Merry

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - LUNGANI ZAMA

THE Min­strels mes­merised the masses as they me­an­dered through the city cen­tre on Mon­day, but there was an­other cul­tural ex­plo­sion at New­lands yes­ter­day, thanks to an in­va­sion from the an­nual gath­er­ing of the Hashim Amla Army.

Though their num­bers have di­min­ished from their Bat­tle of Beer River against the Barmy Army a year ago, those die-hards who sur­vived the winter con­gre­gated out­side the sta­dium, along Camp Ground Road, re­s­plen­dent in their cricket whites and com­pul­sory beard.

Much like their pri­vate war, they looked on as the Proteas tram­pled on a meek foe, one that barely put up a scrap. Nev­er­the­less, Hashim’s Army, led by the in­com­pa­ra­bly thirsty Cor­po­ral Scotty Young, went through their full reper­toire of war cries, pay­ing slurry homage to the ap­ple of their bleary eyes.

They cos­set­ted them­selves in the North Stand, their eyes set fair on the rustic sight that is the brew­ery, then up the steep face of the gleam­ing moun­tain, their glasses suit­ably charged with the am­ber nec­tar that fu­els their voices.

On a warm, if blus­tery Cape day, theirs was the back­ground mu­sic that kept the day go­ing, es­pe­cially as Kag­iso Rabada and Ver­non Phi­lan­der ran through the Sri Lankan or­der like a beer down Cor­po­ral Young’s in­sa­tiable gul­let.

Young’s dis­mis­sive style to­wards a cold one tick­ling his face was re­mark­able, and he had to down one when­ever his choir wob­bled their way through their words. Re­mark­ably, by tea, the in­de­fati­ga­ble Young was still pro­vid­ing more re­sis­tance than the tour­ing mid­dle-or­der.

While he plun­dered on, the nup­tials of Dean El­gar to the Rail­way Stand were in full swing, de­spite the ab­sence of a rather im­por­tant mem­ber of the whole shindig – namely the groom! It didn’t seem to con­cern the rev­ellers too much, and a stand-in fel­low of doughty build was put up as the sac­ri­fi­cial lamb to mat­ri­mo­nial slaugh­ter.

The sec­ond day of a Test is usu­ally the best day for view­ing, be­cause you gen­er­ally see a bit of ev­ery­thing. Yes­ter­day, thanks to good bowl­ing and some dis­mal wil­low-wield­ing, those who strolled into New­lands saw three in­nings, as South Africa started and ended the day with the bat.

There were cheers when Quin­ton de Kock reached his third cen­tury in the morn­ing, yet more morn­ing beers to com­mem­o­rate the au­gust oc­ca­sion, be­fore crocodile tears from the bearded mob when he fell im­me­di­ately after reach­ing his land­mark.

In the form that he is cur­rently en­joy­ing, De Kock looked like he could have helped him­self to a hearty help­ing of Sri Lankan buf­fet bowl­ing, but he fell just as the Army were get­ting into their third song from their con­sid­er­able col­lec­tion of hits.

Alas, they had to save their voice for the Proteas’ gale force that tore through the vis­i­tors’ across lunch, into the af­ter­noon, with Rabada get­ting his mojo back. By then, sev­eral reg­i­ments of the army were at their soz­zled best, and some al­most mis­took Ke­shav Ma­haraj’s en­er­getic cel­e­bra­tions for Im­ran Tahir, as the Proteas’ spin­ner also got in on the act.

And through it all, Cor­po­ral Young stood tall, the most bliss­fully merry of them all.

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