Cricket: Sydney success offers stimulus: Glenn Moore on the home reaction to South Africa's Test triumph

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The Independent Online
IT WAS shortly after 4am, Tony Greig, commentating 6,000 miles away, had just screamed 'And he's got him]' and there were televisions going out all over South Africa. Five hours later, as the bleary-eyed staff of the United Cricket Board of South Africa arrived at their offices, the telephones started ringing.

They kept on ringing, as South Africans, from the country's political leaders to Joe van der Public, asked for the fax number of the cricket team's hotel in Sydney so they could send their congratulations.

South Africa's dramatic five-run second Test win over Australia, coming after they had been written off, could be the lift Test cricket needs here.

As Mike Procter, the team coach, said afterwards: 'It's awesome, mind-boggling. They talk about one-day cricket, but how could you get a game more exciting than this?'

With Australia coming here in February for a three-Test series, it has stimulated ticket sales and interest in the five-day game, which has suffered in South Africa from the emphasis on limited-overs cricket.

All five days were shown live on television, with the coverage starting at 2am. For those of little faith - or who fell asleep in the middle of it - the full two hours of yesterday's play was repeated at 7am (watched in my hotel bar by a crowd of staff and guests, whooping and cheering).

There were also highlights in the evening, and one person more desperate than most to watch them was a caller to the Johannesburg Sunday Times begging for a videotape of the play. Having set his alarm for 2am, he got up to discover burglars had taken his television and video while he was asleep. 'Very much a Johannesburg story,' the sports editor, Colin Bryden, said.

The win led the television and radio news bulletins, and the Johannesburg evening newspaper splashed it across the front page - under the heading 'Howzat? Awesome' - and dedicated two further pages to what is being described as 'one of South Africa's most sensational sporting triumphs'.

It was the talk of many offices and factories, being, Bryden added, 'one of those events that generate interest even in people who do not usually follow cricket'.

At breakfast a stranger, seeing my paper open at the cricket page, came up just to say: 'Did you see it - we won, fantastic.'

But not everyone was overwhelmed. In another office, euphoric discussion of the match was interrupted by the comment: 'But we only just won it, it was only five runs.'

Some people are never satisfied, but right now even South Africa's notoriously fickle cricket fans are mostly very happy - and very tired.

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