Third Test – Day 1: Cape of Good Hope

Australia 3/331 (DA Warner 135, MJ Clarke 92*, SPD Smith 50*) v South Africa
I’m very good at the past. It’s the present I can’t understand.
– Nick Hornby, “High Fidelity

This week a man at a conference in which I participated offered this quote: “I am interested in the future, because that’s where I’m gong to live.” It sounded kind of catchy, kind of glib. But now I recognize that no one ever lives in the future. All of us only ever live in the present. And that is tricky and straightforward enough.

And the game of cricket is tricky and straightforward enough. The myriad variations in technique, application, concentration, emotion and psychology inside any one player on any given day, make the long term victorious playing of cricket difficult.

A cricketer is not a machine. Inner demons and their choking cloud of doubt dance merry Earthcore-style raves at all hours of the day and night on fragile psyches. If a cricketer manages to reign in his/her internal voice, the sorry fact remains that XI players of the opposing team can also prove a handful.

With that, tonight it’s Australia in Cape Town. Series 1-1 with 1 to play. Appropriately, a lion growls not 500 metres from us. Hyenas walk lightly. We’re at Melbourne Zoo for a Zoo Twilights session. Families are gathered on the lawn. Picnic blankets and pizza.

Half a world away, a cricket match is scheduled under the shadow of Table Mountain. It looks good in the photos. It’s about 750km due west of last week’s shenanigans in Port Elizabeth. Cape Town, with its long and colourful history, its geographical importance in the days of ocean voyages. Cape Town, the Dutch East India Company and other seafaring exploration and the conquests of Portugal, England, France and Holland (among others).

SR Watson has been in the news with the suggestion of his recall to the team. DA Warner has been in the news having been fined for comments suggesting that South Africa was ball tampering. And SK Warne has been in the news, as he joined the Australian squad (and tracksuit) in a role as a mentor/ guide/ coach/ guru. He’s not the first bloke to seek out a cricket club environment at the collapse of a personal relationship and he won’t be the last. It’s timely to acknowledge the important role that cricket clubs (and others) play for socially disconnected blokes (in particular).

Again I am without visual awareness of this match, as has been the case for the entire series. Never mind. I much prefer life in the absence of Foxtel.

Via iPhone, alongside the meerkats, I learn that SR Watson will indeed play. Via my human presence, I learn that the support band is playing. We set up a picnic rug with mates. But it soon appears we’ve lost buddy Yum (6y.o.) and two companions (6y.o. and 3y.o.). This newsflash has been brought to my lax attention by Buddy Ooon, who has sprinted like Betty Cuthbert from o’er yonder with this update:
“They just went along that never-ending path and they haven’t come back.”

Guitar fills the air and I’m striding out past the native Australian fauna. The zoo seems suddenly enormous. Just a little concerned now, I clock the party of lost little ‘uns a bit further up the hill. I wave. Call out. Now imagining the moment when they gleefully and with great relief, see me and come running down the hill, perhaps bursting into tears on the spot. But Buddy Yum sees me alright, and swiftly turns on her heel and continues to merrily lead her friends up the hill. Towards the giraffes. I should have known.

The African presence is alive this night.

I catch the children up, shepherding them back to within two drop punts of our little patch of ground. The support act finishes. It’s Mountain Goat on the lawn and it’s a wide open sky and it’s conversations about cricket with my man. Recently separated, he played today with his son in the local fourth grade. They chased 195 to win in the last of their 30 overs. Father and son each performing on the big stage of life. The story is meaningful and it’s heartfelt.

And now the feature act, Neko Case, is on the stage. She’s a brilliant presence. Brilliant voice. It’s getting dark. I’m off for a walk. And to check the score for the first time today. Australia has won the toss and batted. It’s 1/70.

The opening riff from Neko Case’s beauty “Hold on,” rings out across Parkville. She booms out the opening…
“The most tender place in my heart is for strangers.
I know it’s unkind but my own blood is much too dangerous.”

