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A Game Apart

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A Game Apart


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Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Day one in South Africa. Not bad. Not bad at all.

SO here we are in South Africa. Centurion to be precise. A week before England's opening Test against South Africa at the local stadium.
And are we isolated? Stuck out near the tip of the dark continent while life goes on around us? Of course not!
We're right at the hub of things here! Got Manchester United at Wolfsburg in front of us, Michael Owen has just completed his hat-trick. Chelsea are on another SuperSport channel, winning 2-1 against Nicosia Apoel in Cyprus. Two CSKA Moscow have just been found guilty of doping, which could see Wolfsberg go through anyway.
The information super highway is buzzing with Tiger Woods stories. I'm tired of kicking the poor bloke. Today his mother-in-law, a Swedish politician, has been rushed to hospital with late night "stomach pains". And we read that the Florida police want to supoena the hospital for his blood test results after last Friday's crash. A source has said he was drinking and on pain-killers. Rubbish of course, and I would never give those scurrilous allegations space on this blog. Meanwhile the tabloids take his "birdie" tally to seven at the last count.
Poor bloke. He should come and live here, in Africa. It's warm, it's growing fast, and the Gautrain link is proudly forging a path from here to the Oliver Tambo airport and then on to Johannesburg, in time for the World Cup kick-off on June 11 next year.
There is no finer place to be, though obviously missing a possibly white Christmas at home for the Test series is a major sacrifice.
It's a special country, South Africa. When you consider the warped nature of Apartheid here in the 1980s, today has been a joy. Straight from the airport to the Wanderers, where the immaculate ladies of Cricket South Africa handed over my accreditation for the four Tests. Then on to Vodacom City in Midrand, halfway between Johannesburg and Pretoria, where dozens of helpful staff helped me get my USB internet access sorted out dirt cheap.
Then a quick, sultry swim, a sleep... and off to the local pizzeria in Centurion, where the service is magnificent and the Italian father-and-son combination who run the place are offering a World Cup of magnificent pasta and spaghetti next winter. Get out here and let Enzo show you a World Cup to remember. He claims the Italians will be based just down the road in the local sports academy in Centurion, halfway between Johannesburg and Pretoria. Great chat with him and his boy.
Bliss. Especially when you combine it with the wine. The lable said simply: ZULU. Not seen that before. Got a kick like an African warrior too.
Oops! Owen has just finished brilliantly to make it 3-1. Finishing like that deserves a World Cup space. But then Man U and Chelsea had qualified weeks ago. Out in Adelaide, the unfancied West Indies, with Chris Gayle in frightening form, have held the arrogant Australian cricketers to a draw.
And tomorrow night, Arsenal and hapless Liverpool on the box. Things could be worse.
And what about my real job? Covering the cricket for the Evening Standard and talkSPORT? Not good news in East London, a mere 1,000 miles away from my comfortable position in front of the telly.
James Anderson is ruled out of the opening two-day match against an Invitational XI at Buffalo Park tomorrow. His knee is so bad they only let him bat in the nets. Come on Jimmy, get well soon. And then life really will be idyllic when that first Test begins ten minutes down the road on 16 December.

Labels: accident, , chelsea drogba, , manchester united injuries, michael owen, mother-in-law, Tiger Woods, wanderers


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