Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - Painting South Africa's picture on a dark and stormy day. For the fourth time in less than a year, a cricket tour to South Africa could become a victim of coronavirus
For the fourth time in less than a year, a cricket tour to South Africa could become a victim of coronavirus
Primrose yellow polka dots on a cornflower blue background. If the socks David Miller batted in at Centurion on Friday was the sum total of what you knew about the first ODI between South Africa and the Netherlands, you would have assumed all was well. Nothing would have been further from the truth.
The game itself was a nondescript canvas for the Jackson Pollock picture of chaos being painted on and all around it. For the first time in their five ODIs against each other, the Dutch kept South Africa to a total below 300. The home side looked listless against innocuous bowling, and needed a stand of 119 by Zubayr Hamza and Kyle Verreynne, and a late blast of 48 off 22 balls by Andile Phehlukwayo, to reach 277/8.
Two overs into the visitors' reply, umpires Marais Erasmus and Adrian Holdstock had the good sense to clear the ground. Minutes later the unnerving calm of a steadily leadening sky was cracked by a jagged, blinding light and the fury of a hard-hearted Highveld thunderstorm was unleashed on the scene. Perhaps Pollock, who died in 1956, flings his crazy painting from above these days. Two hours of deluge later, the match was abandoned.
While that was happening, at the other end of the country in Cape Town, thunder rocked Table Mountain itself. Soon the streets were silvery and soaked. It's not supposed to rain in Cape Town in November, and thunder there at any time of the year is as rare as someone working in the city after 3pm on a Friday. These are interesting times, and far from normal.
By then, the tour itself was in jeopardy. To many of us, B.1.1.529 wouldn't have meant much before Tuesday, when it was identified as the newest variant of Covid-19. It spreads faster and bristles with more mutations than earlier versions of the virus. It might also dodge the billions of doses of vaccine that have been administered worldwide. And another thing: B.1.1.529 is southern Africa's early Christmas gift to the stricken planet. Cue the imposition of travel restrictions, and flight cancellations.
The Dutch are due to play again on Sunday and Wednesday and go home next Friday. But, given the circumstances – and the quarantine they are likely to have to serve, and pay for, once they return – you wouldn't blame them for wanting to take a bus to the airport immediately. Not so fast.
“Both boards can confirm that following updated information, it is highly unlikely that the visiting team will be able to fly out of South Africa over the weekend,” a CSA release said. “The KNCB [Koninklijke Nederlandse Cricket Bond] is reviewing all of its options, while prioritising the physical and mental well-being of its players. A decision on the continuation of the series will follow in the next 24 to 48 hours, while all flight options are being considered.”
This is an awfulness all round. For the fourth time in less than a year, a cricket tour to South Africa could become a victim of coronavirus. For the Netherlands, a scarce chance to play against major opponents could be lost – only 39 of their 169 games have involved ICC full members who are not Afghanistan or Ireland. Last year they had a T20I against New Zealand in Rotterdam and three ODIs against Pakistan at Amstelveen cancelled because of the pandemic.
Friday's result earned each team five points in the World Cup Super League standings; not enough to put either of them in line for direct qualification for the 2023 tournament. A clean sweep of wins for the hosts would have lifted them from ninth to third. Now the best they can hope for is to rise to fourth – if the last two games are played, if the weather doesn't get in the way, and if they win them.
Would it be fair to expect either team to be able to give anything like their best? The Dutch will wonder when next they will be home. The South Africans will wonder when next they might leave home. Or if even that rug will be pulled from under them – and take with it the floor beneath their feet.
India are due to visit in December and January, and current indications are they will fulfil that commitment. But we can't be sure, especially as we don't know how bad this will get. CSA have sold the rights for US$105-million. Last month CSA reported losses of the equivalent of USD$13.5-million for the 2020/21 financial year. That deficit could be wiped out, almost eight times over, by India's tour. But if India don't come … you don't need Jackson Pollock to paint that picture. The canvas will be eerily, fatally blank.
Here's another salient number to highlight: 476. That's how many spectators were at Centurion on Friday. It wasn't much of a crowd, but it was the first time South Africa have played in front of their home supporters since March 7, 2020. That's 629 days without feeling the warmth of their own fans. And 629 days without those fans feeling the presence of their heroes. Who knows when they will feel it again, and what colour socks David Miller will wear to mark the occasion.