I was first hooked by her “Fox Confessor Brings the Flood” album. And then last year she released one extravagantly titled: “ The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You.”

It’s my first trip to Zoo Twilights. Children are dancing routines. Others are lying on picnic blankets. Hipsters with hats in the dark. There are sleeping bags. It’s been fun. It’s late. We tactfully slip away ahead of the crowd. Our young ones are over-tired and emotional. But we make it home. Toilet, teeth and bed routines hazardously negotiated. The day has ended very late for Buddy Ooon and Buddy Yum.

It’s 9:30pm on the east coast of Australia. And now Nothafagus cunninghammii opens up her text book. She’s got homework for her uni course. It’s begun this weekend with a Friday-Saturday-Sunday affair.

And I’m off to Coles for the weekly shop. Popping out, I flick open Cricinfo to see that it’s 1/115 (Warner 72*, Doolan 13*). I’m in the car. Turning around in the front street. Beep Beep. The incoming text message says only: “Hedgehog.” This is N. cunninghammii’s kryptonite.

“Brilliant.” I write (text?) back.

And now I’m in Coles. It’s lunchtime in Cape Town but here it’s the witching hour. The hedgehog is sold out. I speculatively collect a brownie instead. Penny is working the register at 10:13pm on a Saturday night. She’s doing it tough.
– Hi.
– Hi, how are you?
– Good.

A loud bloke talking loudly yells suddenly to his female companion: “It’s a supermarket. Don’t buy clothes!” His companion’s eyes dangerously meet mine and she mischievously raises her eyebrows. She playfully carries a piece of clothing to the register. I look away.

Outside the air is reverberating to the sound of DOOF DOOF from a low-slung Honda. Lots of young blokes standing around. Loud talking. Loud engine grumbling. With a squeal it leaves the carpark. Quiet.

I check the score. Has play resumed after lunch yet? It’s 1/122 as I engage in a nice-off with an old Asian gent at the trolley bay.
– After you
– No, no, after you
– No, I insist.

ABC radio brings ball-by-ball commentary to my awareness for the first time today as I drive home. I perform a deft parallel-park out the front as AJ Doolan (20) throws his hand away. And I’m wondering about MJ Clarke as I haul shopping bags in through the back door.

– I can’t believe they’d sold out of hedgehog!
– The brownie is fudgy, but it’s no hedgehog.

I flick on ABC radio to accompany the unpacking. 2/140.
The unpacking requires a freezer rejig. There is no good hour of the day or night to perform this task. Jim Maxwell is talking about MJ Clarke and averages. Foolishly, we open a bag of chips. N.cunninghammii is performing an eBay search for something. DA Warner is on 96. He pulls one away. Four. Another hundred; this one from 104 balls. Well done, him. Hasn’t he done very well since the tour of England?

Here it’s 11.21pm.
This is ridiculous. I shower and grab a score from the radio on the way to bed. 2/176.

And then, too quickly, it’s Sunday in Melbourne.
After the palava and late night I’m hopeful of the buds sleeping in. But no. It’s just gone 7am and we’re all awake. Before long I’m squeezed a bit in the rush to lie next to Mum. Never mind. I’ll get up. I put together the ingredients for dough (270ml water, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 3 cups of packet mix flour (1 ½ of wholemeal, 1 ½ of sour dough)) and start the bread maker on her 90-minute voyage of mechanical kneading and mixing.

And now I check out the cricket score. It’s 7.45am.
Cricinfo reveals 3/331
MJ Clarke 92*
SPD Smith 50*
Ahh, beauty.

I learn that SR Watson and JL Pattinson are selected for Australia (JL Pattinson’s first outing since Lord’s). SE Marsh and PM Siddle are left out. I learn that for South Africa KJ Abbott is in for Parnell, and AN Petersen for Q de Kock. Australia is well placed now in this decisive match. Well done MJ Clarke.

Firing up the scrambled eggs (Tabasco sauce) and coffee, I’m thinking of time and of application and of luck (a good toss to win).

