CWC 2019 tour diaries: The match that mattered most

The Kolpak XI celebrate victory (Getty)
The Kolpak XI celebrate victory (Getty)

Manchester - It doesn't feel right that the Proteas are back home with their feet up while we are at Old Trafford watching the rain fall in a World Cup semi-final. 

It's been a long tour, and because of how poor the South Africans were for most of the tournament, there hasn't been much good news to tell. 

In fairness, it is unsurprising that the Proteas jetted off as soon as they possibly could. It was a nightmarish trip for Faf du Plessis and his men, and a return to family, friends and familiarity would have been welcomed. 

On Saturday, the Proteas brought their campaign to a close with an impressive and naturally dramatic win over old rivals Australia in Manchester. 

It meant little given what had come before, but it ensured that the Proteas at least leave England with their heads held high and something to show for their below par efforts. 

On Sunday, I began wading my way through the post-tournament reaction. 

Du Plessis expressed doubt over his own future, coach Ottis Gibson said he loved his job and wanted to keep it, JP Duminy announced his retirement from all international cricket, Rassie van der Dussen emerged as the South African World Cup success story. 

There was a lot going on. 

I needed to move quickly, because at 16:00 at South West Manchester Cricket club, there was the highly-anticipated 2019 World Cup media game where those who fell into writing about cricket because they weren't good enough to play it converged.

The talk leading up to this contest had intensified throughout the tournament, with absolutely everybody a top order batsman when discussing team selection.

The South Africans were thrown in with the English media to form an English XI that looked more like a Kolpak XI. 

We would take on the Rest of World 1 and Rest of World 2, both made up of journalists from the subcontinent, in two separate 10-over hits.

I had the honour of bowling the first ball of the tournament and was duly lashed through the off-side by a beauty of an Indian journalist who is at least 20 years my senior. 

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JULY 07: during the media cr

Sport24 journalist Lloyd Burnard about to get smoked through the covers (Getty)

The Kolpak XI was ultimately too strong, though, and we won in dramatic fashion with SuperSport cameraman Sibusiso Ndimande taking an entire over to score the 1 run needed for victory. 

Ahead of the second game, a few more had arrived at the ground and made themselves available for selection at the final hour. 

South Africa have already experienced too much of that at this World Cup, so fortunately for them, the selection conundrum was simplified by yours truly failing a late fitness test. 

As the Kolpak XI took to the field for an effective final against Rest of World 2, I moseyed on over to the nets where, unbeknownst to me, the fixture of the tournament was about to unfold.

When I joined, a couple of local kids and the unmissable Lungani Zama had already started playing. 

Half-an-hour later, there must have been around 10 people - old and young - crammed into that tiny space enjoying the most competitive, testing battle of the tournament. 

I can only imagine that it is exactly what batting on a Nagpur dust bowl feels like. 

Fielders surrounding the bat, one-hand-one-bounce, warnings for hitting too aggressively ... batting out there was a near-impossible task. 

The kids knuckled down, bringing out the softest of hands to survive. 

It was Test cricket, and in those moments it felt like the format had a chance against the over-the-top, over-hyped world of T20. 

The Kolpak XI cruised to victory in the 'final' and we were fully chuffed with ourselves, but the game of the day, and perhaps the tournament, took place in those nets. 

"I'm Imran Tahir," one of the kids, who couldn't have been older than 8 or 9, proclaimed before his run-up. 

The reach of this game...

@LloydBurnard is in England covering the 2019 Cricket World Cup for Sport24 ...  

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