After having slipped up numerous times on the precipice of achievement in the past, there was a real danger of them relapsing into their old habits when they found themselves at a precarious 54/4 on the opening day of the final test. The fact that a dodgy decision (that of Kallis) had paved the way to their present predicament had me fuming. The situation was dire as it was, and the bad decision only served to rally our collective outrage. I even wished they’d just boycott the game. Such was the desperation, and the desire.
Fortunately, the session came to a close soon after and the rout was put on halt. We tempered our tantrums and the process of rebuilding the innings began in earnest on resumption. The skies parted, the sun made an appearance, the pitch eased and the team ended the day with a score we could at least conciliate with. We were very much aware of the task that lie ahead and the many miles that had to be traversed before we could think about saving the game and the series.
With the pitch playing docile under the beating sun, and with the English buoyant with renewed belief, we resigned ourselves to conceding a substantial first innings lead. Our hopes of salvation lie in rain and a massive rearguard batting performance in the 2nd innings. Somehow, it didn’t come down to that. The English capitulated just like us, except we didn’t need the aid of providence. And even though they recovered just like us as well, we were very happy with where we were at. Half the match had gone, and we had already been able to regain the ground lost in the first hour or so.
The second innings began well, and just as we started to feel comfortable and put up our feet, Kallis was gone. The match had turned, we were back in ambivalent state, and day 3 had ended. The fate of the match was as undecided as it was before the coin toss, and we were beginning to feel apprehensive. Fortunately, the supreme Amla held firm on day 4, soothed our nerves, and with a little help from his friends plastered smiles all over our faces by the end.
We hadn’t known then that it was too soon to celebrate. Day 5 came, and with each passing session, the two teams began to converge. We were as alarmed as Kiefer Sutherland was in Melancholia when he discovers that the planet is in fact coming towards the Earth. The timely wickets helped keep a check on the outpour of dismay, but once the assault began after tea, all hell broke loose. The sluices of the dam were opened, and the people living downstream weren’t given a prior (pun not intended) warning. The old scars and memories were burning afresh and we wished the earth would just swallow us.
While we kept ourselves occupied conjuring up all these metaphorical disasters, the English conjured up a literal disaster of their own out on the pitch and WE WERE LET OFF THE HOOK. Swann ran himself out, two more wickets fell, the previously gleeful English reporters wiped off their ugly grins and replaced the ‘C’ word with an ‘O’ word in their drafts, we were number 1 and over the moon.