Proteas in Sri Lanka, day 10

Nowhere else in the world would there have been a game of cricket after so much rain, but Colombo venues know what to expect at the start of Monsoon Season and they have been perfecting the art of squeezing games of cricket in to the rain breaks for many decades. 

The rain was so heavy five hours before the game that visibility was no more than 50 metres. There were flash-floods on the streets of the capital and torrents of mud on the sidewalks, where there were sidewalks. 

The least experienced members of the broadcast crew are the sub-contractors from Hawkeye who travel from the UK to perform their important function. They are almost always in their early 20s and far more versed in the ways of technology than the world. They were agog that we were even leaving the hotel. Such weather would render English grounds unplayable for a week. 

When the rain finally stopped the head groundsman told the umpires he would need two hours to clear the ground and play could start at 4:30pm. Even he under-estimated the work-rate and efficiency of his own staff and the time was brought forward to 4:00pm. Those staff, incidentally, all 50+ of them, are living in a ‘bubble’ of their own throughout the series, unable to return home for three weeks. And you can be quite certain that they are not on executive wages. Closer to minimum wage. 

Janneman Malan (121 from 135 balls) was asked about the remarkable start to his international career which has seen him score three centuries and two fifties in just eight innings. What explanation could there possibly be? “You never know how many chances you will get to play for your country, so you  must make the most of them,” he said before paying tribute to the contributions of Reeza Hendricks (51 from 54 balls) and Heinrich Klaasen (43 from 27 balls) to their partnerships of 96 and 86 for the second and fourth wickets.

Sri Lankan captain Dasun Shanaka said before the series that spin bowling would provide the home side’s best chance of beating South Africa and that loading their bowling attack with slow bowlers would  be important. And it worked, to a degree, in the first game although all of the Proteas batsmen played positively and effectively against the spinners – except Malan. What changed?

“I watched what Aiden (96) and Rassie (58) did in the first match and took my learnings from them.  You don’t want to over-think things, just keep it simple,” Malan said. Only current Pakistan opener Imam-ul-Haq (4) and Englishman Dennis Amiss (3) have scored three centuries in their first 10 ODIs. Neither has averaged as high as Malan: “The more you think about it…you don’t want to think about it too hard,” he said. “I don’t know what to make of it, I’m fortunate to make such a start.”

If only the man attempting to deliver fresh fruit in his canoe early this morning had made a better start. At the peak of the storm he was paddling as hard as he could and was being blown backwards by two metres per stroke. But he had clearly been in the situation before and soon stopped fighting nature, allowing the gale to blow him to shore where he rested up. It was satisfying to watch. He was paddling gently again in the time it took me to make, and drink, a cup of tea.    

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