Tremaine van Aardt and Neil Emslie
CRICKET fans at Nelson Mandela Bay’s Axxess St George’s stadium were not only treated to some entertaining cricket by the players yesterday but also some off-pitch banter, something the South African and Aussie supporters are famous for.
Friendly chirps flew back and forth between the two camps of supporters at the start of the second test at the Park Drive stadium.
Although only 3600 people had turned up by 3pm on the first day of the test in Port Elizabeth, the off-pitch comments flowed throughout the day.
Cleary Estate resident Darryl Wilson made sure Australia’s man-of-the-moment, left-arm fast bowler Mitchell Johnson, knew that “he is in PE now!”
“This not Centurion [in Pretoria], these Aussies must realise here in PE things are different. The pitch doesn’t bounce and isn’t as fast.
“Johnson, we’re not in a hurry, we have all day. It just takes him four overs then he’s tired, his danger spell done,” the 34-year-old Proteas fan said.
“SA realise they have a job to do here in PE if they want to keep this series alive.
“And I will be here all day to make sure my voice stays in his [Johnson’s] head and that he dreams about it tonight,” Wilson said jokingly.
Melinda Colt, a member of wavingtheflag.com – a group of 36 Australians who follow their team around the world – took the chirps in good spirit.
“It’s all in the spirit of fun. Our group follows the Aussies all around the world. We’re staying in this beautiful country for seven weeks …
“PE is a gorgeous city and the people here are very friendly,” the Perth resident said. “We find PE is more relaxed and just what we were hoping for. We will still be going to Addo while we are here, but before we do that we [the Australian cricket team] are going to beat the Proteas in their own backyard.”
As the South African partnership of Dean Elgar and Faf du Plessis gathered momentum, home supporters became more vocal. Westering resident Joseph Arnolds had lots to say about seam bowler Johnson.
“I hear people call Johnson ‘Magic Mitchell’, but here in PE we call him Jack Sparrow.
“South Africa are going to be at the wicket for a long time. Our boys are playing some good cricket – we won’t be walked over like we were in the first test,” Arnolds said.
Kim O’Neil, also from Perth and a member of wavingtheflag.com, was confident the Aussies would win.
“It was never a question of if we were going to win, but by how many runs we would win.
“We are Australian and proud of it. This test will be no different to the last,” O’Neill said.
Seven-year-old Waheed Abdullah, who was with almost 100 other KFC mini-cricketers, did not mince his words when asked who he thought would win the series. “Why are you asking me such a dumb question?
“We [South Africa] are the best in the world – we will always win. The other team don’t stand a chance. You will see when we win here in PE and Cape Town,” the Gelvandale youngster said.
Another SA supporter, Tony Evans, said it was great to see a test in Port Elizabeth against the Aussies – the first one played here in 17 years.
“The pitch looks a lot calmer [than Centurion] and we are having a great time sitting here on the banks near Castle Corner,” the SA fan said. “How often do we see test cricket? This is great and I am really enjoying it.”
Two Australian fans, Steve Sandri from Melbourne and Timmy Smith from Brisbane, also lapped up the atmosphere.
“This is my first time here,” Sandri said, “and it’s always been a dream of mine to come here since listening to the 1969-70 series [won 4-0 by SA in SA] on the radio. It’s been sensational. We have really enjoyed it. We’ve just had a walk around – went outside to have a look at a museum which you don’t get to do too often,” Sandri said. “And it’s a terrific atmosphere, a great old stadium with a lot of history.”
Smith said: “Well, my first test was in 1993-94, but we are really enjoying the grounds here. It’s a lovely atmosphere, very chilled out, probably more so than Australia.
“At Centurion we sat on big bean bags, and here the grass banks are great. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Asked if they were smiling when SA were reduced to 11/2, Smith quipped: “Mate, I’ve been smiling ever since Centurion.” ýSee back page