Does it feel like your bats have no corporeal form? That the ball is phasing right through them? That's how it starts out here. You are playing, and playing, and playing at balls, and missing and missing and missing.
It's going to get much worse, because listen, the band is in voice. Our fans are in. Best of luck fellas. This is the Bullring.
A bouncer comes, and it follows you into your escape route and smacks you. It's a better connection than you have made all innings. A louder sound too, but don't be going just yet. We will get your wicket when it suits us - just feel what it is like to be out here first. Feel the sting of your welt. Hear the leather whistle as it passes you, like an overhead shell. What does the pitch smell like? Is it brimstone and hellfire?
Along with the rearing short balls our bowlers throw you stares and the slips are throwing verbal shivs, so in almost every sense, you have become our walking dartboard. Did you think it was tough in Port Elizabeth? Was Cape Town a difficult four days for you? Watch our quicks bear down on you here, smoke pouring from their nostrils. This is always where we were going to nail you. This is the Bullring.
The edges of your bats are blood red now, from the previous Tests, but maybe this is why the crowd thinks you are here to be our prey. Men dressed in bikini tops and grass skirts make exaggerated "oohs" when you flash at a ball and fail to hit it. Shirtless kids in paddling pools slap their knees when another ball scorches past your helmet grille. On good days, this ground, it feels like a cauldron. Today, when we are playing like this, we're sure it feels for you like an inferno. What about that roar when a wicket falls? That's wildfire making its way around the stadium.
At home your pitches become more difficult to bat on as the game wears on. You probably thought it was the opposite here: things can only get easier after the first day. You couldn't be more wrong. When the sun falls on this track, and the heavy roller does a few rounds, it will only become polished-granite-greased-lightning. Our quicks are firearms. They will make the ball feel like a bullet. You're the target. No way could you hurt us. This is our range, the Bullring.
And we know what you will say. You'll say: "Come to Asia. See what you will get in Galle. Try your luck at Sara or the SSC." Actually, we won there last time, but for the sake of argument we'll say you are right. Maybe we are no longer the same team. You might have us groping, and sweating, and stumbling on your dusty pitches, but see, we'll only ever fear for our wickets and our averages over there. Maybe the umpire's finger as well.
Here you are afraid for throats. You fear for your ribs. Your future progeny is at risk. The ball screams at you from a length, and makes a raid into your most personal space. You want to escape to square leg. All your innings are so short, multiple batsmen seem to be racing each other back to the dressing room. With such pace do you approach the boundary, it's like you're gathering speed to clear the jump on a rising drawbridge.
Who could blame you, to be honest? Anyone would have done the same. You want to be on the other side - not out here. As far away as possible from the Bullring.
The end is nearing now. We have bullied you into driving, and lapped up the resultant edges. We have cornered you into fending, and watched your bodies twist and spasm into shapes humans should not make. You have tried to charge us. You have tried to hook. You have sent catches into the air, and we've tracked them down with elastic bodies and Velcro hands.
In Port Elizabeth we had ground you down. Beneath Table Mountain we had socked you. And then we brought you north, away from the sea, up into the Veld. To finish you off, we brought you to the Bullring.