“Shake a leg, there, Third Man. Shake a leg.”
Being woken in the middle of the night by a Squire intent on adventure and travel is a shock to any system, let alone one that in its time has withstood a hundred thousand or more such summons to consciousness.
Let Third Man confide that, unlike most other exercises, waking does not get any easier with practice.
“Vexing, most vexing. In half a millennium I have never found the calculations more convoluted. There are more knots in time tonight, TM, than in that awful piece of willow I got from Millichamp and Hall last season.”
Sun spot AR1429 had been causing merry hell with the Earth’s magnetosphere and most time travellers (and all sensible time travellers) had been confined to harbour, much to the frustration of the Squire who had wanted to see the 1st Test between New Zealand and South Africa in Duneden.
To ensure the party could leave the moment a break in the storm presented itself, hammocks had been hung in the workshop where the Type III resides in its rusty splendour.
Within, the Squire puzzled over his calculations, hour after frustrating hour.
Spotting a gap in the clouds, Third Man wandered outside where the air was sharp. It was as if a great city had dropped fully built and functioning ten miles to the north of Whirld’s End, its urban light bouncing off the clouds. The sky was in turmoil.
It was rare indeed for the aurora borealis to be seen so far south. The faintest of pinks filled the all-too slender gap between the horizon and the clouds, but it was enough to suggest what extraordinary sights others more fortunate with weather and location were …
“Don’t you dare write ‘enjoying’, Third Man. This bloody storm is the very devil. Now, get aboard and get this tub on the move.”
The Type III landed in the Botanic Gardens.
“Damn and blast this thing. What day is it?”
“Saturday March 10th.”
At the ground, South Africa began the day at 268 for 3 in their second innings, already 186 runs ahead. The day before Graeme Smith had posted 115. Jacques Kallis, after a duck in the first innings, was resuming his second innings on 107 and Jacques Rudolph starting on 13 would later become the third South African centurion of the innings.
These are mighty men who come at the ball and bludgeon attacks. There is a relentless pressing about their batting that must make a bowler wish for two more yards of pace, or even three, with which to force them back, back into their crease, back into their mind, back into the hutch.
Has the Squire risked the atoms of his being in the worst solar storm in years to see these examples of cricket’s infantry?
Of course not!
SA declare and prepare to intimidate the Kiwi batsmen. McCullum counter attacks with a bottom hand as strong as that of Kallis and Smith, and an edginess both literal and metaphoric. He ignites the greed for runs and domination that propels the game.
And then, at 55 for 2 in pursuit of four hundred, in walks Ross Taylor and the Squire leans forward in his seat.
What is it about a bat that in one man’s hand it is a mace and in another’s a blade?
Pleasure from cricket is semantic and neurotic.
This Taylor plays later, the top hand allowed its hegemony. The body lines sideways. Shakespeare calls it majesty.
The Squire is watching a cricketing aurora borealis. There have been few in the history of the game. Fewer still have been great enough to compete statistically with the infantry.
Taylor may not be among the very few but he reminds the followers of this game why they should willingly trade hour upon hour of the Smiths and Jacques for thirty minutes of Taylor’s kind of batting.
“Glad you joined the service, Third Man?”