A Magical Lord’s Test
(Image and Footage : Lords Cricket Ground)
You never want to be seen to be gloating in your moment of triumph, but you’ll forgive me in saying that yesterday’s victory by our cricketers over England was good. Firstly, it came at a good time. There was carnage on our mines this past week as union bosses fought out a turf war at a cost of 44 lives. The nation was bleeding, and God knows, we needed something to lift us. Yes, there was a recent series victory over England on the rugby field, Ernie Els hoisted the Claret Cup at the British Open, and our athletes earned gold at the Olympics. But there’s little more satisfying than when the lesson comes from the pupil at the expense of the teacher, and cricket came to the Empire from our Colonial masters. That’s why the Aussies call England “the old enemy” and here we were, taking on the number one rated team in the world for their crown, an English team which ranks with the best in their history. Savour the moment, countrymen, the margin was 2-0, and whilst credit should be given to England for a hard-fought contest, there was never a doubt about the supremacy of the Proteas.
I know this will sound like salt in the wound, but most of our English friends are of generous spirit and good humour, so I’m going to share a moment of amusement with you. Before I do so, let me confess to a generous flow of their blood through my own veins, yet I remain bewildered by the British psyche. Rewind to the 19th century, when the British held dominion over more than 40% of the earth’s surface, when they possessed the greatest fighting machine the world had ever known, and when there was no territory they’d entered that they’d failed to conquer. Yet they came to South Africa, to suffer the most humiliating defeats in all their military glory, at places like Isandlwana, Nkambule, Eshowe and Hlobane, the latter of which prompted Sir Benjamin Disraeli, Prime Minister at the time, to ask in the Commons: “Who are these people, who convert our bishops, defeat our generals, and this day have altered the course of European history forever?”. And then there were the battles (and the losses) with the Boers at Colenso, Vaalkrans and Spioenkop, as well as the battle that put an end to the first Anglo Boer War, Majuba.
Yet our British friends, (and thank goodness it’s so, because they fill our hotels and lodges!) come back year-after-year, in their thousands, to visit the sites of their greatest defeats. Of course, they do so for the big consolation as well, Rorke’s Drift, without parallel Britain’s most glorious moment on the field of battle. And they still return, their cricketers and their rugby players, to Newlands, King’s Park, Ellis Park and Loftus Versveld, to the Wanderers and Kingsmead, for hiding after hiding, year after year. And then they leave, chins up in the stoic British tradition, with a smile on their faces. And that’s why this little island, smaller than KwaZulu-Natal in extent, continues to wield such clout in the international world of finance, politics and let’s not forget, they’ve just celebrated their greatest year at the Olympics.