And so N. cunninghammii is off to uni for another full day.
Today I’ll think of cricket and of cricketers getting together.
In South Africa and in the suburbs here.
I’ll think of the togetherness and of the shared experiences and of the later shared telling of those experiences as the thing that cricket (and footy and community events) most importantly offers.
In that light, the score doesn’t really matter, does it?

About David Wilson

David Wilson is a writer, editor, flood forecaster and former school teacher. He writes under the name “E.regnans” at The Footy Almanac and has stories in several books. One of his stories was judged as a finalist in the Tasmanian Writers’ Prize 2021. He shares the care of two daughters and a dog, Pip. He finds playing the guitar a little tricky, but seems to have found a kindred instrument with the ukulele. Favourite tree: Eucalyptus regnans.


  1. Thanks David. For me, your most enjoyable post yet, in a tough field. Cricket as backdrop to a day. To a life. Lives.
    I love Neko Case. Chase her all the way back to the New Pornographers. Catchy and classy and real.
    Kids, adventures, friends, domestic tedium. You got it all in.
    Bliss. Thanks.

  2. mickey randall says

    David. Wonderful. Cricket’s nature allows it to weave among our days and nights. It ebbs and flows with us, but footy is insistent.
    I love the poetry, humour and effortlessness of your report. D. Warner’s going well isn’t he?

  3. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks OBP a great report of life nothing scarier than the kids disappearing , a enjoyable read all up and a great 1st day Thanks David

  4. Troy Hancox says

    great article.
    Yes, can relate to losing sight of our kids one work xmas picnic. The 10 minutes it took to find my lil rascal still frightens me. A creek near by (Botanic Gardens in Adelaide) not to mention a Peter or two, last name file.

    Anyhow, great read, great story about life, sport and general daily tasks carried out, without a thought until now.

    Bring on day two of this decider! not much sleep befor e work tomorrow.
    Mrs is off to see Bruno Mars….. Its me and the boy on the couch cheering on the Aussies!

  5. Andrew Fithall says

    Looked at that night at Zoo Twilights a couple of months ago and picked it as a beauty. DickDiver, the support act were my highlight from last year’s Golden Plains. Neko Case is performing at the same venue this year so on Saturday we opted out and headed to the Corner for Dan Sultan, who was excellent – a cameo from Missy Higgins on Old Fitzroy added to the event.

  6. E.regnans says

    G’day all, and thanks.
    PB- the domestic and the everyday can slip past, can’t it? I spent part of last week interstate so coming home the home life felt ..,alive.
    Mickey – great memories of lazy summer days roving in and out of earshot of the radio cricket coverage. Hadn’t done it before this year from S Africa.
    Rulebook, Troy – the kids hadn’t got too far. I trust Buddy Yum to do the right thing. She just had different ideas about what that was this time.
    AF – didn’t get to concentrate too much on DickDiver, nor on Neko, to be frank. I wouldn’t take little ins if I was there for the musical experience. Still, Neko was terrific. Good for the kids to be dancing to live music. Good call on Dan Sultan. He worked with Missy Higgins on that movie with Jessica Maulbouy, didn’t he? Bran Nue Dae. Good stuff.

  7. Luke Reynolds says

    Fantastic again David. Hope the hedgehog was re-stocked at Coles for N.cunninghammii.

    Dan Sultan’s new song is a cracker.

  8. AE and I saw Dan Sultan last night in Perth. Great show. Great voice. So rare to have a loud show where you can understand all the lyrics.
    4 piece tight little band. I would love to hear him with some horns. But Dan and Ash Naylor are ferocious guitarists.
    References to Beagle Bay and Merredin got the local crowd in. On song went something like a mother singing:
    “My beautiful boy,
    You’re the only good thing
    To come out of old Fitzroy”
    He asked the crowd if they had been to Fitzroy Crossing or Fitzroy Island. I thought “footy club” but Dan is a passionate Sainter.
    I came away thinking they are the best Aussie band since Chisel, with that same lyrical R&B field.
    Save yourself $300 and go see Dan Sultan rather than a superannuated pommie nostalgia act.

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