Momentous victory

2008-12-31 00:00

It isn’t as easy as South African fans would wish to receive coverage of the cricket series in Australia. A dispute between the Australian Cricket Board and the print media has prevented the usual flow of dispatches from the major news agencies, and the time difference has made it difficult for all but the most dedicated viewers and listeners to catch the ball-by-ball action. The full import of the Proteas’ victory in the second Test took a while to sink in — but when it did, it could be seen as a momentous victory. For not only is this the first South African side to win a Test series in Australia, but they now have within reach the number one world ranking.

In wider perspective some more general points appear. The first relates to the five-day format, often decried by lovers of the fast and exciting 20- or 50-over one-day version. The two Tests played so far have highlighted the subtlety and fluctuations of the five-day game, which allows time for the emergence of the kind of courage and determination that, married to talent and skill, can turn the tide in astonishing ways. Second, younger players have had the chance to settle and to give of what proved to be their extraordinary best. Unlike some of the older members of the team, these newcomers, having no direct experience of the virtually unbeatable Australian cricketing machine of recent years, aren’t particularly overawed or unnerved by the present team. Let us hope that the momentum is maintained in the third Test and the one-day series to come.

Let’s hope, also, that this victorious tour marks the beginning of the end of political interference in sport in this country. The Proteas are a fully integrated and representative team that have come together naturally, all of their members playing, not because they fit some racial quota, but because they’re the best at what they do, and playing especially well because they do it with passionate enthusiasm under the leadership of a fine captain and a canny coach. And so, as they come within reach, like SA rugby, of being designated best in the world, many minds must turn to Bafana Bafana. Could these triumphs help strengthen resolve in the soccer camp, and imbue that team with the determination to do everything it takes to make their mark before the 2010 Soccer World Cup?

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