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First-person reports from the stands
Choice of game
It was a pleasant day in the Mother City and there was cricket at Newlands. Not that I needed any more persuading, the prospect of watching the vaunted Chennai Super Kings batting line-up clear the boundary was an opportunity too good to pass over - despite looming exams!
The Lions. Frankly, they're South African and most would agree that Chennai have enough trophies in the cabinet. I did, however, initially predict a Chennai win. Neil McKenzie may have combined class and experience to take the Lions home against Mumbai Indians but the chances of them overcoming the mighty Super Kings as well? Unlikely. Or so I thought.
Aaron Phangiso. Although Gulam Bodi played an important innings of 64 off 46, much to the appreciation of the Newlands crowd, it was Phangiso's noteworthy performance in the field that kept the batting-strong Super Kings to a score below 160. He pulled off a sensational diving catch to dismiss Faf du Plessis who had looked set to play another big innings, conceded just 17 runs in 4 overs and took the crucial wickets of M Vijay and Ravindra Jadeja.
One thing I'd have changed about the match
Albie Morkel played an innovative shot to get off the mark with a boundary. Two balls later, he was dismissed and looked like a No. 10 trying to make room to cut a short delivery. I would have liked to have seen him occupy the crease for longer if only to be reminded that he can actually bat.
Face-off I relished
I particularly enjoyed Doug Bollinger's varied bowling to McKenzie in the early overs. Bollinger mixed it up by bowling a length ball, a yorker, digging it in short and forcing the right-hander to improvise with little success. Perhaps not the most crowd-pleasing entertainment but nevertheless proving that there is room for textbook bowling in the shortest format.
When Suresh Raina dismissed McKenzie with an excellent running catch from long-on, the game appeared to be slipping from the Lions' reach. However, the momentum swung back in their favour courtesy of a free hit - an early Chrsitmas present from R Ashwin that was duly despatched to the boundary for four. Two balls later, Chris Morris surprised us all by whacking the same bowler over deep midwicket for six.
Alviro Petersen fielded at long-on and gladly signed a few bats for a scattering of eager, young fans. Vijay, wearing Raina's jersey, displayed his 'stretching' skills and the benched Michael Hussey did a few laps around the boundary line.
Shot of the day
This was tough. Raina played several exquisite shots as did du Plessis. However, it was Bodi's sweetly-timed straight six off Ashwin in the 13th over that really took the cake. And judging by the raucous applause of the crowd who suddenly sprung to life following that shot, it took the whole bakery!
Cricket at Newlands is generally very well supported. However, being a Tuesday and the start of exam season for most students, the crowd wasn't particularly large. That or everyone is broke after purchasing tickets to Lady Gaga, Chris Brown and Linkin Park. Nevertheless, the almost obligatory Indian flags and the occasional chants from the ever-noisy Oaks grass embankment reminded the rest of us that a game at Newlands is a game worth attending.
Fancy dress index
Apart from a mime traipsing around one of the grass embankments, one interesting individual was seen slipping in and out of what looked like a lion costume. And some annoying little kid dressed head-to-toe in canary yellow insisted on playing umpire.
The start and end of the match commenced with a mini-fireworks display. Indeed a large artificial flame was released from the speakers every time a boundary was hit. The overhead camera was a nice touch as was the audio of a thumping heartbeat which blared across the ground when a decision was referred to the third umpire. A little peculiar, yes, but a nod for creativity. The cheerleaders were in full force as were a troupe of dancers demonstrating their talents 'Gangnam style'. Chris Gayle and company would have been proud.
ODI v Twenty20?
As a purist, I feel inclined to prefer the longer version of the shortened format. Ultimately, it depends on the day of the week. An ODI in the middle of the week is just silly. Who has eight hours to sit at the cricket? A Twenty20 after work, school or lectures is ideal and an excellent way to generate the crowds by cultivating an entertaining and family-oriented setting.
Banner of the day
I strained my eyes looking for banners and posters. I found one and it was in fact a miniature white board. Its owners frequently scribbled words of encouragement on it and held it up for the Lions' change room to appreciate. Their best caption, though not awe-inspiring, was apt: "Hope the Lions are hungry because they're going to eat CSK!" Clearly, the Lions were hungry.
It would be easy to say that I've been to better matches with bigger names and a fanatical crowd to boot. But from a purely cricketing perspective, the fielding was commendable and the batting was good - both of which were consistently appreciated by the Newlands spectators.
Marks out of 10
7.5. Perhaps a 9 if the Newlands 'faithful' had pitched up because if anything, an electric atmosphere intensifies the satisfaction of a win, particularly in Twenty20 cricket.
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