Barmy Army, beer snakes and a hadeda in the crosshairs at Newlands
A beer snake at the Melbourne Cricket Ground will most probably get you kicked out of the ground, but not at Newlands.
That is probably the difference between the serene but fun-loving nature of the home of cricket in SA and cricket's great concrete bowl cathedral in the Australian state of Victoria.
There are more seats and definitely more history at the MCG, where more than a 100 Tests have been played, but the packed-out Newlands with a reduced capacity that somehow hinders movement around the ground, is a fun place to be.
Not even the construction project (yes, the construction project that landed the Western Province Cricket Association in trouble with Cricket South Africa) could suck the life out of the game's festive mood.
The project, on the Kelvin Grove side of the ground, is a monstrosity at the moment.
When it is completed sometime next year, it stands to help the ground make a fair bit of money.
Money though is something that'll definitely be made from this Test, especially with the first three days being sold out.
The England fans made sure Newlands, despite the known reverence of the ground, feel like a bit of Edgbaston.
The sun wasn't warm enough to inflict serious sunburn but copious amounts of alcoholic beverages were dealt with.
Most of it was good-natured and they're a bunch who understand their cricket.
One would hope they'd be able to keep their spirit until the final Test at the Wanderers later this month where they'll be confronted by the joyful spirit of the Gwijo Squad.
As the millennials would say, it's going to be lit, but before that, they've got the St George's Park brass band to contend with.
More importantly, they won the economic contest when the Barmy Army, seated or standing at the Oaks area, sang: “It's R18 to the pound ... It's R18 to the pound.”
It was a harsh, yet comical reality that hit home, but despite England's clear financial strength, it hasn't quite translated into serious Test dominance.
There also was the hadeda ibis, that noisy bird that refused to vacate the field.
When it was narrowly missed by the ball when a Ben Stokes drive headed towards it, the crowd oohed, then chuckled.
It wasn't about to move from the field and Dwaine Pretorius knew it.
“I'm just glad it didn't get hit because I'm sure it would have negated Ben Stokes's drive and I saw Vernon also tried. It would have been interesting if play was stopped if it was hit. I think hadedas will be happy,” Pretorius said.
However, the Barmy Army is the way, the Barmy Army is the life and for this writer, who's travelled to his first New Year's Test in three years and his first one involving England, it is a richly rewarding experience.
It's a pity they only come here once every four years, but it's worth the wait.
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