South Africa Tour 2015/16


A poor start by England in the fourth and final test.

Some loose bowling, another nightmare from Bairstow behind the stumps with more dropped catches and a bit of form shown at last by the SA batsmen.

The outfield was like green ice and everything that beat the field was hurtling to the boundary.

Just one wicket in the first two sessions, and that by virtue of another miracle catch by James Taylor.

Mr Blade was on the grass bank with the majority of our gang, whilst Lofty and I paid a massive premium for seats in the stand behind the bowlers arm, which cost almost £5 each.

Fortunately for Blade then, he was not around when my phone started to be torpedoed by texts from Herbie the Grim Reaper, now back at the treadmill in Enfield.

"Tell the Blade that he can stay until lunch then he needs to leave the ground and keep well away."

Hashim Amla hit a century, after being dropped.

"Forget Bairstow. Its the Blade that's the real problem. Can't you have a whip round for some Saffer to kidnap him?"

Steve Cook hit another century, also after being dropped.

"For pity's sake mate, get the Blade out of the ground."

On and on it went.

Meanwhile, Blade, along with a number of other people including Higgy, had taken refuge in the local rugby club bar for the afternoon.

A few of our gang would be a little worse for wear later that evening.

The final session gave us some hope with four wickets falling, including De Villiers for a duck, but Bavuma and De Kock took the game away from England once more with a fifty partnership and South Africa had very much the better of the day, closing on 329 - 5.

Greavsie went AWOL next morning, not for the first time, but he didn't miss much by way of entertainment. Before play started I sold all our remaining copies of 'Disgruntled Down Under' at the ground and that was as good as it got.

Quinton De Kock compiled yet another century - he was also dropped - and by early afternoon Mr Blades hopes of a win were all but extinguished as South Africa built up a score of 475 all out.

Despite a gritty rearguard innings by Alastair Cook we were up against it and Nigel, Helen and myself left the cricket ground a wee bit early to watch the Manchester United v Southampton game. The performance by United was as abject as anything I have ever seen, in fact they played better football in my opinion during the relegation season in 1973 - 74.

Mr & Mrs Blade and Thomas, together with Freddie and Lofty, joined us.

Stumps at Supersport Park with England 138 - 2.

With the football game also ended, I passed on a few rather loud words of wisdom to Louis Van Gaal, although I doubt he heard me through the medium of the Godfather Restaurant big screen. However, a baldie brummie diner who had been on the beer all day did hear me, and a heated argument ensued about the appropriateness of my language two minutes after my team had lost. Brummie guy also lit Mr Blades blue touch paper by swearing in front of Thomas.

This type of thing last happened to me on tour in Cape Town 2004 with an Aston Villa fan, and I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that some people from the Birmingham area are simply incapable of minding their own business. Maybe their own business just isn't very interesting.

As usual, Mrs Blade sorted out the situation with her calming influence.

Our evening was curtailed by another of those highveld downpours, in which all the tables on the patio of our restaurant were thoroughly soaked. I hope the covers on the cricket pitch are more effective than the ones the Godfather use!

In the morning our housemaid, Rebecca, showed that she had learned the art of multi - tasking Western style while collecting the guests laundry. She tripped and fell into the swimming pool together with all the washing and some of the lads are accusing Greavsie of foul play here.

As I did not see him trip Rebecca up, a yellow card cannot be issued.

Day three at the cricket started with Cook and Root batting steadily enough but things all came apart just before lunch. Root nicked off, Taylor played a reckless pull shot and was caught behind, and then the hapless Bairstow was also dismissed for a duck.

What a great game Bairstow is having.

Lots of talk amongst the England fans about the worst wicketkeeper England have ever fielded, and although I've thought long & hard, I cannot conjure up anyone clumsier with the gloves than Jonny.

That forty minutes before lunch will prove to be the period that lost this game for England.

After the interval various rearguards developed, held together by Moeen Ali, and eventually England reached the comparative respectability of 342 all out.

A lead then of 133 for South Africa.

Kagiso Rabada, the young South African bowler, finished with his career best figures of 7 - 112. This is the second consecutive test that he has surpassed his personal best, I bet he wishes he could play England every week!

Nigel and Helen were sat with us for most of the day and Nigel told us that he had been drinking with another Nigel, football manager Mr Pearson, in the hotel bar last night.

