A home away from home
We arrived in Auckland on Tuesday 15 January and with the rain relenting, played our first warm-up match the next day against a local team called Cornwall. We were met by an amazing setting, with the field situated adjacent to a national park at the foot of a hill called One-Tree Hill, which gives magnificent views across the suburbs of Auckland.
We played well in this match with Davie Jacobs scoring 90 alongside the captain Hashim Amla who scored 80. On the bowling side, Brent Kopps bowled nine overs taking two for 25 runs, Ryan McLaren bowled 8,2 overs taking two for 17 runs and Ryan Bailey from Western Province bowled 6 overs taking three for 24 runs. "Bails" as he prefers to be called was outstanding, bowling most of his overs at the death. A victory in the end by about 60 runs, but enough to stretch us.
The following day we played our second warm-up game against a team called Howick at Pakuranga Park. Once again we had a good workout and Hashim Amla once again got a 50 that came off only 59 balls to give us a victory by four wickets.
Howick turned out to be a suburb where lots of South Africans have settled. We received a warm welcome and the team was invited to attend a local South African day on the Saturday in the streets of Howick village. Arrived there on the Saturday morning we were greeted by hundreds of South Africans from all the corners of our home country. We signed hundreds of autographs, posed for photos and mingled freely. A South African band was playing popular South African tunes while the smell of boerewors on the braai filtered around the streets. The local South African brews were being sampled and the joviality of the people were still ringing in our ears when we boarded our bus about 2 hours later to head for our practice session.
The next day we played our first official match against Bangladesh at the Colin Maiden Park. It was heartwarming to see the large South African contingent that had come out to cheer us on and the ground was certainly more colourful with all the SA flags fluttering in the breeze.
We batted first and scored 252 with Davie Jacobs scoring 76 and Stephen Cook 103 before Hashim Amla once again obliged with an outstanding 53 off 46 balls. The match was interrupted with rain during our innings, but it didn't last and we were able to carry on without losing any overs.
Despite having test debutantes from their senior team in this under 19 team, the Bangladeshi's only managed to score 142, with one of the test players getting 79. Once again our bowlers were phenomenal with Brendon Reddy bowling 10 overs taking three for 22 runs, Ryan McLaren bowled 8 overs taking one for 22 runs, Rory Kleinveldt bowling 10 overs taking two for 34 runs. Rory was also responsible for bowling the ball of the day when he swung the ball a mile to get rid of the top batsmen Ashraful for zero with the first ball he faced.
This was surely the turning point of the game and Ryan Bailey followed this up with his superb bowling in the death with three overs taking three for five runs.
With this victory, came our first points for the 2002 World Cup and we also got a bonus point for restricting Bangladesh to 142.
Special mention has to be made of the sportsmanship of our wicketkeeper Zwelimansi "Bob" Homani who thought that he had dropped the Bangladeshi top scorer and motioned to the umpire, who had already lifted his finger, to call the batsman back. It was such a difficult catch, that Bob did not realise that he had actually held onto it. He was convinced that he had grassed the catch and only after the session did we here from the slip fielders that the ball had actually stayed in his glove.
The match referee, John Reid, a former New Zealand cricketer made a mention of this and Bob was duly awarded the sportsmanship award after the match - well done Bob!!!
With our first points on the board and out team still largely free of any serious injuries, we have two days of training to look forward to before playing India who are the current holders of the trophy which they won in Sri Lanka in 2000. No doubt we look forward to this challenge and will hopefully emerge as victors.
Yours in sport, Shane Jabaar (Fizzer)