Harare – Downtown Harare may resemble the “Wild Wild West” on any given day during the week, with mini-bus taxis flooding the area from Chinhoyi Street, Mbuya Nehanda Street, Jason Moyo Avenue, Market Square though to Rezende Street creating a sense of mayhem.
But for a first-time visitor arriving in this embattled nation’s capital on a Sunday, this image is but a folk tale. Signs of a strained past are visibly evident, but the pace of the city comes to a screeching halt as the sounds of chirping birds and the laughter of children playing with their families in the gardens of Africa Unity Square opposite the renowned Meikels Hotel replaces the noise of the hooters.
So, if you were an adrenalin junkie heading to “The Sunshine City” in search of some action, the only place you were likely to find it is at the Harare Sports Club, where two of cricket’s heavyweights South Africa and Australia are going to slug it out over the next fortnight and a bit.
Host nation Zimbabwe are also involved in the tri-series, but even the most ardent of local supporters merely view their team as the necessary garnish accompanying the main course.
And it is not just the cricket-starved spectators in this area that are salivating at the prospect of these mouth-watering clashes, but also former Proteas fast-bowling legend Allan Donald.
“There are going to some really quality fast bowlers on show. We all saw in the last Test series how brutal it was, with (Australia’s) Mitchell Johnson the outstanding bowler in that series,” the South African team’s bowling coach said yesterday.
It may not quite be a Test series, but there is certainly no need for any firelighters required to ignite this triangular, as the tensions have been heightened by the fact that both teams are required to share the same hotel during this series. Donald doesn’t expect any breakfast brawls or food-fights over dinner, but could not hide the fact that his pace arsenal would definitely bend their backs just a little bit more when coming face-to-face with the World No1-ranked Aussies out on the park.
“There is no ill-feeling between the two teams, no nonsense, but it’s always tough cricket when these two teams meet. When you get off the park you know have left everything out there.
“And that’s the way we like to play our cricket, and as Michael Clarke said last night the rivalry between South Africa and Australia has always been fierce. It’s not everyday you get to see the finest fast bowlers in the world, so everybody will be looking to get in those first blows pretty early,” Donald explained.
Such is the anticipation that is building up it is almost a pity that two days still need to pass before the Proteas and Australia lock horns (on Wednesday) with Zimbabwe afforded the first crack at Clarke’s well-rested men today. It has been nearly four months since that epic Test series-decider in Cape Town, which was the last time the Australians were all together as a unit.
Although some of them have played in the Indian Premier League and during the recent ‘A’ series Down Under, South Africa could have benefited from facing a rather under-cooked Australian team, especially with Clarke battling with a hamstring injury that could force the skipper to sit on the sidelines today.
“There’s always that red flag that jumps out at you. When you have had such a long break, because you can practice all you want, the best way to get rid of those cobwebs is out in the middle,” Donald said before quickly making the point that “Australia will get a nice start against Zimbabwe where they will be to rid themselves of those cobwebs and all teams are so professional these days, they will know when to lock in.” - The Star