Fan Following

First-person reports from the stands

South Africa v Pakistan, second Test, Cape Town, 2nd day

Ajmal frustrates Newlands faithful

And advice on which seats to choose if you want to indulge in a spot of heckling

Samantha Smith

Comments: 3 | Text size: A | A
The seven-foot Mohammad Irfan evades a bouncer, South Africa v Pakistan, 2nd Test, Cape Town, 2nd day, February 15, 2013
Mohammad Irfan: must be pretty tired of the height jokes © AFP
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Choice of game
Test cricket at Newlands? I couldn't think of a better way to commence the weekend. Notwithstanding some resilient batting from Pakistan's middle order on day one, I anticipated the Proteas dismissing the opposition for under 350 and proceeding to not lose more than one wicket by the end of play. Evidently, I was half right.

Team supported
South Africa. Despite my allegiance and the South African pace attack's penchant for dismissing Test sides for under 50, I was hoping for an even contest. Wish granted!

Key performer
Saeed Ajmal stole the show and silenced the crowd. He was brought on in the 12th over and he certainly didn't disappoint. With figures of 5 for 41 in 25 overs, he persistently tested South Africa's vaunted batting line-up - much to the frustration of the Newlands faithful.

One thing I'd have changed about the day
South Africa's sloppy fielding was not something one has come to expect from the world's top-ranked Test nation. That, and I would have appreciated a longer innings from Hashim Amla - a clear crowd favourite and arguably the best batsman in the world.

Interplay I enjoyed
Despite Ajmal's bewitching spell, I relished Umar Gul's opening overs to Graeme Smith. The paceman was not terribly impressive but bowled a good length and persevered outside off.

Filling the gaps
The pitch was customarily invaded by 90% of the spectators during the lunch break. Children played cricket, some proudly displayed their South African flags, older gentlemen in sunhats circled the field's perimeter and the rest huddled as close as possible to the pitch to enjoy a commentator's lunchtime report.

Wow moment
Jacques Kallis' controversial dismissal in the 40th over was met with vociferous booing from the Newlands crowd. The debate continued among the spectators long after Kallis left the field. By contrast, a spattering of Pakistani supporters couldn't say enough good things about the review system.

Close encounter
Anyone planning on attending a game at Newlands is well advised to sit in Blocks K and L in President's Pavilion. Right behind the bowler's arm, with the Oaks embankment to your right and the picturesque Devil's Peak to your left, you'd be hard-pressed to locate a better seat. You're so close to the action, you feel as if you are an additional slip in the cordon. And if taunting players is your thing, they'll hear you. Mohammad Irfan, fielding at long-on, was met with a few predictable one-liners: "Tall man", "What is your shoe size?" and "You make Morne Morkel look short".

Shot of the day
Amla's magnificent cover drive - sweetly timed and gently punched - off the back foot in the 17th over was a fitting introduction to Test cricket for Irfan.

Crowd meter
Although not a large crowd by any standards, the Newlands faithful were slightly mute. There were several "Shosholoza" (a term of encouragement) chants and one very weak Mexican wave. But it appeared as if Ajmal's bowling left more than the Proteas in a spin. That, or the loudmouths stayed home.

Fancy dress index
I spotted a spectator wrapped in what I assumed was a Pakistan flag. A few fans adorned attachable "Amla beards" and a plethora of teenagers turned up in their high school blazers with watermelons for hats. I also saw a drunken man in a Speedo and an androgynous fairy with green wings.

Entertainment
The PA system played a few radio hits we have all come to like and interspersed the music with cricket trivia. They even played a song parodying politician Julius Malema - much to the amusement of a few alert spectators. The real off-field entertainment, however, was provided by the security guards. Frequent announcements were made issuing "final warnings" to spectators walking around the sightscreens during play. It was amusing to watch the security officials try to remove confused Pakistan fans from their seats. I don't think they sat down once.

Tests v limited-overs
I maintain Test cricket is the apex of the gentleman's game. It's not everyone's cup of tea but I would rather spend a day watching Vernon Philander and Dale Steyn probing away at the likes of Younis Khan than a flurry of sixes in a forgettable T20.

Banner of the day
I spotted the generic "I love you, AB" banners along with a "Hashim, jou lekker ding" ("Hashim, you fun thing") poster. Evidently, the creativity is somewhat lacking. Unsurprisingly, it was the same Pakistan flag-clad fan who infrequently, and without much commitment, held up a "South Africa is not number one" poster. Yeah, I'd re-think that too, buddy.

Marks out of 10
8. It wasn't the biggest crowd, the south-easterly was a tad strong and South Africa were a little scratchy in the field. However, the fight shown by Pakistan coupled with Ajmal's mesmerising spell ensured an enjoyable day of Test cricket - particularly if you're a Pakistan supporter.

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Samantha Smith likes to believe that she is a passionate law student. In reality, she wouldn't think twice about bunking lectures to watch cricket at Newlands. She is patiently waiting for South Africa to win an ICC event.

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Comments: 3 
Posted by orangtan on (February 17, 2013, 3:36 GMT)

Nice report and couldn't agree more about Test cricket being way more interesting than the T-20 circus or the ODI predictability. If only I could, would certainly like to take in a Newlands Test.

Posted by Aizikhan on (February 16, 2013, 21:00 GMT)

At least these are not One sided Biased Compliments. So i like them

Posted by   on (February 16, 2013, 18:54 GMT)

enjoyed this perspective from fan an newlands! no greater place to watch cricket.

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