I decided at the last minute that I needed a break from the grind and would go and check out the Proteas play the the Irish at Canberra’s Manuka oval.
AB V O BREIN;IRELAND – ICC PROGRAMME PROTEAS – ICC PROGRAMME CAN T -BIG HITTING SHOWDOWN
It was an exciting prospect to attend a game involving the highly rated Proteas and the three world class players in the side, captain A B De Villiers, Hasim Amla and Dale Steyn. A chance to get to ground early, see the boys have a net prior to game and perhaps a chance to get a few autographs and pictures if I were lucky. The boys were also likely to be more relaxed taking on the ‘’minnows’’ in the form of Ireland.
I booked the ‘’best available’’ ticket available off the ICC website and set off early (with the assistance of my current bout of insomnia) at 3 am on Tuesday morning for Canberra. My good friend Paul Van Dyk (not the European famous DJ….Paul digs Afrikaans traditional music en n bietjie sakkie from time to time) has accommodation in the NSW town of Queanbeyan, bordering the ACT and 10 kilometres from Canberra.
The road trip was made a bit more exciting as we had obtained a new Holden Captiva (our Holden Zafira after 10 years of faithful service has started to play up a bit) and it was the perfect opportunity and great timing to give it a ‘road test’’. It was a pleasure driving the new cabby but the road trip was marred – and I suppose I’m fortunate to say it could of ruined my short cricket escape- when I struck a kangaroo at dawn on the outskirts of Canberra. Out of nowhere a pair of adult ‘’Roos’’ sprung out of the bush into my direct path. I was doing about 80 clicks per hour in an 100 zone. I was able to break hard (giving consideration to the fact I had someone too close on my tail) and clipped the poor creature. I stopped immediately and the only damage to my new car was a cracked fender and trim. I felt terrible,actually a bit gutted ( you know what they say about the time just before dawn……) . I drove back and found the fella dead in middle of road. I pulled him/her off road and checked for a pouch and babies……my better half has taught me well. I digress a bit but thought that unfortunate incident was worth pausing for in my rush towards Manuka Oval.
I met my friend Paul at his office and had an early brekky with him and met some of his colleagues ( engineers and many of them Saffers……they everywhere ….even in the drab outskirts of Canberra !).
I checked out Queenbeyan and the kind lady- owner/ operator- from the very comfortable Olympiad Motel told me all about the town and where to catch the bus from to get to the suburb of Manuka. I planned to have a few beers…..of course ! ;-). I also checked out the historic railway station where only the Inter-State service from Sydney stops. The friendly station master ,who was shooting the breeze with the Greyhound bus driver in the forecourt, advised me not to bother with the train to Manuka as it would be a 20 minute walk to Manuka Stadium from the Canberra Station………The Aussies really have it good. While I was chatting to the station master the obligatory thin as a stick down and out, bedraggled junkie type ( of course I could be wrong here….no judgement ! ) struggled onto the bus after a muffled ‘’Hows yous going ?’’ greeting.
I had a shower and then a kiep under the big shady Acacia tree in the Motel garden before setting off for the bus with my camera and yes my old bright red autograph book ( I got back in about 1978 from my parents which has such lumineer cricketers as Pollock, Barlow, Dyer, Cronje, Gibbs and Kallis in it……..”Punk” I can snap and scan and send if you don’t believe me ;-)).
I met a fella on the bus also on his way to the game and started chatting. After the 20 minute ride we arrived at Manuka which looks like a fairly affluent suburb of Canberra. My mate, Glen, from the bus trip suggested the nearby Kingston Hotel for a beer and a decent meal. I said to cheers to him and said I’d have a look around before deciding. I had about 3 hours to kill before the 14h30 start.
Anyway, as it turned out I settled on the Kingston and with a ‘’100 Lashes’’ boutique beer in hand and my wallet $ 9.00 lighter-yeah I thought I come this far to relax I may as well treat myself – I found Glen at a table on the outside balcony. We picked up where we left off and reverted to the more regular and economical Coopers and each of us had an Aussie Lamb Burger for 12 bucks…….tasty !
We chewed the fat with mostly cricket talk. Glen, about my vintage, was from relativey nearby country district town of Braidwood in between Canberra and Batemans Bay -the big town and port Canberra was granted when it was made the Capital city- where he is a pump (borehole mainly) mechanic and salesman. A cricket tragic who has to do with only radio commentary and attending Manuka Oval as there is no signal in Braidwood.
We spoke about old Australian teams and it was interesting to hear him talk about K P Wessels and his debut ton for Aussie coming in at no 6 or 7. You live and learn …didn’t realise he started down the order. Glen knew all bout messrs Pollock et al and contemporaries from ‘’isolation years’’ and also all about the ‘’Rebel’’ Tours. He also attended some of the first Pyjama Cricket matches aka Packer Series.
After parting with glen I trundled down the hill to Manuka Oval and found that my ‘’Best Available’’ $ 40.00 ticket provided me with a very nice seat in the BoB Hawke Stand square of the wicket on the western side of the ground. The grand stand seating was also in the shade all day on a hot and muggy day… but mainly overcast.
I missed the boys in the nets and when I arrived they were playing volley ball just in front of the grandstand I was seated in.The proteas won the toss and batted first thankfully. I think there was a potential for an early evening had it been the other way round.
De Kock lost his wicket early to Mooney who bowled well in his opening spell at one point having figures of 1 for 0 off 3 overs. Faf Du Plessis came in and it was plain sailing from thereon forward with both he and Hasim notching up centuaries.
It was exciting to see ‘A B’ stride to the wicket after the fall of Faf and I suppose one was left a little disappointed after his quick fire 24. Rilley Rousouw and David Miller did a good job getting the Proteas to a score in excess of 400 again.
My time in the Bob Hawke stand was interesting as behind me were some local blokes with girlfriends or friends from the United States. There was Melissa from Masachutes and Amy from Chicago. Cricket being brand new to them it was a continuous line of enquiry about the game and the enevatible comparison to baseball. Once the afternoon had loosened up a bit I joined in the banter with the local Canberian, Ben and kind of host of the American girls. I was pleased pleased to contribute to their knowledge off a very low base about the game.
Out of nowhere my friend Paul arrived in our stand and joined us always making sure the American girls had their plastic wine glasses full of the stadium house wine. Even though the ground was fairly full ( about 8000 in attendance) it was always a breeze to get hold of a half strength ( that is all that they serve in Australian Stadiums) Coopers beer from the bar immediately behind the stand.
Ben also mentioned the great atmosphere from a few days ago at Manuka Oval when Afghanistan played their first World Cup game against Scotland and won in a close finish. There was dancing in the ailses by the big contingent of Afghan supporters. Its been a highlight for me the closely fought ‘minnow ‘games at this world cup.
I caught a taxi back to Queenbeyan and the Motel after the game after being a bit disappointed their were no lively pubs about…..I suppose it was a Tuesday evening in Canberra……..
My four hour trip back to Sydney the next morning was less eventfull thankfully except being slowed down in peak hour traffic from about 05h30 and 100 kilometres outside of Sydney CBD. Sydney traffic is something to avoid and something that I thought I had done by leaving Canberra at 3 am .
The little excursion will always hold a fond memory for me and the tune “Norman Street” from the freshly released Ocean Party album ( had it on ”repeat” for a while on the new car stereo) will always take me back to Manuka -Emerald Greens V Proteas , 3 March, 2015.
Ireland v South Africa at Canberra, Mar 3, 2015 _ Cricket Scorecard
Amla, du Plessis tons pummel Ireland _ Cricket _ ESPN Cricinfo