Cricket, golf … South African sport on a roll
What a fabulous 24 hours for South African sport: Ernie Els storming home to win the British Open at Royal Lytham and St Annes, and the Proteas hammering England by an innings and 12 runs at The Oval.
Obviously, every Australian sports fan wanted Adam Scott to win his first major, and he had the title by the throat until he strangled himself with bogies on the final four holes to lose by a shot to the “Big Easy”, when he birdied the last.
Having said that, nobody would begrudge the big South African his second British Open and fourth major. Els is without peer as the most popular and most revered golfer on the international circuit.
Els is a gentleman and a gentle man, never more underlined than when he was interviewed three times after his triumph and each time his first reaction was to say how sorry he felt for his good buddy and close friend Adam Scott.
In the cut-throat business of winning at the elite level, Els is a standout in every department.
The adulation from the massive crowds, averaging 31,000-plus a day, on their feet constantly applauding and cheering him, proof enough.
Els’ victory is all part of South Africa’s golfing resurgence, with four majors in the last 16: Trevor Immelman the 2008 Masters, Louis Oosterhuizen the 2110 Open, and Charl Schwartzel the 2011 Masters.
Only the Americans, with six wins in the same period, have performed better: Stewart Cink the 2009 Open, Lucas Glover the 2009 US Open, Phil Mickelson the 2010 Masters, Keegan Bradley the 2011 PGA, Bubba Watson the 2012 Masters, and Webb Simpson, the 2012 US Open.
The house full sign was up at The Oval when the world’s top-ranked Test side, England, took on the second-ranked South Africa. Nobody could possibly have expected what was in store.
Chasing England’s respectable 358, South Africa replied with a massive 2 (dec) for 637: Hamish Amla an unbeaten 311, Jacques Kallis 182 not out, and skipper Graeme Smith’s 131, in his 100th Test.
Smith joined an elite group to have scored a century in their 100th Test, with Colin Cowdrey (104 against Australia in 1968), Javed Miandad (145 against India in 1989), Gordon Greenidge (149 against England in 1990), Alec Stewart (105 against West Indies in 2000), Inzamam-ul Haq (184 against India in 2005), and Ricky Ponting, who scored a ton in each dig – 120 and 143* – for a double celebration against South Africa in 2006.
Amla’s 311* is the first triple hundred, and highest Test score ever by a South African, eclipsing AB de Villiers 278.
And the Smith-Amla 259 partnership, with the Amla-Kallis 347 unbeaten stand, are the first two 250-plus partnerships England has ever conceded in one innings.
So, arguably, this was the finest 24 hours in South African sport on two fronts, as compared to Australia’s three bitter disappointments – Scott’s meltdown, Mark Webber’s eighth finish at the German F1 Grand Prix to slip 34 points behind the winner and championship leader Fernando Alonzo, and defending Tour de France champion Cadel Evans right out of contention with over a week to go in the three-week epic.
Fingers crossed that pattern doesn’t hold for the London Olympics, and the inaugural Rugby Championship with the All Blacks, Boks, and Pumas.
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