September 28, 2009

ICC Champions Trophy 2009

Lucky to be in Centurion

Sambit Bal
A view of the SuperSport Park from the stands, South Africa v New Zealand, 2nd Test, Centurion, 2nd day, November 17, 2007
SuperSport Park in Centurion - clearly, the prettier ground  © ESPNcricinfo Ltd
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Yesterday was the day for a personal record. For the first time, I watched two cricket matches at separate cricket grounds on the same day, and I was not meant to be at either. Truth be told, I caught only a few overs of the Sri Lanka-New Zealand game at The Wanderers before leaving for the Edwardian Sports Complex, where India and Australia were practising, then watched Owais Shah club those sixes on TV. At six pm, dinner plans would have been the logical choice, but I knew I'd rather be elsewhere.

I was contemplating dialing a cab when I had a stroke of luck. A young South African journalist who had been assigned the Wanderers game was driving down to Centurion to watch the South African chase. I gratefully hitched a ride.

Centurion is around 40 kilometres from Johannesburg, and the drive takes 30-40 minutes. The highway is dotted with office buildings that belong to leading South African companies that have been moving away from Johannesburg's expensive, and increasingly decrepit, central business district. Locals say that it is easier to get to Centurion from many parts of Johannesburg than it is to the Wanderers, which is at one end of the city.

And SuperSport Park is the prettier ground. It is largely open, and the grassbanks constitute about three-fourth of the sitting area. And the staff are friendlier too. For some reason, my accreditation card - these are swipe cards that are scanned in a card reader to gain entry - didn't work yesterday and even a senior ICC official struggled to let me in at The Wanderers. But at the SuperSport Park, the staff understood and waved me in with a cheerful shrug.

Inside the ground, too, the differences are similar. The Wanderers feels imposing, ceremonial and stifling; and the SuperSport Park informal and welcoming. And as press boxes go, it will be tough to find a better one: it is perfectly positioned, at the right height just behind the sight screen and it's open.

And I would have been sorry had I not gone. He couldn't quite haul his team over the line, but Graeme Smith played one of the great one-day innings of his time. He is a cricketer I have grown to like. And the atmosphere was electric. And it gave me a story to write. Dinner would have been such a waste.

Sambit Bal is the editor of ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by faisal on (September 29, 2009, 4:54 GMT)

From the title I thought your posting is about the pak vs ind match. Surprised to see is not though. I have to agree with you, loosing the battle just because there was no one else can't lessen the glory of individual brilliance. Smith's was an innings of true gut, a pleasure for eyes. In fact I have always liked these lonely battles. Apart from that steve waugh's innings of 120(against SA) my best one was played by micheal bevan in a loosing cause at not even an international match. It was at Dhaka in a match between Asia-11 vs world-11 and from no where bevan scored 185 chasing a mammoth total of 320 against a bowling attack of murli,vas,wasim,razzak after 170/7 at 38 overs.At the end it was a defeat of 1 run but boy!,it was all beavn at the end. I always admire Smith for his ability, but I think gibbs is a player to whom impossible is nothing, after all he chased down 434 and also 207 in t20 with 14 balls left.

Posted by Azaro on (September 28, 2009, 22:03 GMT)

Well check out the Wanderers tomorrow where the best result for both England and NZ would actually be a washout! England go top while NZ qualify leaving Sri Lanka on the outside - still one of the stronger sides if they manage to get through! Not so good for the spectators though!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sambit Bal
Editor-in-chief Sambit Bal took to journalism at the age of 19 after realising that he wasn't fit for anything else, and to cricket journalism 14 years later when it dawned on him that it provided the perfect excuse to watch cricket in the office. Among other things he has bowled legspin, occasionally landing the ball in front of the batsman; laid out the comics page of a newspaper; covered crime, urban development and politics; and edited Gentleman, a monthly features magazine. He joined Wisden in 2001 and edited Wisden Asia Cricket and Cricinfo Magazine. He still spends his spare time watching cricket.

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