Wednesday 10th March 2004: Bryn 16, Nick 14, Rhys 18 and on his gap year
Finals of Night Cricket
at the Maritzburg Oval, between Hilton’s First XI and Maritzburg College
All the Hilton boys were in a grandstand, and I, and a few other parents, sat in the adjoining stand. To be near them, hollering away, whooping, cheering, chanting, yelling in their stand is a wonderful joyous assault on one’s ears and eyes. Fabulous memories for them of being carefree. I think also the outing provides a wonderful way to let off some steam, and have a bit of freedom. They can come and go, and buy snacky rubbishy stuff like icecreams and candyfloss.
The Hilton boys are settling in for the evening, coming and going and collecting their supper, which the school has sent down. They have to have their blazers off when they’re in the stand, and on when they’re out of it. Nick sees me, comes over, accepts a drink from our ever-present coolbox (we’ve learned a thing or two) and asks for R20 from his wall money. The boys come and go, bringing back boerie rolls, crisps, drinks and pieces of fruit. Lots of blazers hang on the picket fence surrounding the Oval. Tall floodlights brilliantly illuminate the players and field – the game has been underway since four this afternoon. Both teams are in white, their caps differentiating them. Hilton’s ‘runners’ wait just inside the Oval with water bottles, wearing black shorts, white teeshirts, white caps.
Three enormous Matrics are leading the war cries tonight, and stand on the grass before the grandstand, facing the school. They’re holding sticks wound about in black-and-white tape, to conduct and keep the timing together. (The entire school is here, except perhaps a few boys who are sick, or on Headmaster’s gating.)
“Get up please!” say the cheerleaders.
“Get up, GEDDUP!”
“Stand up please, start if off slowly, orright okes…”
1,2,3…bowl em, catch em, we want a wicket, bowl em, catch em, we want a wicket
Three guys sitting in the bottom row of my nearly-empty grandstand, chowing their food in peace and space, get told by a cheerleader to get back with the others on the main stand.
The biggest hairiest strongest cheerleader with the most sergeant-major voice comes over and kisses his father on the lips.
Bryn in his top right corner is spending a lot of time standing up, I can see him now, eating an apple and laughing. Maybe next year he’ll take a turn down in the front. He certainly could have been out on the field tonight, with his former ‘A’ team mates, Preston Mommsen and Gareth Randles, who come on to bowl to huge applause and cheers.
Okes, listen up
We’re gonna have alternate clapping, left and right
watch the stick
Each half of the stand claps alternately, in unison to the movement of the stick. The clapping speeds up till the leaders make the sticks describe circles in the air above their heads, which means shout, bellow, jump up and down, cheer how you like as long as it’s like crazy.
Guys, we’re gonna have a slow spell
Then a H..I..L..T..O..N
Then a Hilton
Then a Hilton
Then a Hilton
As they bawl out the letters, the echo bounces back from the opposite bank, ghost boys.
Now they’re told to put their blazers on and stand up. At the signal, they snap their blazers closed, to cover their shirts completely, yelling, Black!
Then all together they hold their blazers wide open, with their shirts revealed, and shout, White!
They do it twice more, then bend down from the waist. This show is watched by all the people on the grassy banks on the opposite side of the Oval – we usually watch it from the opposite side of the rugby field – it looks so impressive I know – the leaders count them in to it, then they all stand up straight together roaring the name of their school. Love the contrast between the order, and the brief moments of pandemonium.
Blazers off now guys, all the Form Ones please come and get these rubbish bags, we don’t want any rubbish left behind…
The little ones emerge and have to go around picking up stuff. Next year, it won’t be them. It isn’t Nick this year… They have to stay behind at the supper break interval (while the teams, who’ve been at it since four, are given some food) – they pile the full bags together, then can go and wander about a bit also.
I stretch my legs, and spot Bryn chatting to the girlfriend before last, in an amazing black-and-white miniskirt. I wave at them.
Not all the warcries need standing up for. Some start very quietly and are all the more forceful. They sit and make a shhhhhh, shhhhhh, sound that you suddenly realise. They chant shaya (hit) – in rugby matches, it’s shova (push)…..
Play resumes. At special moments, like when a boundary is hit or when there’s a change of batsman or bowler and their names are announced, or just between overs, music comes thundering out of the loudspeakers, so upbeat and cheerful you feel like dancing.
Poor Preston, one minute he was coming on to the field with much support from the school, the next, the announcer was saying he was “run out and on his way back to the dressing room.” From a memory to savour, to one he’d rather forget if he could.
“New batsman in for Hilton, Carl Schmidt.”
“Duncan Bradshaw is the new batsman at the Hilton crease.”
Nick comes back with a double ice and asks for another ten rand, that’s thirty off his wall. It’s only March and he will have to watch it. Could be a phonecall to Wendy coming up about waitering at the Bizzy Lizzie? He would be so lucky if he were given that chance.
I don’t know why but it feels like we’re being beaten terribly, horribly, awfully. Must be those cameo appearances by our batsmen. Simpkins is replaced by Kambarami, then Milligan….
Now the Hilton boys all have to put their arms about one another’s shoulders, as does the row of cheerleaders, now up to about ten. This is a Zulu warcry and it’s led by Nii Amponsah, a commanding presence. His nickname is Nash.
Bryn’s just written down the warcry for me.
They all bow down, then spring up again. Feet stamp. But it’s too late, we’re done for. We made the Final though. The College boys rush onto the field and embrace their team. Our boys stream back to the buses parked outside. I loved getting that close view of the boy-run warcries.
Bryn and I drive home. He tells me he spent most of the night on the opposite bank with Mr Milligan and Mark’s brother. How did he manage that.
I wonder how it is, in the buses driving back up the hill in the mist to school and bed…are the boys quiet or talking or singing…if there is any noise to be found, I know our Nick will be at the heart of it.