As if on cue, Nigel Pearson appeared in a box just behind us, and I chanced a sneaky photo.

Mr Pearson was on the phone, perhaps to the Godfather restaurant to order a well done ostrich steak for dinner?

Just one wicket fell when South Africa batted, so they are almost 180 runs ahead with nine wickets remaining and we are clearly right up against it.

The weather was not great today with scudding showers and the main body of the Addis Army spent the afternoon drinking in the rugby club rather than sitting on the wet grass bank. I can't say I blame them, but I'm afraid all day beer sessions are off limits for me nowadays so I settled for a nice meal in the evening with Lofty and Five - O.

Coincidentally, Five - O did order ostrich for dinner, without being prompted by the Nigel Pearson / Wycombe story!

Day four started with Lofty in 'chunnering' mood. 'Chunnering' seems to be a Guernsey habit whereby the 'chunnerer' mutters to him/herself without any thought as to who might be listening.

The Barmy Army, led by Billy the trumpeter, started singing 'Ben' when Stokes came on to bowl.

"What was all that about? I didn't even recognise the song." chunnered Lofty.

"Ben, by Michael Jackson", I explained. "For Ben Stokes."

"Harrumph. He should have been bloody locked up." chunnered Lofty again.

I'm certain I don't know who Lofty meant, but despite his past poor disciplinary record, I don't think he was talking about Ben Stokes.

The cricket today was like watching paint dry, as two early Anderson wickets, including De Villiers for a pair, slowed South Africa down to a crawl, meaning they ended up batting until tea.

Jamo was leaving us to travel home today, and he ended up leaving the ground prematurely. But not in his lion suit. TV viewers may have seen Jamo illuminating the grass bank today in his fancy dress. He didn't need to wear the headpiece though, as no lion can match the Jamo mane. Safe journey mate.

I left shortly after Jamo, and just before a large storm settled over the ground forcing South Africa into a declaration. England then needed to score 382 in their second innings to win the game, and in the unlikely event that they were successful, this would represent a new record at this ground.

In the short period of play remaining, there was time for Alex Hales to be dismissed with just two runs on the board - curious that his name rhymes with 'fails', as that is exactly what he has done as an opening batsman all tour.

There was also time for Captain Cook to knock back an easy return catch to Morkel.

Five minutes later, Compton nicked off audibly to the wicketkeeper, was given out, and promptly reviewed the decision by DRS. Rather wasteful. (Very restrained, Midnight. Ed.)

I think its time to head for the beach, lads and lasses.

Today was Mrs Blades birthday, and an excellent surprise party was organised at Pizza Milan in the evening.

The final day of the tour then, and I confidently predicted we would be back at our lodgings licking our wounds by 2pm.

As ever, England surpassed my expectations, and the last seven wickets fell in just 70 minutes. It was almost as if the team had tee - off times booked for the afternoon.

So Lofty and I wasted 100 Rand apiece watching this shabby spectacle, but we came across an even more unlucky soul at the bus stop outside the ground.

A South African guy had spent 70 Rand buying a grass bank ticket, arrived late, and seen precisely two balls before it was time for him to turn and head for home. He has therefore just eclipsed Gilo's longstanding 'minimum play' record, previously achieved on the fifth day of the last Ashes test at Old Trafford - three balls of brilliant batting by Ian Bell after lunch, until the players went off for bad light and rain, never to return.

Gilo still holds the 'minimum value' trophy though, as his Old Trafford ticket cost £25 rather than 70 Rand.

So as Herbie gloomily predicted, Mr Blade will have to wait some more for his first away test victory. However, I don't think the Blades are too concerned.

When the game ended, young Thomas Blade obtained Joe Root's cricket boots, Jonny Bairstow's batting gloves and Steven Finn's training top. No doubt all this sporting memorabilia will be appearing on the Australian Antiques Roadshow when Thomas is forty - odd, married with kids and skint.

This has been one of the best tours ever with great company, some thrilling cricket, cheap prices and most importantly a series victory, so I think we can all put up with a bad defeat in a dead rubber.

I am signing off now, I hope my diaries have been enjoyable, but this may not quite be all readers, as I understand that Lofty is currently preparing an 'alternative blog' for our next newsletter. I have no doubt that this will amount to little more than a slanderous and vindictive attack on my good character.

I cannot wait to read it - and neither can my solicitor!



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