Protea bowler Kagiso Rabada celebrates with teammates after taking the wicket of Rohit Sharma of India during the first test against India at Newlands. Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix
It was terrific, wasn’t it?

Balls zipping past ears and nudging elbows, kissing the edge and generally holding sway over the much hallowed willow.

That proud seam hurtling towards off-stump and similarly delicious places, and then darting away as if remote-controlled, like a missile of mass amusement.

That is cricket, as it was supposed to be played. The neutral would far sooner have 250 and 200 all out plays 210 and 180 all out, rather than the one-sided Steve Smith Show masquerading as the greatest rivalry in the game.

Better a contest between bat and ball, where both can hold sway.

But, the ball before the bat.

Runs were never meant to be a case of planting an arrogant foot down the wicket and bunting it to hell and gone.

Runs are precious things, made easier by concentration, quiet accumulation and then, eventually, the certainty of knowing that you’ve ground away to the point where the paint is off the cherry, and you have seen off the best of the bowling.

Then, well, then the stage is yours to fill your boots.

Somewhere, in all the fireworks and froth over T20 cricket and its docile pitches that reduce the eternal toilers of the game, the seam bowlers - be they fast or simply blessed with a wrist that can make leather talk dirty from 22 yards - to nothing more than machines, things that fling gifts for batsmen to plunder.

Cricket, especially the stuff in coloured clothing, can sometimes demoralise bowlers to the point that it stops being fun.

We celebrate the 438 game and its hype, because just about every batsman who came in made merry.

Heck, even Roger Telemachus waltzed out, chipped a few sixes for the cause, and then let the next man come in.

Not one bowler enjoyed that day, did they? It was a leathery massacre, all in the name of entertainment.

The ropes were in, the grass was cut like a bowling green, and the pitch was so brilliantly flat and sandy white you could have mistaken it for Clifton beach.

Play that DVD for a kid, and then try and put forth an argument for them to grow up and become a bowler, rather than a swashbuckling batsmen. Fat chance!

You might as well try to convince them that broccoli is a delicacy.

It is for that reason that Test matches like last week’s in Cape Town are vital for the health of the game. Scenes like those under the mountain remind youngsters that bowling can be cool, too.

It can be the star ingredient, the main attraction. Day four at Newlands was beautiful chaos, but it wasn’t skewed unfairly in the favour of the leather-flingers.

Sure, Mother Nature added a sprinkle of moisture to the surface under covers, but there were runs to be had for those who exercised the due diligence.

Certainly, there were no complaints about dodgy pitches from both sides. Virat Kohli loved it, and Faf du Plessis surely did.

The crowd loved it, the neutral watching on telly around the world loved it.

And, more important than all the others, Messrs Philander, Rabada, Morkel, Steyn, Shami, Kumar, Bumrah and Pandya all loved it, too.

They stole the plaudits, when we were all banking on De Villiers or Kohli to make merry. Their days will come, of course, but Test cricket is at its intriguing best when it veers off the script, and writes its own endings.

The batsmen that we lavish with praise and riches would be mere mortals if they were not being thoroughly tested by the skill, nerve and probing sincerity that comes from 22 yards away.

Long live the leather flingers - and the groundsmen that leave just enough encouragement on the surface to keep them coming back for more.

May Newlands not be the last we see of them this blockbuster summer.

Weekend Argus

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