Normal service resumes at Wanderers‚ but for how long?

The pitch at the Wanderers.
FILE PHOTO The pitch at the Wanderers.
Image: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images

Strange scenes unfolded at the Wanderers on Friday‚ the like of which have not been seen for weeks.

Eighty-eight overs were bowled and 313 runs scored‚ 132 of them in fours‚ a dozen in sixes. Six wickets fell‚ five of them to catches‚ another leg-before.

The day’s play was watched by 17 023 spectators‚ the biggest crowd of the series‚ who would have been forgiven for thinking they were watching a game and nothing more.

They should have known that they weren’t early in the piece‚ when the unnecessary playing of national anthems (where’s the war?) was followed by the unheard of shaking of hands by the opposing teams.

Before the game? Since when?

Once play got going there were no altercations on staircases‚ no shoulder charges‚ no instances of ball-tampering — that were exposed‚ anyway — and no significantly bad behaviour in the stands‚ wife-bashing included.

It helped‚ no doubt‚ that David Warner‚ the most unlikeable Australian of them all and a surefire lightning rod for anything untoward from the crowd‚ was 11 034 kilometres away in Sydney.

The closest things came to silly was when a section of spectators in the Memorial Stand sang‚ “Where’s your captain?”

All there was to seen on the first day of the fourth Test between South Africa was‚ well‚ cricket.

By 4.01pm the crowd had had enough and sent the first Mexican wave of the day pulsing around the grounds.

Weird or what? Even boring‚ for those who have become accustomed to — even looked forward to — the almost daily drama the series has produced‚ the episodes of ignominy that have bounded the boundary and taken on narratives of their own in tear-stained press conferences‚ one on the other side of the world.

Seasoned Australian reporters‚ stalwarts of several Ashes series‚ have admitted that nothing has matched the intensity of what they have covered these past few weeks.

As the day wore on South Africa’s batsmen seemed distracted by the numbing normality of it all and threw away four wickets‚ soft-serve style‚ for 52 runs.

As they inched towards 300‚ a South African journalist who protested that kind of sacrilege pointed from the pressbox towards the field and said‚ “What do you mean? This is what we’ve come to see.”

Maybe‚ but just for a day or so‚ if you please.

We may never see the like of this series again‚ or at least until the Aussies return.

But there are up to four days of it left‚ more than time enough for the world to go mad one more time‚ at least.

Match-fixing? A positive dope test? On-field violence?

Come on Aussies‚ come on‚ come on.

We know you can do it …

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