By the time we exit the press box after an ultimately thrilling first game at Guyana's new stadium, it's almost nine. Time enough to head home for a quick bite and a shower before going to The Blue Iguana, a spacious pub where a five-year-old El Dorado rum, mixed with coconut water, costs less than 200 Guyanese dollars (1 US$) and it also has a number of worse-for-wear pool tables to choose from.

There's also the music, chutney and dance-hall hits blaring from the speakers. And as we settle down at the bar, one of the first persons I see is Gareth Flusk, who played for Easterns and Transvaal before switching to doing commentary for the South African Broadcasting Corporation. We'd met a few months earlier in South Africa, and we laugh about his T-shirt which makes no secret of his Johannesburg loyalties. "Cape Town has mountains, we have taste," it says.

I'm more curious about his time at Easterns now that I've come across Adrian Birrell, the Ireland coach. Birrell spent 16 years in the Eastern Cape as player and coach before journeying to Ireland seven years ago. Gareth played under him before he was succeeded by Kepler Wessels, and has nothing but good things to say about a man who has worked wonders with the Irish.

"He's a very professional, dedicated sort," he tells me. "Loves his job, and gets on with it without any fuss. He was great to work with." It tallies with my own impression of a man who comes running back to complete an interview after he'd had to leave in a hurry for a team meeting. And unlike some coaches who bask in the public gaze, Birrell is most happy in the background, letting Trent Johnston and his boys bask in the glory of what they've achieved.

He also won't be coaching again after this tournament, and Gareth agrees that it'll be a loss, not only for the Irish. Losses, though, are not on the South African mind on Wednesday night, after Robin Peterson's late slash to third man allows them to survive a devastating burst from Lasith Malinga. Gareth played with Peterson, and reckons that it couldn't have happened to a nicer bloke.

I wouldn't disagree. We met on the eve of the Kanpur Test in 2004, and became acquainted when he asked to borrow biographies of Diego Maradona and Garrincha, the Brazilian football genius who subsequently drank himself to death.

The day the tour ended, the South Africans had to pack and leave in a hurry and I was doubtful as to whether I'd get my books back. But just as we were wrapping up in the press box, Gerald de Kock, then the media manager, came in with a plastic bag that he handed over. It had both my books and two South African training shirts. They're a bit on the large side, but I cherish them nonetheless.

It can't be easy to be a fringe player, even less so a left-arm spinner in a team obsessed with pace. And no matter how many more last-gasp wins he pulls off, you sense that Peterson, a limited bowler at best, will never leave the periphery for the circle of light. He'll continue to be a great bloke though, and perhaps nothing else matters as much.

Dileep Premachandran is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo