander Andrew McKinley for 12 and Michael Crutcher, 6, who spooned a dolly to mid-wicket.
Werner Wilkins and Matt Brown steadied the ship with a solid 30 before Werner’s castle was rocked on 15. It was Geoff Bullock’s turn to justify his selection and never did so, making an arsey 12 before he too heard the death rattle. Trevor Marshallsee joined Browny to crack a superb 40 partnership before grave indecision saw Brown (29) stroll off for a shower after a very inconclusive run-out. Fergus first dropped Browny only to flick the throw to the keeper Greg White who removed the bails quick smart. Without the use of 3rd umpire, Browny, desperate for non-existent single, was on his way!
Peter Roebuck (late) sashayed to the crease and with Trevor, the Sydney Morning Herald boys put Australia on course for a competitive 200+ just as Trev was bowled for a well-fought 24. Johnny Come-Lately (5) came in late but with Roebuck (29) pushed the total to 204 after 35-overs. Fergus excelled with 3-wickets while Gerald de Koek with 2 was the best South Africa could present!
After a quick pep talk by Connman, our boys went in search of early wickets, and Trevor didn’t let the side down taking a wicket in his first over! Australia’s nemesis of Fergus Ryan came to the wicket and sent our lads chasing leather by carving a decisive 50 before obligatory retirement. Following his departure, South Africa went to water as quick a snowflake in summer! After a superb run-out by keeper Rob Stewart, and Geoff snaring the #11 LBW first ball, the game was over with Australia winning in a cake-walk by 40.
The post-game celebrations were at nearby Syringa Hotel where presentations and braai (BBQ) were forthcoming. Potcheftroom’s Mayor Roopa was the official guest presenting both teams with gifts, the Australian side accepting a wooden spoon that obviously means something different in South Africa to what it means to Australian sports lovers. Connman returning the gesture by presenting Mayor Roopa with a 'Waving The Flag' shirt and cap, before both sides enjoyed a long night consuming beer, wine, and a variety of grilled local fauna, as Mayor Roopa announced another match next year as a prelude to the World Cup.
Both sides were impressed with the day so much so that all intend to show up next year even without media selection, if need be! While the media series scratch score was 1-1 Connman came up with the valid point that an away win is worth 2-points, leaving Australia with an unbeatable 2-1 aggregate victory!
To Connman and all the boys, congratulations on the win and for inviting Darren and myself to partake, creating yet another unforgettable touring memory. We look forward to seeing you all again next year when we hope to make it into the playing 11! To Potchefstroom City Council, thank you for your generous sponsorship of a very entertaining match from all the players, Darren and Myself!