I’ve found a whole new chunk of Cape Town to love. Newlands is the most wonderful cricket ground I’ve ever been to. OK, so it’s the only cricket ground I’ve been to, but I’m a very recent convert to the game, and finding myself sitting in the sun by a large green field with Table Mountain as a backdrop, I knew this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
My apologies to Liam who, at 6 years old, was also experiencing his first match. I had recently found out (with a light sprinkling of embarrassment) that ‘one hand, one bounce’ doesn’t apply in proper cricket but there’s a chance I may have told him some other rules which could earn him a ribbing in the playground at a later date. But never mind – he took part in his first ever Mexican wave and that went down a treat.
We were at the World Twenty20 Australia v. England match. The sun was shining, the beer was cold, the biltong was tasty – it was heaven on a Friday afternoon. The cheery thwack of leather on willow would occasionally be followed by a roar from the spectators if the ball reached the boundary – a noise that was promptly drowned out by 30 seconds of pumping music, dancers gyrating on mini stages around the field, and fireworks exploding from the top of the scoreboard. I couldn’t help feeling that if Roman gladiators had played cricket, it would have been this version. And at the end the England team would have been fed to the lions.
Of course the stadium isn’t quite that old but it does have a history. Originally a slightly swampy patch of farmland given to the Vicomtesse de Montmort as a wedding present (lucky girl) it was officially opened on 2nd January 1888 with a Mother Country v. Colonial-Born match. So… not too far removed from what I was watching then, though that was in the days before players sported, to quote Dan Nicholl, the “Liberace-goes-to-the-gym” look. I found the Australians custard and grey particularly off-putting, but perhaps that’s all part of their tactics, along with the black stars on the midriff which make them look as though they’ve been shot by Wile E. Coyote.
Such is the joy of cricket. Even a 20-over a side match is long enough to allow such musings. What other spectator sport is so supremely relaxing? And so what if you don’t know your third man from your silly mid-off? I urge you, if you are here at the right time of year, get over to Newlands and grab yourself a seat or a patch of grass under the trees, and prepare to while away an afternoon, Capetonian style.