JOHANNESBURG – Runs, wickets, runs. And more wickets. The chief curator at the Bullring, Chris Scott, has created a dish that has been given a Michelin star by a bowler and a batsman from each side.
It’s an acquired taste, this balanced-wicket stuff. Bowlers want pace, batsmen don’t mind it. Bowlers love bounce, and batsmen shrug – as long as it’s consistent.
So, when Mohammad Amir and Aiden Markram concurred that the Wanderers offering was a goodie, Scott and his army of assistants would have breathed a sigh of relief.
“If I put my batter’s hat on,” Markram explained, “then that was a good wicket.
“Not that the others were bad,” he added.
The opener then admitted he and the other run-getters would have to get used to a diet of testing pitches, because the Proteas would be silly not to cater to the needs of a gluttonous pace battery.
Amir, smiling at a fine day’s work by the bowling unit, noted that there was something in the wicket for everyone.
Pakistan just didn’t bowl well enough in the first session, and they were met with the unerring blade of Master Markram.
“He is very good through the covers,” Amir observed.
The several thousand in the ground would certainly agree.
This scribe spent the first session in the lower tier of the Corlett Drive grandstand. Thus, the acoustics were amplified for the pop-up concert the South African opener strummed until just after lunch.
It’s a different sound off his bat – one perhaps heard only from the blade of one Abraham Benjamin de Villiers in recent times.
The leather pings off the middle, and scoots to the boundary in an airy sequence of delicious violence.
“No, I’ve not felt better out in the middle for South Africa,” Markram agreed when asked.
He is one of those batsmen who always looks good at the crease, even when he only contributes a brisk 20. On Friday, however, he went all the way to 90, and looked destined for a lot more.
“We changed our plans after lunch, and went wicket to wicket to him,” Amir explained.
There was a collective groan down Corlett way, because the beers from young Ntsiki had been poured cold and quickly, in anticipation of the landmark.
The Wanderers giveth and it taketh away, though. As Markram trudged off, others came to show the future of South African cricket is here now.
Zubayr Hamza had his jovial family in the Long Room, as he became the 100th Proteas Test cricketer since readmission.
As he went through the teens and 30s, there was collective wonder if he would mark the occasion with a ton of his own.
Alas, he nicked one that was too close, and he contented himself with a colourful cameo, rather than the full Rembrandt. We will surely see a lot more of the confident, little Cape Cobra again.
As the shadows lengthened, and Pakistan’s resolve strengthened, there was a scrap upon our eyes.
STUMPS:— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) January 11, 2019
Day 1 ends with Pakistan on 17/2 and trailing by 255 runs. Proteas closed on a high with @VDP_24 taking two consecutive wickets in an over to finish with figures of:
2 wickets#ProteaFire 🔥🔥#SAvPAK 🇿🇦🇵🇰 pic.twitter.com/utrx81gMKe
Tell that to the gaggle of students who jigged along to the band on the benches, oblivious to the Proteas collapse from 229/3 to 262 all out.
Or the Kent Park Taverners, whose staying power was tested by a 7am breakfast date with one Mickey Arthur – and then a full day of cricket and plonk in the sun!
It was a day with a little bit in it for everyone.
And, for the thousands who do pull in today, they will find that Chef Scott has prepared a feast that caters for most tastes.@whamzam17