Golden ducks at silly mid-on
If you ever get picked to play for Blackie de Swardt’s cricket team out on Prior Grange Farm near Springfontein in the Free State, remember this: you are never going to be the No. 1 batsman.
That spot is reserved for the laird of Prior Grange himself, and he makes no bones about it:
“My field, my rules. I get to open the batting.”
As long as you understand that one basic requirement, just about anything goes out on the pitch. Even the umpire has no need to wear shoes.
We were there recently, staying in one of their excellent guest cottages. Luckily for us, the Springfontein fellows were playing their counterparts from Colesberg that weekend. They’re mainly Karoo farmers, but don’t be fooled here.
Many of these guys were educated at some of the country’s top private schools, and as such grew up with either a tennis racquet, rugby ball or cricket bat in their hands. The standard of play is surprisingly high – and so is the level of heckling from the ‘peanut gallery’ under shade near the clubhouse.
So suck in your stomachs, guys, and push out your chests. You never know where these photos will appear.
Most of the blokes were in their cricketing whites – apparently the team from nearby Bethulie prefer to play in PT shorts and rugby socks. The strongest team this Springfontein squad ever played was good old Standard (from my home town of Cradock) which fielded no fewer than 7 Michaus (an old Eastern Cape Karoo family) in their side.
Blackie’s son Steve introduced my wife Jules and I to everyone, saying we travel the country for a living, write a bit and take the odd photograph. About right, I thought. Then he added:
“So suck in your stomachs, guys, and push out your chests. You never know where these photos will appear.”
We watched some swashbuckling cricket that day – lots of sixes went flying over the boundary. The players also spent a fair bit of time mucking about in the veld in search of lost balls. Turns out they had fallen into aardvark holes. But that’s cricket in the Karoo...