South Africa v Australia, 1st Test, Centurion, 1st day

More bust than boom

Proper cricket fans would have enjoyed Shaun Marsh's doggedness and Steven Smith's strokeplay - pity there were too few in the ground

Jarrod Kimber in Centurion

February 12, 2014

Comments: 11 | Text size: A | A

The travelling support make themselves known, South Africa v Australia, 1st Test, Centurion, 1st day, February 12, 2014
The Australia supporters in the ground made themselves visible © AFP
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On a lovely, bone dry Centurion morning, a tune played. "Boom! Here comes the Boom! Ready or not, here comes the boys from the South!"

They are the sort of lyrics, when backed up with punchy nu-metal angst, that should open a heavyweight contest. And it was the first music of the Test. There was no anthem, no parochial song, just Dale Steyn's personal anthem and the world's best and third-best Test sides starting a series.

But it was a Wednesday, in February. Much like the band P.O.D., it was not quite as "Boom!" as it looked.

The security was so lax that you could walk straight into the ground, president suite and then press box without any pass or ticket. The sun was hot but not oppressive. There was no hint of rain. No real build-up, the players were just out on the field. Occasionally there was even the Spanish horn that plays in the IPL to awaken people.

There seemed to be more sponsored umbrellas around the ground than people. And every part of the ground was zoned off for something fun. The chill zone, the family area, the Castle Lager Terrace. Even a "maidens bowled over" section where women could watch cricket, meet someone from the South Africa squad and have massages and pedicures. You can't fault Cricket South Africa for trying. They threw it all out there.

But it was a Wednesday, in February. So the crowd wasn't really there. It wasn't horrible for a Test at Centurion, but it wasn't a cauldron, or massive-event-like feeling. It felt like a big Test series, started on a Wednesday, with Christian heavy rock in the back ground.

There were schoolkids on the bank, sitting in front of a few smart locals who had brought their own shade. The real fans were in the grandstand, a battered warhorse that probably looked ok when brand new, and has looked solid and ugly since. Apparently there was a group of people that some sponsors called "sizzlers", but I never saw anyone who justified a name that stupid. There was even a Mexican wave, but only when the schoolkids spread out around the long-off boundary did it work.

The cricket didn't need extra areas or corporate tricks to excite people. Steyn started off against David Warner on a pitch that was supposed to be lots of fun. That doesn't need a rock soundtrack or marketing tricks. People should just want to see it. Those there saw the South Africa team spend a confusing and frustrating day in the field, and Australia find one partnership that worked and keep it going. It wasn't pretty.

It was the sort of tough uncompromising day of cricket that metaphors and clich├ęs were made for. The proper cricket fans would have appreciated Shaun Marsh's doggedness, Steven Smith's strokeplay and complaining about South Africa in the field.

There were a few proper cricket fans there to enjoy it, not many. Not nearly enough.

But it was a Wednesday, in February.

Jarrod Kimber is 50% of the Two Chucks, and the mind responsible for cricketwithballs.com

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Posted by chechong0114 on (February 14, 2014, 23:44 GMT)

Before the first ball of this series was bowled there was an article on this website with the heading " A Mouth Watering Pace Battle Awaits" my response to that heading was who is going to enjoy that mouth watering prospect, the players, the commentators or the huge amount of empty seats that will be on display throughout this series at all the grounds.I guess someone thought my comment was offensive and they refused to publish it on the site, but low and behold reality in itself has proven me right and the site has now published their own article on this worrying trend. The history between these 2 teams and the quality of cricket that is on display in this series is 2nd to none and there is no reason why there should be a single empty seat in the stands of any of the 3 venues at least for the first 3 days of each test match. But CSA like most of the other cricket boards and the ICC has failed miserably to capitalise on anything financially. Its time them to embrace change people.

Posted by   on (February 14, 2014, 10:53 GMT)

Just need to take a day or two leave and do it. But surely out of the 50 million South Africans at least 20 000 can do it. If not me today.

Posted by ModernUmpiresPlz on (February 13, 2014, 11:01 GMT)

@Milkman My mistake, I forgot that all Australians can skip work whenever they want to go watch the cricket in the middle of the week, and that the schedule for this test match series was only announced this monday making it impossible for anyone in the country to organise time off from work ahead of time. Poor South Africans.

In all seriousness though, it's a shabby turnout. People were calling the Australian crowds tiny when it was mid week and the ground was only half or 2/3 full. Still, that was 30,000-40,000 people.

Posted by Milkman on (February 13, 2014, 10:40 GMT)

South African adults don't have the luxury of sitting in the stands on "a Wednesday, in February" - we are at work (unfortunately). The weekend should see much better crowds...

Posted by andrew-schulz on (February 13, 2014, 1:54 GMT)

If you are talking about Test rankings, it may be time to revisit your claim 'chances are, Rogers will be a batting coach or commentator by the next time Australia are number one in Tests.' If you are right, Roger's had better get an application form, as I believe a 1-0 series win here will be enough to take Australia to number one when the rankings are re calibrated in May. You know, that time when we wake up in the morning and all of a sudden, Australia are a 15 points better side than they were the previous evening without lifting a bat or ball. A joke of a system.

Posted by Dale_Pain on (February 13, 2014, 0:53 GMT)

Nice article, but Jarrod you really need to learn the difference in sound between a horn and a trumpet!

Posted by andrew-schulz on (February 13, 2014, 0:51 GMT)

Again a misuse of the rankings system. At present these are clearly the best two sides on the planet, so your comment that these are the best and third best sides is just wrong. If it is a done deal that Australia will be well clear of India after the two present series, and at least fifteen points ahead of them when the rankings are re-calibrated in May, what is the point of taking the rankings at face value? Or do you really think a team can go from second best to fifth best overnight when they are not even playing? It's a farcical situation.

Posted by chicko1983 on (February 12, 2014, 23:50 GMT)

Day 1 Ashes at Gabba on a Thursday - 50,000 people at $50USD a pop average Day 1 this series - 10-12,000 people, half of them school kids with free tickets.

Posted by   on (February 12, 2014, 21:39 GMT)

It is disappointing. Test crowds in South Africa have been horrible for a long time. You'd think that with their team being no. 1 you'd get more people coming to grounds, but they're largely empty. How can South Africa even claim that they're a Test cricket stronghold?

Posted by ModernUmpiresPlz on (February 12, 2014, 19:21 GMT)

And this is why South Africa can't have nice things.

Graeme Smith did his best to sell it, Clarke, Siddle and Johnson stirred the pot, Lyon pretended Peterson can bowl and Warner was himself, and still nobody turned up.

If South Africa ever had a chance to prove that they can be a stronghold for test cricket and that they deserve a bigger piece of the test revenue pie, this was it. I'd call it a complete and utter failure.

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