Masterful menu for would-be Test masters
Duck was not in the menu but Derby County Cricket Ground has probably never seen such as a spread. The South Africa team were treated to a gourmet meal courtesy of the country's first Masterchef winner, Deena Naidoo, who was flown to the UK specifically to cook for the team by pay-channel broadcaster M-Net.
Naidoo won the TV cookery title little over two weeks ago and is in the process of setting up a restaurant in Johannesburg as part of his prize. For a special insert on the channel, Naidoo presented a three-course meal to the squad, because "they are on the verge of becoming the No. 1 side in the world," one of the producers said.
Although the feast could have been prepared for the national rugby team, who have convened in Cape Town, or the Olympic athletes who are in London, the cricket squad was chosen by media mogul Koos Bekker, who is the chief executive of M-Net. South Africa still have one Test match to go, the Lord's fixture which starts next Thursday, which they must not lose if they hope to top the Test rankings but Masterchef were only able to get access to them in a week that did not include an international match.
Starters included tomato soup and a bean and asparagus concoction before a main meal of grilled salmon in masala sauce. Dessert was a kulfi ice-cream and panacotta treat. All the ingredients were bought at one of the markets in Derby and Naidoo was particularly excited about using "locally sourced fish".
The cooking was done in the kitchen of a stand at the Racecourse End of the ground and when ESPNcricinfo went to check on proceedings, the equipment was out, the hotplates were being turned on and the ingredients were being unpacked. "I've only got two hours before I have to plate up so I'll have to crack on but you're welcome to come back and have a look [note, not taste] afterwards," Naidoo said.
Naidoo is an avid cricket fan, naming Jacques Kallis as one of his favourite players, and he will find many fans among the squad. Alviro Petersen and Lonwabo Tsotsobe were avid watches of the television show while AB de Villiers and Morne Morkel are fans of fine cooking. The player who was most looking forward to the dinner was Faf du Plessis who is a keen cook and tweeted that he is hoping to get some tips from South Africa's newest master chef.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent