During one of explorations of local shops in Potchefstroom, the boys came across a toy shop.
Arriving in Potchefstroom last week we were greeted by stormy weather and a whole lot of space and serenity in a place more than two hours drive away from Johannesburg.
However, we were quickly reminded – by four million photos and framed shirts - that this was the ‘home base’ for Spain during their World Cup winning stint in South Africa earlier last year.
Along with the stormy weather came wet training facilities and some tricky net sessions during the week, with all the net bowlers keen as mustard to have a crack at the Aussie batters.
I know I copped a few in the ribs! One of these net bowlers was a past South African tearaway fast bowler Nanti Hayward.
Still with his ginger locks, living and playing local cricket in Potch, he was still steaming in to give us a good test! One of the many things when ‘on tour’ which are unexpected but great memories.
Following our training or match each day there were numerous activities set up for us in our team room to pass the time.
Some went for coffees at the nearby shops, some chilled out in the room, but for several others and I, Table Tennis and 9-ball Pool battles were the way forward.
It is evident that not only was young Usman Khawaja practicing his pull shot growing up, but also his Table Tennis skills! He dished out many a flogging this week, I’m sure he’d be happy to tell all of you about it. Haha.
Fist pumps, screams of Lleyton Hewitt’s c'mmmmooonnnn were certainly out in force this week. I did have a few games against Punter as well, I can assure you it is no myth… The man is good at everything.
Ryan Harris, Mitch Johnson and Peter Siddle also had a different source for entertainment, during one of explorations of local shops the boys came across a toy shop.
Remote Control Cars were the way forward with plenty of space where we were staying to let loose! Rhino was the first to buy, an orange Nascar type car and the craze caught on.
By the end of the week Siddy had bought a race car with a big wing and Mitch had surpassed them all with a Monster truck, of course he did.
Last night all of the boys were celebrating our win in the tour match by watching these three hoon there remote controlled chaos makers around the carpark. Great fun.
The other thing that has entertained me this week has been my decision to learn guitar.
For those of you that have been through the process before and are now awesome at guitar, I envy you no end because boy it’s frustrating!! Guitar lessons with coach Usman have been progressive but it is like learning to walk again, not that I can remember that stage of my life but I imagine it was hard and took a long time.
Young fast bowlers seem to be a topic of interest around the cricketing world of late, with Patty Cummins bursting onto the scene for us, and most recently in this tour match against South Africa ‘A’ a name to watch out for, quite possibly sooner that you may think is Marchant de Lange. A big tall young man with serious pace.
So little was known of him prior to this match that when one of our boys asked Robin Petersen (South African left-arm finger spinner) about him, he replied “I have never seen or heard of him prior to this match!”.
Young de Lange proceeded to forge himself an immediate reputation by taking 5 wickets in the first innings and bowling 5 bouncers an over! Unfortunately I was the fifth of those wickets and copped one on the gloves through to the keeper.
The match itself was crucial in our preparation moving into next weeks vital first test at Newlands, Cape Town.
Losing the toss and bowling first was a good opportunity for Mitch, Sids and myself to get into a nice bouncy wicket against some top quality players.
The wicket was very bouncy and sometimes not so bouncy, causing numerous blows to gloves and body.
Mitch, Sids and Watto all picking up a few wickets and bowling them out was a great start to the tour match.
But, it was then just as tough work for us with Shaun Marsh, and skipper Michael Clarke showing the way in gaining a first innings lead, both getting half centuries and no doubt feeling confident heading into next week. Mike Hussey as always a solid 41* at the end.
We did go on to win the match with Watto and Shaun Marsh absolutely smashing the ball to all parts yesterday, which was a great result for us.
The main point I want to raise though is Mitch Johnson, finishing with 9 wickets for the match.
Bowling the first over with the brand new ball in the second innings and for those of you who saw him bowl in South Africa in 2009 (I did on tv) he is bowling just as well, if not better. Fast. Swinging the ball. Great control. And most significantly as he rightly mentioned following Sri Lanka, the wickets will come when you do the hard yards.
Ryan Harris got a lot of rewards there, hopefully Mitch has the same happen here.
Watch out Graeme Smith and co. I say! Maybe even my early prediction for man of the series.
Competition for places breeds success and there is no shortage of that within our camp.
With five quicks and two spinners to go into four bowling spots and Usman scoring two hundreds in his only two matches back home in Australia prior to getting here it is a great problem to have in Australian Cricket.
Winning matches is also key as Pup makes regular mention, we want a winning culture within this group and we are certainly making the right movements towards that being the case.
Off to Cape Town and ready for the Proteas to come hard at us. Bring it on!
Until next time,
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia