Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Controversial First Test ends with an SA win

First Test - Centurian

Match day and the anticipation before any Test series is huge but between these 2 countries who have an intense rivalry and it’s at fever pitch. We agreed to meet up with the Pakistanis at their team hotel because they have a police escort and the 65kms we have to travel to SuperSport Park is easier to get to on a working day with a police escort.

The escort consists of 10 motorbike riders on high powered machines with lights and sirens going. What excitement when we pulled out of the hotel at 8.30am and these guys went to work stopping traffic, blocking off roads and generally just keeping everything well away from the coach party. The journey can take as much as an hour on some mornings but with our high speed companions we reached the ground in 30 minutes! I now know how VIP’s feel – spoilt!!!

All was set fair the weather was great, the pitch had dried out sufficiently and everything was fine when the captains and I went out to toss. Pakistan won it and decided to bat and Greame Smith wasn’t too bothered because he didn’t exactly know what to do. Well things turned out pretty well for Inzi and Pakistan as they weathered the new ball and set about building a first innings score. Both Hameed and Younis Khan got half centuries whilst Ntini picked up 2 wickets on an honours even kind of day as the Pakistanis finished on 242 for 5. As officials at the end of the day we were invited into a hospitality box adjacent to the umpires’ room. The box was run by Rudi Bryson a former South African cricketer who came to Surrey for one season in 1992 and now runs a hospitality business here in Pretoria. An enjoyable evening was had by all!

Mornings and evenings followed pretty much the same pattern for the following 3 days as the police guided us to the ground in the morning and Mr Bryson entertained us in his box in the evenings. The days cricket play was anything but predictable though!

South Africa fought back well in the morning of day 2 with Ntini picking up 3 more wickets totaling 5 for the innings, the 16th time he’s done that in his career. So Pakistan ended on 313, not a bad total and it got better when they picked up 3 quick wickets with Smith and DeVilliers and then Kallis going cheaply. Hasim Amla and Ashwell Prince steadied the ship to have them 254 for 4 at the end of the day. Honours just favouring South Africa at this stage!

The morning session of day 3 belonged to Prince and Hershelle Gibbs who both scored well to give a definite advantage to the home team. Their morning was only spoilt by the fact that Gibbs got out in the over before lunch, but they were in a very strong position at 356 for 5. It was then that the visitors came back at the Proteas as they knocked over the last 5 wickets for the addition of only 61 runs but Prince made an excellent hundred and they had a lead of 104 on a pitch with increasing turn and inconsistent bounce. There was some more good play by the visitors as it was their turn to weather the new ball storm and come through relatively unscathed. They were 12 without loss at tea and then 103 for 2 at the close with Farhat and Younis Khan both in the fourties and looking well set, more importantly they had all-but wiped out the deficit from the first innings. The game is evenly poised!

Day 4 was another fascinating one as first one side got an advantage and then the other got it back. The first session only produced 60 runs for the loss of 2 wickets which meant that Pakistan were only 56 runs ahead with 6 wickets remaining but importantly Inzamam-ul-Haq was still at the crease. Things got much better for South Africa after the break as Inzi, Faisal Iqbal and Kamran Akmal all fell leaving the visitors only 95 runs ahead with 3 wickets in hand. There then followed an interesting faze as Smith took the new ball hoping that that would hurry the demise of the Pakistani side, instead it hurried the scoring as the tail wagged very nicely. Rana Naved and Shahid Nazir took the attack to SA and no-one was spared their flashing blades.

Unfortunately as the day was coming to an interesting end a news story broke that soured all that had gone before because it was reported to me that a South African player had been heard over the stump microphone racially abusing some Pakistani supporters within earshot of the Pakistan captain who was batting at the time. It wasn’t clear who the culprit was until close to the days end when Herschelle Gibbs admitted to saying the words. There was frantic action by Cricket SA to try and lessen the impact and appease the Pakistan management who were understandably upset by the remarks.
The days play finished with SA on 65-2 needing another 130 to win but the focus had changed to the reported incident rather than what should have been the end to an exciting cricket contest.
When I got back to our hotel I received a phone call from the Pakistan manager, Talat Ali that they want to lay a charge against Gibbs. I went to their hotel and had a good chat with him explaining that Cricket SA were going to release a statement about the incident first thing tomorrow which would hopefully include an apology and possibly a charge against Gibbs.
I hoped he would agree to delay giving me the charge sheet until after he’d read the statement in the morning which he agreed to do.

The last morning of the match came and we were woken by a huge thunder storm at about 5am. This is not unusual in these parts but it was still cloudy and rainy when we left the hotel and arrived at the ground. Good I thought, this will give Cricket SA time to organise the statement, hand it to all concerned before play gets underway. Not a chance! After an hour of being there and nothing was forthcoming I phoned the media liaison representative who admitted to me that they were stalling for time. I know not why but the longer it went on the more complicated it became because the Pakistan Board were getting involved and the Australian media were interested, particularly as word was getting out that the incident occurred because the players were getting racially abused by some Pakistani fans at the game. This brought back the memories of SA’s tour to Australia last year when they accused the Aussie supporters of racial abuse.
Play started at 11.15 after some mopping up and SA got through to lunch just losing the nightwatchman Harris. In the mean time Cricket SA announced that it was holding a hearing into the allegations at 9.00am Tuesday morning the day after the game, but just before that it was announced the Pakistan management had lost patience with the home board and handed me a letter saying that they were going to charge Gibbs for the remarks. The plot thickened when I got a phone call from David Richardson saying that Malcolm Speed, our CEO, was laying a charge against Gibbs for the remarks.
In the end Mr Speed’s charge sheet came through first, so in fact it was ICC that charged the player and the hearing was held at the close of play which incidentally SA won by 7 wickets thanks to half centuries by Kallis and man-of-the-match; Hashim Amla.

Almost half the SA side accompanied Gibbs into the hearing which made things very cosy because I also had the Pakistan management and the captain in our small umpires’ room. There was a lot of frank discussion with SA defending their man but Pakistan saying how hurt they were by the remarks. After 45 minutes of chat and counter chat both side had just about finished so I adjourned the hearing so that I could get my head around what had been said and come to a decision. I made that decision after calling the players back to the room and I could get away from the fact that the remarks, however provoked were racial and were offensive to the Pakistanis. I was left with no option but to ban Gibbs for 2 Test matches. This is the worst part of my job because I was very passionate about the game when I played and I sometimes boiled over at instances that happened but this has to be stamped on as racial abuse, whether it’s player on player or crowd to player or player to crowd, must be eradicated.

I trust this will be the last we hear of this subject in this series and I hope Cricket SA take the case of crowd control very seriously because this is how the whole ugly incident began!

See you all in Port Elizabeth for the 2nd Test.
best wishes
Chris Broad

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Back to South Africa for the Pakistan Tour

Here we go again! Time to pack the bags, travel to the airport and fly into the great unknown of the world that is CRICKET!!

This time I’m going back to South Africa for the Pakistan series but I’m going via Nairobi in Kenya as the ground inspection I did last year needs a final sign off and I’m hoping it will be a sign off because they’ve had so much rain in those parts that finishing the outfield has been tricky.

The flight to Dubai was fairly uneventful. I left on the 8.20 Emirates flight from Birmingham which was only introduced last August and already is proving very popular, so much so that the flight was full! We ate the normal high standard of meal, the entertainment was excellent and I slept for a good 4 hours. The Dubai airport is nearing the end of a large building job to introduce a new terminal and it can’t come a day too soon, when I get past the security checks the terminal was full to bursting point. Even the lounge was jammed and I struggled to find a seat, no sooner had I managed that part when Ian Howell, the SA umpire noticed me and came over and said hello, he’s going to Australia to officiate in the One Day series there. So I told him with my tongue firmly in my cheek to favour the England side because they needed all the help they could get!!!!

I had 3 hours in Dubai before boarding my flight to Nairobi and the time flew by thanks to my meeting with Ian. The trip to Kenya’s capital was 5 and a half hours and even though I’d had some sleep on the flight from Birmingham I was still very tired so we were served a meal and then I settled down for another sleep. I thought it worthwhile because when I get to Nairobi it’ll be the middle of the day and I won’t be sleeping again until night falls.

It worked well, we arrived a little bit late at 2.35pm local time and I was met at the airport by the Chairman of Cricket Kenya, Samir Inamdar, who drove me straight to the grounds where I had to make the inspections. All was well, the rains had stopped long enough for work to be done and the inspection was a formality so then it was to the hotel for a shower and change, a few minutes rest then off to have something to eat before turning in for the night. It had to be an early one ‘cause my flight to Jo’burg was leaving at 7.35am so I had to up and about by 4.30!
I am a morning person but even 4.30am is too early, anyway all was well and I got to the airport and the plane left almost on time. It’s a 3 and three quarter hour flight from Kenya’s capital to South Africa’s but again it was a very good flight. Just minutes after getting in the air I saw the most glorious sight of Mount Kilimanjaro pocking its ice-capped peak through the higher level of cloud and when I went to my bag to capture the image on film I discovered the batteries were dead so that picture is only in my mind!

Jo’burg airport was also very busy when I arrived, I think a few planes had all touched down almost at the same time because it was a real scramble for my luggage but I was met at the airport, Billy Doctrove had flown in just before me so he was waiting in the car and we were then taken to the first of the many hotels on this trip to unpack our bags.

Tuesday was spent acclimatizing myself with the suburb of Sandton where we are staying. It's a lovely place not very far away from the centre of Jo’burg and with plenty of shops and restaurants to fill in those soulless hours when you’re waiting for matches to start. There was some talk when I was last in South Africa that for this match we might move hotels nearer to the ground in Pretoria but that hasn’t materialized and it’s not a disappointment as the hotel at Grayston is a good one. Wednesday is the day before the match and as always a visit to the SuperSport ground is on the agenda. There is a slight change to the itinerary as Steve Bucknor has to get a British visa from the High Commission so we diverted to the centre of Pretoria but then we were sent on a bit of a goose chase as we went from building to building to find the right one, which we did eventually.

When we arrived at the ground it was in immaculate condition! The sun was beating down, the pitch looked a bit strange and a bit damp but the sun is so strong in these parts that they have to put a fair amount of moisture in to make the pitch last 5 days. We watched the South Africans practice lightly in the nets, checked the facilities were all in order and then left. On our way back to the hotel both umpires Doctrove and Bucknor wanted to go to the shops so we diverted to a large Mall on the outskirts of Sandton and spent some Rand. I looked at a video camera and might go back and buy it but I need to think about it.

Our last duty of the day was the Captains meeting held at the players’ hotel the Sandton Sun. These meetings are designed to raise any points that officials, captains and managers want to before the games gets underway. They are generally fairly short affairs because there is not normally too much to discuss that hasn’t been discussed at previous meetings and the players don’t want to hear the same rhetoric time after time. There was nothing new to discuss so after about 15 minutes we adjourned to the bar for a pre-match drink before hostilities get underway tomorrow.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

SA dominate India and I head home!

The day night game in Port Elizabeth(PE) is the 4th game in the series of 5 between SA and India .

They start at 2.30pm which allows those who want to explore in the morning which is exactly what I did this morning with a visit to the beach for a swim. I’m not normally a beach person but PE is such a lovely looking seaside town and it was the most gorgeous day, blue skies and warm sunshine, it was too good an opportunity to miss out on. The sea was a bit chilly to begin with but once you’ve got past the initial wetting bit then the water was lovely and a good exercise to!!!

The game was a bit one-sided again with SA batting first and totalling 243-8 and India subsiding to 163 all out giving the home side an invincible 3-0 lead in the 5 match series. The Indians just can’t seem to get their tour going and when you lack a little bit of confidence it can make things a whole lot worse.

30/11/06 – Thursday and it was back to the town where it all began and that’s Johannesburg .

There is a Pro Twenty game on Friday night at the Wanderers and then the final match in the ODI series on Sunday at SuperSport Park in Pretoria . The flight from PE to Jo’burg takes about an hour and a quarter and was not particularly remarkable other than the landing at OR Tambo airport was a bit bumpy thanks to thunderous clouds in the local area. This is a problem in the Highveld where you get lovely sunny, warm days but there is a build up of cloud which leads to spectacular thunder and lightening storms in the evening. I had an invitation to the opening of a new magazine in Jo’burg this evening and the only real reason for going was because there was free Champagne on offer plus the fact sometimes we’ll do anything to fill in the days/nights.

1/12/06 – I woke up fresh as a daisy this morning that Champagne is good!!

I was supposed to be going to Pretoria today to inspect a couple of cricket grounds to see if they were fit for international cricket but my trip was cancelled at the last minute so it meant I was free to go and drop some washing off at the launderette and then go to the Wanderers with the boys which is near the United Cricket Board offices to pick up some tickets for this evenings match. Whilst there I’m told there are going to be dancing girls and boys, lots of loud music and some fireworks mixed into the party atmosphere and they’re expecting a sell-out crowd of 50,000 people. They do arrange a very good Pro-Twenty game for the spectators and although I’m not totally sold on the game itself it is certainly a spectacle!!
There was some threat of rain which might have stopped some people from coming to see the start but fortunately the clouds parted and the game got underway on time. Again the South Africans won the toss and decided to bat but the Indians, playing their first Pro-Twenty game bowled particularly well to restrict the home side to 126. Then Sehwag and Mongia got the tourists to within shouting distance of the total only for them both to get out but fortunately little Dinesh Karthik saw them home with an excellent 31 not out, their first win on tour and boy were they relieved and happy!!!
2/12/06 – Saturday was the last day of rest before the long flight home and what better way of spending it than on the golf course!

Neil Manthorp, who’s a local journalist, Alan Donald, Neil Johnson and I were to team up in a fourball and play at Royal Johannesburg Golf Club at 1pm. What a course! They have the most beautiful golf courses in this country because they have the ideal growing conditions with plenty of sunshine and lots of rain. The game was a belter! Neil J plays off a 5 handicap, Alan and I play off 8 and Neil M plays off 10 and it was Neil M and me against Neil J and Alan. Alan Donald hits the ball a country mile, on the stroke index 1 hole – meant to be the hardest hole on the course – Alan hit his drive 325 metres – that’s a professional golfers distance! Needless to say they won that hole but we held our end up because as they say it’s not about how far but how many! Manthorp and Broad won the front nine by one hole and Johnson and Donald won the back nine by one hole, so after 18 holes the match was halved. Great game one which we will have to repeat on another day!

3/12/06 – Sunday and an early start because our last ODI is a day game in Pretoria which even on a Sunday takes between 30 – 40 minutes to get to from Jo’burg.

6.45 am call then turn the telly on to see England going quite well against the Aussies in the 2nd Ashes Test from Adelaide , quick shower then breakfast and off to the ground. It was another gorgeous day with a predicted temperature of 34 degrees and sunshine all day long! Again for the 5th time in a row SA won the toss but this time they elected to field first and bowled well restricting the Indians to a total of 200. It could be enough if they bowled well, unfortunately for them G. Smith and DeVilliers put together a partnership of over 150 and the game was as good as lost within the first 20 overs. As it was they did manage to get Smith out but that was their only success and the home side ran out comfortable 9 wicket winners.

4/12/06 – The last day was a long day as I wasn’t due to be flying out until 7pm!

Billy Doctrove was catching an earlier flight because his connection in Dubai was better than mine would have been so I met him in reception at 11am to wish him a good journey then I went into the Sandton shopping centre to waste some time ostensibly but also to buy some lunch, there is a great food court in the centre that sells almost everything, I particularly like the Wrap Centre ‘cause they do a great selection of all sorts of wraps……….very yummy! I was being picked up at 4.45pm to go to the airport so the rest of the afternoon was spent reading and packing.
Karl Hurter was fifteen minutes late picking me up which was a worry as it’s rush hour in Jo’burg and driving in rush hour is not an advisable thing to do but he knew the back streets so was able to by-pass most of the troubled spots but I had trouble at the airport! I was at check-in an hour before the flight was due to leave which for business class passengers is the designated time, unfortunately I was told there were no seats left for this flight! I was shocked! The ticket had been booked and paid for but the airlines nearly always over book flights so that they make as much money as they can and then they allocate the seats on a first come first served basis.

It was not looking good for me for a while and I was anxious about getting on the flight but then the stressed groundstaff lady had a break when a first class passenger didn’t turn up for the ride so she gave the spot to me! All’s well that ends well and I thoroughly enjoyed my 8 hour trip to Dubai with First Class Emirates service all the way, having sampled the first class treatment it meant the leg from Dubai to London was a little bit of a comedown ‘cause I was only in business class but Emirates are a great airline and I enjoy travelling with them wherever I go!
That’s the end of this little trip but I am due to go back to South Africa for the Pakistan tour in early January so I look forward to talking to you then. Best wishes and seasons greetings for those that celebrate Christmas.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

India in South Africa for their ODI series

So nearly a week has gone by since I last wrote to you and we’ve moved from Durban to Cape Town.

Now onto Port Elizabeth on our journey around South Africa following the ODI series between SA and India. The match at Durban last Wednesday was a very one sided affair with SA winning the toss and making 248-8 in their 50 overs. Jacques Kallis getting an unbeaten 119 and then the home side bowled India out under lightsf or just 91.
When it gets dark here there is some additional movement around for the bowlers but that can’t be the whole story, there were some fairly indifferent shots played!

I woke the next morning very early because it was the start of ‘The Ashes’. I didn’t set my alarm clock or anything it must have just been an instinct that woke me and when I turned on the telly although Australia had won the toss England weren’t doing too badly and at 209-3 at tea it looked like a good day. Sadly it went downhill from that point onwards and when you lose the first game in a series, even in a 5 match series it’s a big uphill climb to get parity or even better.

Anyway, Thursday was a travelling day to the very picturesque Cape Town. The teams and officials were all booked into the Southern Sun Hotel at Newlands which is 5 minutes walk away from the ground and the feature of this hotel is the staff. I have never been to another hotel where they greet you like a long lost friend not in the sickly false smiley sort of way but in a very genuine caring sort of way, nothing is too much trouble!

The rooms are not the greatest but the staff more than make up for that with their attitude. I had hoped to play some golf whilst I was down there but with cutbacks by Cricket South Africa and a misunderstanding between myself and our 4th umpire nothing materialized so the 3 days before the match were spent without transport either walking between Claremont shopping complex and the hotel or watching re-run upon re-run of sporting action on the hotel TV’s –very boring! And then there was the debacle that was England rugby! Not a good performance and with the cricketers not doing well either it made for a disappointing Saturday night. At least the wine is good here in South Africa!!!!!

Still Sunday didn’t take too long to come around and it was a fascinating game with SA again winning the toss and batting but this time they found themselves in trouble at 74-6 but a magnificent 1st ODI hundred from Justin Kemp got the home side to a respectable 274-7 in their 50 overs. India also got off to a poor start and although Dravid held his end up by getting a good half century not much else came to the party and the tourists ended up being bowled out for 168. On top of that Dravid is ruled out for the rest ofthe ODI’s because he’s broken his finger!

And then it’s off to Port Elizabeth which is a lovely little seaside town on the East coast of the country, where the Garden Route, a beautiful coastal drive between here and Cape Town begins. The teams left early on the 9.30am flight, we travelled at 1pm and it’s nice not to travel with the teams because we tend to get lost in the adulation of the Indian team which they get wherever they go. I do admire them so because you never see any of them get agitated or annoyed when they’re buffeted by the huge support they receive, even the likes of Tendulkar and Dravid. In the evening Billy and I walk down to the Boardwalk shopping, restaurant and casino complex where we did a bit of everything, some less successfully than others!!!!

And today it’s ground inspection and golf at the very testing Humewood Golf Club where in just 3 weeks time they’ll be playing the South African Open – who knows if I have a good round I might just enter…………….NOT!!!!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

South Africa take on India

18/11/06 – Saturday and it's a gloriously sunny day.

Today is a day for meetings and inspections, the first inspection was at the Wanderers ground – The Bull Ring. It’s a hugely impressive place to play cricket and immaculately turned out every time I go there. Today was no exception! The game tomorrow is to be played on the same pitch that was used for that incredible match last season between SA and Australia, in these parts they are lovingly calling it the ‘438 game’! Everything is in order except that the South Africans were supposed to be training at the ground today but they never turned up so my umpires didn’t get an opportunity to stand in the nets and get used to bowlers and bounce and light.
England were playing South Africa in a rugby International from Twickenham, so that was a must see event in my book and I’d tried unsuccessfully to get our captains meeting delayed a while because it fell right in the middle of the match. No matter our meeting only lasted 10 minutes at the most so I was able to see England just squeeze past the Boks but it wasn’t a good game!
One of my umpires Brian Jerling was suffering from an ear infection so that was some concern the day before the game but he was on antibiotics and was confident that he would make it for the game, which he did.

19/11/06 - Sunday and game day.

Today is a day/night game and there was huge expectancy as there is at the start of every series. Both these sides hadn’t realised their ambitions in the recent Champions Trophy so both of them would be out to prove a point with the World Cup coming up early next year. The weather didn’t look great but everything was set fair until I started to walk out for the toss and then it started raining – drizzle at first and then proper rain.
We waited and waited until 7 o’clock before it became clear that the rain was not going to abate so the match had to be abandoned. Very frustrating as it always is when weather intervenes but there’s nothing anyone can do to beat the weather!

20/11/06 – Monday, well today is a travel day as our next game is in Durban.

We leave the hotel at 9 o’clock for a 10.55am flight from the newly named OS Tambo International airport in Johannesburg , named after the deceased ANC politician Oliver Tambo. It’s fairly smooth operation as Billy Doctrove and I travel with Brian Jerling who has done this journey many times during his time as an umpire. There is a slight delay on our departure due to slow baggage loading but it’s a smooth flight and we get upgraded to business class so the food is slightly better and the wine also!
Durban is a hot place with tropical weather conditions, which means that at any time a thunder storm can build up out of nothing and produce an almighty downpour. Today was overcast but the forecast was clear of rain. I made contact with some friends of ours, my wife spent some time in Durban during the 2003 World Cup and I’ve been here a few times as well and it’s always nice to get out of the hotel environment which is what happened this evening when I met up with 4 mates at a restaurant called ‘The Butcher Boys’ in Florida Road which is where a lot of good restaurants are in Durban.

21/11/06 – Tuesday and it’s another ground inspection day today.

Kingsmead has been hosting ODI matches here since December 1992 and the first match happened between SA and India. There is a huge Indian community here so the ground will be packed to the rafters so the inspection has to take into account the ground safety and security measures. The pitch has a little green grass on it which might suggest some seam movement but batting under lights also provides assistance for the bowling side so an interesting decision for the captain who wins the toss here tomorrow.
The afternoon is spent on the golf course with a mate of mine whom I played cricket with and against and who is now a first class umpire in the UK , Nigel Cowley. He’s over here coaching and ground supervising for a private school called Clifton college and he’s a tidy golfer playing off 5. Our third player is Ari de Beer, the anti-corruption officer for the ICC. We play at Royal Durban, a nice course that has hosted the SA Open but not for some time. After recent rains and a huge thunderstorm that woke everyone up at 4am this morning the course is saturated and there is a lot of water lying on the fairways but the greens and tees are good and I enjoyed the walk even if I didn’t win the money! The evening was again spent in Florida road at a place called Mo’s noodles a lovely rice and noodles place and for us Brits it’s so cheap. I had a starter and main coarse and shared a bottle of wine which cost me 150 Rand, at todays exchange rate that’s about £11!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Mombasa to Johannesburg in one easy step!

15/11/06 – Leaving day from Mombasa .

I have to go to Nairobi tonight and then tomorrow inspect a couple of venues that Cricket Kenya want to use as International grounds for an upcoming tournament in January. That’s tomorrow but today is all about packing, paying bills and getting ready to play golf! I have a game organised this afternoon at Nyali Golf Club on the North shore of the mainland. It’s the best course in the area and I’m playing with the professional Jimmy Mbongo and one of the Chairman’s friends Vishnu Dhutia who is a very steady player. He and I play as partners against Jimmy and a friend of his – whom for this purpose we’ll call……….Bandit!!!! The guy played off 20 and shot 17 over gross getting 6 pars and a birdie to boot, we had no chance not that I’m a bitter loser or anything but this guy will be playing off single figures within a few weeks! Anyway I enjoyed the course and the company and should I go back to Mombasa I’ll certainly make a ‘B’ line for it again.
I had to rush after the game because my flight to Nairobi was at 9pm and I had to shower, close my case and meet up with my liaison who was getting me to the airport. No problems everything went smoothly and the flight left on time, it’s only 45 minutes to Nairobi and I was soon touching down. I was greeted by Tom Tikolo and taken to the Norfolk Hotel where I was staying for the night. This hotel is the oldest in the city and there are some parts of it that could certainly do with an upgrade but I was only there for one night so that didn’t bother me too much.

16/11/06 – Thursday.

Tom picked me up again to go and inspect these 2 grounds on opposite sides of the city. Both grounds had been inspected by Mike Procter last June but needed further inspecting because he recommended some improvements. Unfortunately not much had been done at either venues so I was unable to pass either of them but my hosts and I did come up with an action plan that may have them up to scratch in a few weeks……..we’ll see!
Time for quick bite to eat then off to the airport for my flight to Johannesburg and the start of the Indian tour! This is where the problems of the day started! I went to the check in desk and got asked for my Yellow Fever certificate which I didn’t have. This was partly my fault because I came to Kenya in 2000 for the Champions Trophy and must have had the jab then but I forgot to bring the certificate this time because I was only told the day I was leaving England that I’d be going on to SA. They refused to let me on the plane but they said I could get a certificate if I crossed the road and went to the first floor of arrivals where they would issue me with a replacement. Unfortunately this was closed! Back to check in for another suggestion, this time they checked me in and I was taken through passport control to another office where an in-house doctor would help me out. This she did but only after she’d given me a half hour lecture about the importance of carrying important documents and some currency had changed hands!!!! Well, this is Africa !!!
Time to board the plane and no sooner had we all done that than the captain came on the internal radio and told us we had to wait because a VIP was due to land soon! This VIP was the President of Kenya and it took 40 minutes for his plane to land, taxi into the terminal with his military escort and permission for us to be given the go ahead. There could be no more problems now surely? The flight took 10 minutes short of 4 hours and it all went smoothly. I did some work on my computer until the battery died and South African Airways looked after us very well. Now back at Nairobi airport I got chatting to a lady who was looking concerned for her friend because the authorities had taken her away from the boarding gate because she didn’t have 2 clean pages in her passport for the South African authorities to put their stamp in. 2 clean pages ……why? Anyway I saw her on the plane and sure enough her friend had not been allowed to board!
I hadn’t bothered to check my passport but I do a lot of travelling and sure enough when I got to passport control they picked up that I didn’t have 2 clean pages either. I had 4 or 5 pages with only one small stamp in one corner but they insisted they had to have 2 clean pages. OK send me home, I thought, this had been a bad day and I wasn’t going to argue any more. The guy went away to see what he could do and came back after 5 minutes to say he would stamp the passport but that I’d have to get a new one for future trips to SA. I’d made it through the most troublesome travel day I think I’d ever had! I was met on the other side of customs my Mike Gajjar from Cricket South Africa who took me to the Grayston Southern Sun Hotel in Sandton where I would be staying for my time in Jo’burg.

17/11/06 – Nothing much to do today as I’m the only official in town at the moment. My 2 local guys were involved with an Indian warm-up game last night and wouldn’t be booking in until the afternoon and Billy Doctrove, my Elite Umpire, wasn’t due to fly in until 11am so he would be catching up with some sleep for the rest of the day. I needed some shorts so a quick trip into the Sandton Shopping Centre was in order. This is one of the main shopping centres in Jo’burg it is also a little bit more expensive than the others because of the close proximity of all the major hotels in Sandton but it does have everything and as we are staying fairly close to the centre it seemed the obvious place to visit.

Friday, November 17, 2006

So what about the Ashes then?

Ok so an England tour to Australia hasn't started too well! There's nothing new in that, I recall an England side back in 1986 who were told they couldn't bat, couldn't bowl and couldn't field, they didn't do too badly, did they?

I was disappointed in the news that Marcus Trescothick had to go home because of a recurrence of his stress related illness, he is a big loss to the touring party and I'm sure we all wish him well with his recovery. He has experience (74 Test matches) technique and oodles of ability to see off the new ball and that, to me, is the key to success against the Aussies. Getting 20 wickets is important to win matches in any country but in Australia if you don't get enough runs on the board then you won't be able to get the 20 wickets required to win games and the opening batsmen are key to getting enough runs. With fairly unresponsive pitches you need to see off the new ball without losing wickets and it's an opening batsmens job to make sure he sees off the shine and hardness of the ball so that the middle order can pile on the runs and build a big enough total for the bowlers to bowl at.

With Marcus now gone and Ed Joyce announced as his replacement it only leaves one recognised opening batsman in the party and that's Andrew Strauss. I imagine that Ian Bell or Alistair Cook will be asked to assume the responsibility of opening the innings and Bell didn't have a great run against the Aussies last time, Cook is only just beginning his Test career.

I can assure you that the Aussies will have taken note of that fact and be focusing their attention on getting into whoever is Strauss' opening partner. Should they come off, like Bill Athey and I did in '86/'87 then I think England have a great chance of retaining The Ashes and remember they only have to draw to do that!