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There's more to life than just cricket

Cricketers love to talk about finding themselves "staring down the barrel"

Peter Robinson
Cricketers love to talk about finding themselves "staring down the barrel". Andrew Hall knows what it's like to look at the real thing.
At the beginning of the 1998/99 season, Hall was on his way home after a pre-season trip to Durban. Late at night, he stopped at an ATM to draw some cash. When he turned round, he found himself face to face with an armed mugger.
Five shots were fired at Hall at point blank range. Miraculously, four missed, but the fifth lodged in his hand. Hall lost his new car and his money that night, but he got away with his life. It was an experience guaranteed to make anyone reassess his or her lifestyle and priorities. Hall was no exception.
"You know that you have a second lease on life," reflects Hall, who turns 25 at the end of July. "You know you should take every chance you are given. I enjoy my cricket a lot more as well because I have put a lot of time in to really do well in this second chance I have been given."
Hall was fortunate enough to enjoy a quick recovery and there are no lasting ill effects from his injury. Indeed, he recovered well enough to win a place in the South African squad for the one-dayers against the touring West Indians.
But he played only one game during the series, and with the 1999 World Cup looming ahead, Hall found himself back on the fringes of national selection. There were those, in the old regime, who were not entirely convinced by Hall. One, who shall remain nameless, ventured that Hall "didn't have the quality" to play international cricket.
So back he went into the Gauteng side, to resume opening the bowling for Gauteng, and, as his province hunted down the Supersport Series title, the batting as well.
He was again ignored during the domestic summer, which included a triangular series involving England and Zimbabwe, but with the arrival of Australia for a three-match whistlestop tour, he won a second call-up. This was reward for a fine al -round season, but particularly his contribution to Gauteng's three-wicket victory over Border in the Supersport final.
He picked up seven wickets in the match, but it was his unbeaten 57 as Gauteng stumbled on their way to a moderate winning target that stamped him as a player for the big moment.
Ray Jennings, the former Gauteng coach, describes him as a "streetfighter" and has doubts about Hall's ability to adapt to the highest level. "The only mystery," says Jennings, "is why he's had to wait so long."
In one sense, Hall may have been slightly fortunate in having to wait his turn. He managed to avoid any connection with the "Hansiegate" scandal, and while some of his team-mates seem to be struggling to come to terms with the absence of the former captain, Hall has been able to enjoy and express himself.
Before joining the rest of the South Africans for their training camp ahead of the Sri Lankan tour, Hall spent three weeks at RAU, with Neil McKenzie and Daryll Cullinan batting on old pitches to try to simulate the low, slow Sri Lankan pitches.
Gauteng coach Mark O'Donnell spent hours throwing down to him to him while Graham Ford worked with him in Durban. "All the guys have been quick to give me advice an encouragement," says Hall.
Certainly, Hall has made the step up with something to spare. When he finally came back into the side against Australia at the Wanderers, he made an assured 46 against an attack containing the world's quickest bowler, Brett Lee, and played well enough to impress Steve Waugh.
In his next international outing, in vastly different conditions in Galle, he took 81 off a Sri Lankan attack containing the world's best offspinner, Muttiah Muralitharan.
"Both of them were very difficult in the conditions," he says. "and the wickets here are a lot slower than in South Africa. They aren't easy to get used to, but I've worked hard in the nets with Fordie and my preparation has been very good."
There are, of course, other things to life besides cricket, as Hall well knows, and when South Africa finally arrive back from Australia on August 29, he has an important date ahead of him. On September 2, he and fiancée Leanie are due to be married.
"I feel a bit left out because I can't be there to do my share of the work that has to go in to the day," he says. "Lucky for me Leanie has been brilliant and has done all of the arrangements and every thing is well. I will see her in Aussie in a month's time and I'm looking forward to it as we only have three or four days back home before the big day."
So while Leanie's beavering away with flower arrangements and invitations, Hall's being looked after by his room-mate David Terbrugge ("The Bridge").
"He's an ideal roomie. No odd habits, he's very quiet and always makes sure that I'm not late for the bus or meetings. About myself I'm not sure if I do any thing in my sleep, but otherwise I think I'm a normal roomie."
That may, of course, be a matter of opinion. Leanie had better have a chat with Terbrugge before the big day.