Cricket: Joy clashes with a sense of injustice: First visit to Lord's by a senior South African side for 27 years is marred by protests: Rob Steen reports from Lord's on a barbed welcome for Transvaal

Click to follow
The Independent Online
GOOD GRACE was in short supply outside the Grace Gates yesterday morning. Denis Compton was simply aghast. 'What,' he harrumphed. 'I wouldn't touch it with a barge-pole.'

The cause of Compo's summer whine was Cecily Campbell-Smith, a member of the City of London branch of the Anti-Apartheid League who was helping to hold up a banner reading 'Majority Rule Now' with one hand while distributing leaflets with the other. Had she known she had just proffered one to one of the most prominent voices behind South Africa's return from the cricketing wilderness, she would surely have thought better of it.

'That's all over,' Compton insisted. 'Indeed it is not,' Cecily insisted. 'The Transvaal team are ambassadors for apartheid,' her colleague, Kathy Fernand, emphasised. 'How can people play friendly games of cricket when families are being slaughtered in their homes?'

The first visit to Lord's by a senior South African cricket side for 27 years was certainly a joyous affair for the estimated 5,000 gathering, a goodly number of them ex- pats, even if Transvaal were ultimately made to look rather foolish by a scratch MCC side containing two 41-year-olds, and only seven active first-class players. So foolish, in fact, that a 20-over beer match was arranged after the tourists' 115 had been overhauled with nearly 32 overs to spare.

For others, the event had more sombre overtones. Anticipating some spoiling tactics, the boys from the Met had turned up in force and were swift to make their presence felt. Along with half a dozen fellow demonstrators, Cecily and Kathy were told to turn their banner round in case it suggested to the punters filing through the turnstiles that all

was not sweetness and light.

Round two was not quite as one- sided. After the ageless 39-year-old West Indian Joel Garner had delivered the first ball of the match, seven men stormed the square in a clearly orchestrated attempt at disruption. One grabbed a stump while another tried to spray the pitch with an aerosol can. Order was soon restored, and each of the offenders were subsequently escorted to Paddington police station. As one was being dragged away he maintained a rhythmic chant. 'One man, one vote . . . one man, one vote.'

Admittedly this was a far cry from the days when barbed wire was installed on the sacred turf during Peter Hain's 'Stop the 70 tour' campaign 22 years ago. For Eddie Barlow, the Transvaal manager, these demonstrations will have supplied an unwelcome reminder of an era when his country's abhorrent political regime denied an international stage to the finest generation of cricketers South Africa has produced.

Barlow was himself a member of that 1965 party, along with the immortal Graeme Pollock, whose 19-year-old son, Anthony, extended the line here yesterday, albeit with few signs of having inherited the family jewels. Unlike his father, he is more likely to be denied by insufficient ability than lack of opportunity.

(Photograph omitted)

Comments