FAN FOLLOWING

First-person reports from the stands

South Africa v England, 1st T20I, Cape Town

February 20, 2016

Emoji masks, and alien dance moves

Samantha Smith

If Imran Tahir had taken his hat-trick, he would likely have sprinted the perimeter of the ground and then jumped into the crowd © Getty Images

Choice of game
It was a Friday evening, and there was a sold-out T20 International at Newlands. I'd be lying if I said I had anything better to do. In fact, I would have turned up to watch a dead rubber between Kenya and Zimbabwe.

Team supported
South Africa. Despite their below-average T20 record at Newlands, I initially predicted a win for South Africa, given their historic and confidence-boosting triumph in the ODI series. I did not, however, anticipate a nail-biting, last-ball finish!

Key performer
Imran Tahir's match-winning 4 for 21 restricted a frenetic England to 134 for 8. The tourists looked set to rack up a sizeable total after Alex Hales and Jason Roy put on 38 runs in just 3.3 overs before the latter was caught by Hashim Amla at midwicket off the bowling of Kagiso Rabada. Tahir, however, had other ideas. He struck with his fourth delivery to dismiss the in-form Hales after JP Duminy held on to a difficult catch despite colliding with Rabada. Tahir kept his cool to dismiss Ben Stokes for 11 with the third ball of his second over after the England allrounder deposited his first delivery, a full toss, for four and slog swept his next ball for six. Following tight overs from David Wiese and Chris Morris, Tahir dismissed Eoin Morgan, who top-edged a delivery to third man, and Moeen Ali, caught by a diving Faf Du Plessis at cover, off successive balls. By then, the wind had been knocked out of England's sails.

One thing you'd have changed about the day
Tahir narrowly missed a hat-trick after his googly slithered past Chris Jordan's middle stump. I would have liked that miniscule distance between ball and stump to have disappeared - if only to watch Tahir's over-the-top, exuberant celebrations. He probably would have sprinted the perimeter of the field and then jumped into the crowd.

The face-off you relished
It isn't every day that your favourite batsmen open the batting together - particularly when those batsmen are Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers. As such, I relished the opportunity to watch South Africa's premier run machines bat in a Powerplay against a relatively inexperienced English attack. Alas, their partnership only lasted 4.2 overs after Chris Jordan struck early to dismiss de Villiers for 7.

Wow moment
Queen's We Will Rock You blared across the stadium during the last few overs of the South Africa innings. Sensing victory, a boisterous Newlands crowd sang along, clapped and stomped vociferously. At one point, the clapping drowned out the PA system. It was a fitting reminder of the unifying power of sport.

Shot of the day
Hales' sweetly-timed on-drive off Rabada in the second over of the day was the shot of a man in sublime form.

Crowd meter
Despite the chilly weather, the Newlands faithful turned out in droves. The grass embankments were filled to capacity and the stands, barring the temporary bleachers, were a choc-a-bloc. The crowd was lively and the atmosphere was pulsating. Although most supporters got behind the home team, there were a significant number of England fans in attendance. And you could easily spot them dressed in shorts and T-shirts seated among shivering South Africans wrapped in sweatshirts, coats and jerseys. In what has become somewhat of an anthem for the England tour, South African supporters frequently chanted "Hashim, Hashim" which was immediately met with England fans belting out "Moeen, Moeen", much to the amusement of a buoyant crowd.

Fancy-dress index
You'd be hard-pressed to attend a game at Newlands without seeing someone wearing a detachable 'Amla' beard. In addition to donning the popular beards, a cheerful group dressed in white clothing and added cone birthday hats. A trio of girls painted their faces with the colours of the England flag and two young men exhibited numerous South Africa flags on their torsos. One gentlemen dressed in full cricket gear and demonstrated his shot selection up and down an aisle in North Stand. In an original move, another group wore face masks of the yellow emoticons commonly used on social media. Finally, a peculiar man, whose face was painted green and red, stuck his head through a cardboard poster and proceeded to dance like an alien whenever the camera spotted him. It was truly hilarious.

Entertainment
The atmosphere was enhanced by LED technology and pyrotechnics which fittingly complemented the fast-paced nature of a T20 contest. Flame units, aptly labelled 'Protea Fire', emitted plumes of smoke and bright, orange flames every time a boundary was struck or a wicket fell. The traditional wooden wickets were replaced with LED stumps and bails which flashed red when disrupted. A framework of LED lights were installed around the players' dugouts, and green flames were frequently released in front of both sightscreens. The PA system churned out a fantastic playlist of contemporary hits, 90s classics and RnB tunes which heightened the atmosphere and got the crowd moving. In fact, the folks on the Oaks grass embankment, and in lively sections of North Stand and President's Pavilion, couldn't help but exhibit their dance moves for roaming cameras.

Marks out of 10
9. A vibrant atmosphere, brilliant music and a last-ball thriller which culminated in a South Africa win. What more could a Proteas supporter ask for?

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Samantha is currently pursuing a Ph.D. and is patiently waiting for the Proteas to win an ICC event.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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