It was not until the third day of my wanderings through Johannesburg s sprawling central monument to consumerism, Sandton City, that I began to find my bearings. If it s for sale, it can be bought here, and mile upon seeming mile of retail space is bejewelled with neon signs for everything from Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Fendi, iStore, Geldhof Chocolatier, Swarovski and Browns diamond jewellers to Checkers hypermarket, McDonald s and Postnet. It s an easy place to get lost, and people who have been resident in Jo'burg for years tell me that they still do.
It was here or rather, in an adjoining hotel of similarly cash-fuelled opulence where the teams (but not the journalists...) were staying that I conducted several interviews in the days between the second and third one-dayers. Potchefstroom is not much more than 100 kilometres from the edge of Johannesburg, but sitting in rush-hour traffic on one of the many arteries leading to Jozi s economic heart, quaint little Potch - where there was just one establishment open after 4pm on Sunday (unsurprisingly, an Irish pub) - seems another continent, another era.
Not that Johannesburg is without its own peculiar charms. On Tuesday morning, a waiter at one of the many coffee shops spied the ESPNcricinfo logo on my laptop screen, sauntered over, and was soon engaged in an animated monologue on the state of South African cricket, and how it could all be put right (if only they d ask him). The more intricate details of his synopsis are beyond my recall, but I do remember that the immediate reinstatement of Neil McKenzie possibly to the captaincy - was of vital importance to the whole plan. Our subsequent conversations certainly helped take the edge off my early morning coffee and email breaks.
I might also add that I have never felt so welcome in a public lavatory as I did in the gents in the Nelson Mandela Square section of the complex. I realise that statement probably requires a hasty explanation. Compared to what surrounds it, there is a far more stately feel to the Madiba-themed wing of this concrete-crafted crystallisation of the essence of South African business - and it's centrepiece is a huge statue of the great man overlooking an open square. It s all plush marble floors and oak panelling, bathrooms included. Each W.C. has an attendant, and I was actually welcomed into one such facility, and given a cheery goodbye upon exiting, by a man who introduced himself as Lloyd Nkuna.
I know this probably sounds dreadfully colonial, bourgeois and out-of-touch to you, but the man seemed genuinely proud of his job, greeting each entering patron with a smile and maintaining a pristine environment within his territory. It is a truly admirable trait to take such pride in one s work, no matter what it is, and there was a striking dignity in the way he took charge of his domain. It goes without saying that such dedication deserves something more fulfilling and meaningful to be spent upon, but such are the troubling inequalities and contrasts of Johannesburg city of billionaire mining magnates, city of dirt-poor illegal immigrants from every corner of Africa.
The Wanderers cricket ground is just a short drive from Sandton City, but unfortunately the Bullring will not host the final game of Zimbabwe s brief southern sojourn. That particular honour goes to Willowmoore Park, Benoni, in Gauteng s East Rand. From its inauspicious beginnings, Benoni is now known chiefly as Charlize Theron s birthplace and ... not a great deal else, to be honest. The cricket ground will, at least, hold happy memories for Zimbabwe s Tatenda Taibu it was here that he struck the second of his two unbeaten hundreds against South Africa in a losing cause in November last year, sharing in a 188-run stand for the sixth wicket: a Zimbabwean record.
This tour has not been quite the positive sounding board Zimbabwe were hoping for, nor the challenging prequel to their Dubai adventure that South Africa may have wanted, but there is still time for a little magic, a little colour to light up Benoni, and perhaps even a new record or two for both sides.