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The Commonwealth Games experience was a new but very enjoyable one for everyone involved in it. The atmosphere in the Village was friendly and the camaraderie in the South African side was brilliant. We got to support many other disciplines and met many other athletes from different sports and countries. Life in the Village was very different to the usual hotel fare that we were used to but it made a welcome change, although the cafeteria food did get a bit much by the end of the two weeks. We were looked after very well, with services like opticians, hairdressers, different shops and email facilities available.
Practice facilities were scarce and wickets a touch under-prepared but considering the fact that they only had a year to lay and condition turf wickets, I think they did very well. These factors contributed to us starting the tournament slowly, not winning our first two pool games against Northern Ireland and Bangladesh as easily as we should have but by the time Barbados came around we were well enough acclimatized to win our hardest pool game. We played them on the best wicket we came across while we were there and this led to a high scoring game in which we got 250 to win the game. The tournament was now hotting up and the chance to win a Commonwealth Games medal was a possibility. Our semi final against Sri Lanka saw us bowl well to restrict their score to 130 and we really fancied our chances of a final berth, however we didn't bat well at all and found ourselves at 96 for 9 due to some good bowling and a dodgy wicket, then in stepped Nicky Bojé and new father, Alan Dawson (his wife Paula gave birth while we were on tour) to save the day in probably the most tense game I have ever been involved in!
Now we were in the final and we had a chance of getting a medal to match my hair! Going into the final we had nothing to lose. The Aussies had their full team, we were already guaranteed a silver medal and we were the under-dogs. We decided to pick three spinners in the line up because the wickets had been turning quite a bit. We won the toss and put the Aussies in. South Africa bowled well, taking wickets at regular intervals and pegging them down up front with some early wickets. Steve Waugh was his usual self, fighting hard the whole way but wickets fell around him, leaving the Aussies with a total of 180, an average but competitive score, especially on those wickets. Andrew Hudson and Mike Rindel got us off to a perfect start, getting 70 runs at a rapid rate, which allowed the other batsman to take time to settle in when their chance came around. It was especially sweet to beat the Aussies in the final as they are a competitive outfit and thing haven't run well for us against them lately. It was also special to win the first cricket Commonwealth gold medal ever to be on offer!
Standing up on the podium, receiving the medal and singing our National Anthem is an experience I will never forget and will always treasure. The ceremony was followed by a well-deserved party/celebration which we all enjoyed with members of the other South African teams who had finished their competitions.
The side without any regular members did our country proud and I hope that some of the players can use these games as a stepping-stone to future success.
With best wishes - Shaun Pollock
Source :: Cathy Owen