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South Africa 475 and 42-1, England 342

The star of today was undoubtedly Kagiso Rabada, a 20-year-old fast bowler who tore through England’s batting order, taking seven of the ten wickets. Admittedly he was also the most expensive of South Africa’s bowlers, conceding 112 runs from his 29 overs at 3.9 per over, but you’ll take that if he’s getting you the wickets. South African cricket fans should be very excited about his prospects; my only concern is whether he will be able to stand the strain which his captain will undoubtedly place on him. He has scoliosis, a curvature of the spine, and the Proteas will have to be very careful to manage his workload to maximize his career. I hope they can manage it. Joanne was telling me that a number of promising fast bowlers have risen through the ranks in the past and then fallen victim to injuries before they can really make it; she also pointed out, though, that Rabada has grown up in an entirely post-apartheid era, in a middle-class family, so hopefully has avoided the malnutrition and poor medical treatment that previous generations of potential black South African bowlers have suffered. I look forward excitedly to watching his career develop.

Today was not quite so busy as yesterday, partly I expect because of the rain. Yesterday’s crowd was about 12,000, only around half of capacity but I have no idea where they’d fit another 10,000 people because it felt packed. Joanne and I were sitting just in front of a group of South African fans who had come prepared with a few songs to rival the Barmy Army. In theory, I love this idea – more nations getting organized and writing witty tunes to cheer on their team is a great thing. However, yesterday’s crowd failed on a number of counts: firstly, they chanted rather than sang, so it was often difficult to identify the tune; not enough of them knew the words to their good songs, and those who did mumbled, so even right next to them I had difficulty making out the lyrics; and once they’d been through their three or four prepared songs, they resorted to witty chants of the “Compton is a wanker” variety. It also struck me that most of their songs were derogatory chants about the opposition, rather than cheering on their own players. It made me really appreciate the Barmy Army: most of their songs are clever, easy to pick up and join in, and supportive. Even the songs about the opposition (such as the Baa Ba-vuma one) are affectionate and could just as well be sung to one of the England players. The Barmy Army also have their secret weapon: Bill the trumpeter, who is superb at judging the mood, picking the right song and keeping everyone on track and in tune. Today I particularly enjoyed his contributions while Dean Elgar was bowling: one of the Pomp and Circumstance marches and Chanson du Matin. It’s a shame it’s so long until we next tour New Zealand, to give him a chance to serenade Wagner.

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