It was a historic occasion when the Boxing Day Test match moved away from the coastal regions to inland Centurion for the first time, and I was lucky enough to be there to bear witness to the occasion, writes ANITHA MADIKIZELA.
The place was electric from day one. With many doubting the crowd attendance for a Boxing Day Test match held at a venue that can hardly be considered a holiday destination, the people from Centurion and neighbouring Pretoria showed up in their numbers in a sell-out crowd.
Plenty of milestones were on the cards from day one, and the opportunity to experience Dale Steyn’s record-breaking 422nd Test wicket at the ground where it all started for South Africa’s premier fast bowler was enough to get plenty of cricket fanatics to the stadium.
Words can’t describe the roar that erupted when Dean Elgar held on to the catch that secured Steyn’s record. I’ve experienced plenty of special moments at the Centurion ground, but none compare with the standing ovation Steyn received. It felt like it would last forever. I felt goosebumps all the way from my position up in the scorebox, so I can’t even imagine what it was like out in the middle for the great man.
That was just the beginning of the festivities and plenty took place off the pitch, with a brave young man wearing his heart on his sleeve and staging an unforgettable proposal in the stands at tea on day two. The atmosphere was explosive as the crowd celebrated with the pair after she said yes. It seemed as though the bowlers fed off the energy as they produced some world-class fast bowling to pick up nine wickets in the final session.
Duanne Olivier was a delight to watch as he came steaming in and rocked the Pakistan batting lineup. The man who was recalled as a replacement for the injured Vernon Philander was tasked with banging it in from the get-go and he duly complied. None of the visiting batsmen looked comfortable against him, and it was riveting to watch.
Everybody – excluding the Pakistani contingent – appreciated his dedication to the cause and were quick to celebrate his maiden five-for in the first innings and his subsequent 10-wicket match haul.
Kagiso Rabada and Steyn also played their part and you could tell that the Proteas bowling attack – which is statistically the best in the world – was well appreciated by the home faithful as every wicket induced the mammoth crowd to get on their feet and perform their best celebratory dance moves. Clearly the fans were warming up their best moves for the upcoming New Year’s party.
Although the Test only lasted three days, the experiment was a definite success and will hopefully lead to more Boxing Day Tests moving inland. The cricket, the records, the atmosphere. and most importantly the people made the occasion one that won’t soon be forgotten.
It was one of the best Tests I have experienced at SuperSport Park, as the crowd was a large part of the festive atmosphere and were true to the eternal words of Dean Elgar: ‘People in Pretoria might not have money to go on holiday, but they always have money for a beer.’
And that applies especially when the Proteas are in town!
Photo: Zainab Abbas/Twitter