Prized second: Mninawa Njokweni is recognised by Mthetheleli Ngumbela, founding father of the Ngumbela Cricket Event held in Healdtown, Japanese Cape. The profitable group performs the highest group within the Pineapple Week contest. Photograph: Michael Pinyana
South African cricket’s best-kept secret must be Port Alfred’s annual Pineapple Week, going sturdy since 1904, and displaying no signal of flagging.
There have been occasional interruptions — for World Battle II and one yr throughout the Covid-19 pandemic — and subsequent yr’s match is its one hundred and twentieth anniversary.
So-called as a result of pineapples have been ubiquitous on this space of the Japanese Cape (they’re nonetheless grown however not as broadly, with chicory and cattle farming most popular), there have been 24 groups at this yr’s week divided into three strength-versus-strength teams.
Most of the groups, corresponding to Salem, Station Hill, Southwell and Manley Flats play often on weekends within the native leagues, however some are invitation groups gathered to compete within the match.
The cricket is performed over 50 overs on coconut or hessian mats laid on the turf wickets to guard them from seven or eight days of use. The principles are stringent — no “ringers” or privateers can play solely within the week in the event that they haven’t performed a minimal variety of matches for his or her membership first — and matches are officiated by long-suffering impartial umpires.
Covers off: The sport is about to start.
Like high-speed fibre, impartial umpires are one of many fashionable world’s best innovations. They could get vloeked however they’re finally obeyed. Barry Smith, a former bakkie driver, is head of the Pineapple Week umpires and a much-loved characteristic of the competition.
“Nobody provides Barry uphill,” says former match organiser Justin Stirk, “partly as a result of he has an extended reminiscence. They know that marginal choices would possibly go towards them in the event that they do.”
Though it’s tempting to fall asleep within the afternoon session whereas umpiring on the nation membership, umpires should stay vigilant as a result of chance-taking is just about institutionalised at Pineapple Week. Something can occur — and it incessantly does.
As soon as a group drifted nonchalantly onto the sphere with 12 gamers. A ball couldn’t be retrieved from the outfield as a result of it landed shut to 2 mating Cape cobras. Nobody had the braveness to disturb them within the act.
A narrative is informed — Pineapple Week is an limitless fount of fine tales — of a batsman who was already out in a low-scoring match desperately asking a teammate if he thought
the opposition would thoughts if he batted once more.
“With you as a batsman? No, by no means,” got here the straight-faced reply.
Tales want characters and Pineapple Week is stuffed with them. Who may neglect “Tick chicken” Fowlds, he of the lengthy legs and knobbly knees, or “Canine Shark” Fletcher, or “Mielie Meal” Yendall? And who may neglect the superstitious partisanship of Beth Amm, spouse of Rex and mom to brothers Phillip and Pete, each superb cricketers of their day.
Beth was a heavy smoker and believed in her divine powers to affect the opposition in matches towards Salem, the group for which her husband and sons performed.
If a customer was scoring too freely, or proving troublesome to dislodge, Beth would write their title down the aspect of her ciggie in pencil. By the point the cigarette was smoked, legend has it, the batsman could be snuffed out.
Apart from the hocus-pocus, impartial umpires and an insistence by the organisers on good behaviour, there are different causes for the well being of Pineapple Week.
“Among the kids are coming again and taking part in for the golf equipment of their fathers and grandfathers,” says Pete Amm, one of many driving forces behind the renaissance at Salem Cricket Membership. His son Simon performs there. “They love the thought of revitalising cricket within the space and making a go of it,” he says.
For individuals who haven’t seen it, Salem is among the extra picturesque cricket grounds within the land. The sector is flanked by a church and a graveyard and, relying on the time of yr, a purple rain of bougainvillaea. The buildings present clues to the priorities of those that settled there. The phrase of God was paramount however so, too, was the phrase of the forward-defensive, the cover-drive and the maiden over.
The winners of this yr’s annual Pineapple Week cricket match.
One of many eureka moments of the Pineapple Week organisers in recent times was to twin the winner of the week with the winner of the Ngumbela Cricket Event, began in 1989 by Mthetheleli Ngumbela in close by Healdtown (pronounced Hilltown).
Ngumbela, a cricketer himself in addition to a self-made millionaire with fruit and veg outlets in Idutywa, began his match as a result of he was perturbed by the younger males of Healdtown and Fort Beaufort having nothing to do over the Christmas break however get drunk.
The match historically begins on the 16 December public vacation and options groups corresponding to Jackhammer, Lamyeni Laborious Catch and Concern Not, in an try to get the boys out of the taverns and into whites. His imaginative and prescient outpaced his match however each grew steadily. There may be now the Ngumbela Oval, ample prize cash and a thriving tradition of cricket because the match approaches its thirty fifth version.
The vibe at this yr’s Pineapple Week cricket match.
The primary match between the winners of the respective tournaments befell in 2015 in Cuylerville; the return fixture befell on the Ngumbela Oval the next yr.
Ngumbela was a serial non-conformist. As soon as, when strolling across the outfield of the Port Alfred Nation Membership, he observed holes in a grandstand roof.
“You whites needs to be ashamed of yourselves, letting the rain pour onto the heads of individuals sitting within the stands,” he’s reputed to have informed a gaggle of Pineapple Week organisers with a devilish chuckle.
By no means one to be crucial when doing one thing tangible could be higher, Ngumbela promptly wrote out a cheque for R25 000 to restore the roof. His generosity has not been forgotten. The grandstand roof lives on as an off-the-cuff memorial to Ngumbela, who was killed in a automobile crash final yr.
Cricket wants extra males just like the tireless extrovert. And it wants extra tournaments like Pineapple Week.