South Africa 322/4
As we departed the hotel for Headingley yesterday morning, we were met by a shower of rain. Regardless, I ventured out in a t-shirt, shorts and sandals (and an umbrella), while DC was more stoutly dressed in a raincoat and long trousers. On seeing the rain, he produced, like some Scottish Presbyterian conjuror, a pair of waterproof trousers from his bag and straightaway put them on. I attempted to dissuade him with hoots of derision, but he was not to be put off, and away we went.
DC and I worked our way through the Daily Telegraph crossword in the morning session, while Nasty Jen, according to text updates from a mutual friend, was working her way through a tentful (she later claimed it was more like a marquee) of Aussie men in St Andrews. The mind boggles.
DC disappeared off to the bookies at tea, to “catch up on the golf”, and Wiseman went off to the toilet, although curiously he came back clutching a burger. On their return, I wandered round to the back of the West Stand, and found a purveyor of waffles. I stood in the gap between the Main Stand and the West Stand for a bit, watching the cricket. The sun was on my back, the chocolate-coated waffle was delicious, and the only thing disturbing the serenity was the semi-riot taking place amongst the denizens of the West Stand. This particular stand, going back to its days as the Western Terrace, has a long history of boisterous crowd behaviour, with a penchant for throwing beach balls around (a banned activity), stacking hundreds of plastic beer glasses together horizontally (another banned activity) and passing the resulting snake around the crowd, cheering wildly as it becomes longer and especially when it evades the clutches of the stewards. Roddy, an ex-Holy Cross wicket-keeping team-mate, was sitting in the West Stand today. I texted him before tea offering to buy him a pint. We had managed to catch up at the tea-break on Day 1, but yesterday I fear he was too busy forming beer-glass-snakes and baiting the stewards and police to hear his mobile phone. He was always so well-behaved behind the stumps as well.
I finished my waffle, got myself a cup of tea, and stood in the sun again, watching England vainly trying to prise out another South African batsman. It wasn’t to be – only one wicket fell all day, and even that was a bad decision. England’s lack of bowling penetration in this Test is worrying, particularly as Flintoff, the Great White Hope, has returned. Flintoff, while bowling well, has not made the batsmen play enough, and has been unable to generate enough pace or hostility to get them out. Lack of swing has been a serious problem, which has rendered Pattinson, the new boy, ineffective, as it might have Hoggard, or even Sidebottom, if they had been playing.
Back in my seat, I thought it had started raining, but in fact it was a chap in the upper tier of the stand, returning from the bar with four full pints. He must have been a little unsteady on his feet, as a fair proportion of the beer was tipped over the edge of the tier onto our heads below. DC’s dignity was protected by his substantial wet weather armour, and I regret to say he adopted an air of superiority as a result.
It eventually did start raining, although long after it was forecast to, and with the close of play imminent anyway, DC fished out the waterproof trousers and we trudged back to the hotel. After the requisite afternoon nap for one of the party, we headed into Leeds for some food, and after a short search, landed in a place called Tampopo, serving a variety dishes from across Asia. It’s a chain, I later determined, but not one that’s made it as far north as Edinburgh, and since none of us had eaten there before, it didn’t count as a chain. Wiseman had an unpronounceable meal from Vietnam.
“Is it hot?” enquired DC.
“No” said Wiseman, shaking his head, and then promptly bit into a red chilli.
We retired to the hotel satisfied by a great meal and a good weekend all round. England are sinking fast in the Test, much to DC’s delight. Wiseman was reasonably content, having remembered his radio on Day 2, and in any case the bars were open on both days. The Trip to the Test can therefore be considered a success for both my companions. I was pleased to see plenty of action (and controversy) on the first day, and generally had fun watching cricket with my mates again, rather than on my own, as I had done (mostly) last time around in Australia. My presence at England matches, however, seems to have had a detrimental effect on their performance, if the last three examples are anything to go by.
Roll on Edgbaston. I promise to stay away.