The sign outside the Forresters Arms at around 9am on Sunday morning read: “Opening 8:00 Sunday for the group in baggies to toast the firemen. Welcome.” And welcome I certainly did feel as I lugged my bike into the bar and ordered a welcome beer from a barman who had a welcoming smile.
I had done 37km of the revised Cape Town Cycle Tour route of 47km, and had arranged to meet up with mates at Forries for a Cycle Tour Beer Run. Some had already sped past the turn off to Forries in their rush to get back to the superb Tsogo Sun hospitality tent at the end of the race (no names to be mentioned, but Jan Braai was back in time to have a breakfast of an medium rare fillet steak on an English muffin), while others may just have forgotten. The owner of Forries had opened early as a special favour to all thirsty Cycle Tour tourists after friends who knew friends who knew someone who knew the owner had passed on our request.
When a tree explodes in a fire, it makes a popping noise that is softer on the ear than you might expect, but heavy on the nerves. When a pine tree, thick with gum and hand grenade cones burns fast, it shoots a flame metres into the air as it is consumed in less than a minute.
On Tuesday, at a welcoming function for the media at the Cape Town Cycle Tour at Klein Constantia, we stood by a dam and watched as the boundary of the farm was threatened by the fires that scorched the peninsula.Wild fire jumps and moves at frightening speed, seeking to sate its hunger. It is a living, growing thing, a beast that takes on personality and character.
I began my training for the Cape Town Cycle Tour yesterday morning. This column has been written the night before the Cape Town Cycle Tour MTB Challenge just in case it all goes wrong and I end up a wreck, towed away by a wine farmer by a tractor and placed on a truck heading to hospital with the words “abnormal load” on the back and front.
Since completing the Coronation Double Century in November, I have ridden, in total, including fun rides, bangs along the Spruit through the spine of Joburg, roams out on the roads of the wild East Rand, jaunts to the cradle, taking away the two, adding one and rounding it off, zero kilometres. That’s none. The bikes in my garage have not moved an inch, save for the odd spin of the wheels on the MTB because someone once told me I need to keep the goo in the tubeless moving now and then to make sure it doesn’t harden into a brick.
The Afghanistan fans were, in the words of one commentator, making an “audible noise” yesterday. There’s nothing like a touch of audibility to give a noise job satisfaction.
The noise of Afghanistan’s victory over Scotland yesterday made a noise that will be heard around the world of cricket for some time to come. Or, at least until the next World Cup when Afghanistan will find it much more difficult to qualify because of another ICC change.
On November 10 last year, the ICC decided the number of the teams for the 2019 World Cup will be cut to 10 from the current 14. There will be one huge pool group, with the top four going through to the semfinals. The tournament will remain the same, excruciating length. It’s all about TV money, about having the best teams play the other, with 48 games over 47 days. The 2015 World Cup will see 49 matches over 44 days. It feels like a lifetime.
This will mean little room for Ireland, who have upset England and the West Indies in consecutive World Cups and even less for Afghanistan, a team I have tried to resist calling “brave”, as that implies they are here to make up numbers as no hopers. On yesterday’s showing, they are full of hope and pride. The sight of Shapoor Zadran running, screaming and then collapsing to his knees and then prostrate on the Dunedin turf after he scored the winning boundary was one of the great sights of this World Cup.
Andy Moles, the coach of Afghanistan, played and coached Griqualand West before moving on to Kenya and then Scotland, who he coached to victory in the ICC Trophy. Now he has helped the Afghans beat his former charges in the most dramatic way. His life in Kabul is a little different than it was in Kimberley, although some might say not.
“Sometimes you hear a boom go off somewhere when coaching in the middle,” he told The Cricket Monthly in January. “You see Black Hawk helicopters flying over the ground, going on missions and coming back. Like coaching in a war movie. Actually it is a very surreal situation because I don’t feel threatened. I don’t feel scared when leaving for work in the morning.”
Sidharth Monga, who wrote the feature for The Cricket Monthly, noted: “Batting (in Afghanistan) is mostly about swinging as hard as possible. However, the bowlers are all fast. With clean actions.
They are all naturally strong. I wonder if, like the many small, unheard-of places in Pakistan, one of these towns will give cricket its next great fast bowler.”
We may never know. We may not get to see them in four years’ time, to witness how they have come on, this nation torn apart by war and politics, and barely sticking together. Cricket has given them some small joy.
They have made an audible noise and we have heard them.