Australia in South Africa 2011-12 November 13, 2011

Life goes on at numbed Newlands

Barely twelve hours after one of the most widely-read columnists on the game, one of the sport's most distinctive commentators, had taken his own life , Australia's cricketers were in the nets

Sunday at the Newlands cricket ground was at once a typical day and an abnormal one. Barely twelve hours after one of the most widely-read columnists on the game, one of the sport's most distinctive commentators, had taken his own life, Australia's cricketers were in the nets.

As one life ends, others go on. The game does not wait. The Australians have plenty to work on after their loss during the week. On what was to be the fifth day of the Cape Town Test, they were already looking ahead to the Johannesburg match, which starts on Thursday.

A match that, in one of his final columns, Peter Roebuck had described as a chance for Australia's incumbents to redeem themselves and for the new selectors to study the trends. Trends, Roebuck noted, like their trouble against the seaming or swinging ball.

He was restrained in his writing after Australia were dismissed for 47. It wasn't always that way. Notably, he raised the ire of the Australians in January 2008, when he wrote that Ricky Ponting should have been sacked as captain for his role in the Sydney Test controversy against India.

On Sunday, Ponting approached the journalists watching the net session at Newlands and expressed how sorry he was to hear of Roebuck's death. He was not sought for comment; he offered it unprompted and sincerely.

Ponting was interrupted by a freak hailstorm that hit without warning, dropping little balls of ice onto the heads of every player and onlooker as they ran for cover. Some were fortunate enough to be wearing helmets.

As the Australians made their way inside the assistant coach, Justin Langer, said Roebuck was a "great writer" and a "talent lost".

Already, the captain, Michael Clarke, had mentioned his shock at being woken by the news in the early hours of the morning. At first, he didn't believe it.

Disbelief was a common theme. Shane Watson's face expressed as much as he stood with Clarke, eyebrows raised, shaking his head.

At times, Roebuck had passed judgment on them all, not always in the positive. But they recognised his knowledge of the game and respected that he was just doing his job.

The Southern Sun Hotel, where Roebuck died, is visible to the south-west from the Newlands ground. The ground where only two days ago, Roebuck wrote of Australia's challenge of the next few days.

"Australian cricket is lucky that it has a few days of respite between the dumbfounding events at Newlands and its next engagement," he wrote. "The break gives coaches, selectors and captain the breathing space needed to collect their thoughts."

On Sunday, they were just doing that.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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