Champions Trophy 2017 July 3, 2017

To Canterbury we go

Our correspondent takes in the sights of the cathedral town as she follows South Africa about on their none too successful tour of England

In Canterbury, the cathedral is ever-present Firdose Moonda / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

June 17
Though South Africa are no longer in the Champions Trophy and I am no longer really reporting on the event, I still manage to drag myself off to the ICC's pre-final function. The lure of a snacks, drinks and the company of colleagues convinces me. Most of the South African journalists on the trip are there too.

The ICC has hired a magician for entertainment purposes. No, it's not David Richardson. Yes, he does make us choose cards from a pack and correctly guesses which ones we had. Curiously, he also does a trick with some kind of calculation and the final numbers end up being the scores of the semi-finals.

June 18
As the final takes place, I take a stroll along Little Venice and walk all the way along the canal until it gets to Ladbroke Grove. From there, a detour into Notting Hill. The vintage stores, the pastel-coloured row houses and the hipster vibes make me feel completely at home. Posters in almost every shop window ask: "Have you seen this person?" They are an old couple, young families, and a smiling three-year-old who were never found in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire. Other posters tell of shops, restaurants and bars that are raising funds to help those who lost their homes. There is even an offer of free yoga for those affected. As Pakistan defy the odds to become champions, I see another community come together.

June 19
Finally, I have somewhere to be. Cricket South Africa is launching its Global T20 league in London. The idea was that the event would come after the team claimed a first major trophy and the world's media would be in town to cover it. Oh, and it was supposed to take place at Lord's. None of those things actually happened. South Africa were booted out, most of the press are South African journalists flown in from home, and the ECB apparently refused permission for CSA to use the Home of Cricket. So the competition is born at the swanky Bulgari Hotel, in front of mostly team owners. The moment of the launch involves the renaming of one of South Africa's host venues for what seems to be the sake of appearance. Boland Park, in the down-to-earth town of Paarl, is now apparently located in the more posh-sounding Stellenbosch.

They're red, they're cherries. Do they swing? Firdose Moonda / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

June 20
The South Africa team sets off for three T20s but I have decided to skip the silly stuff and head to Canterbury, where the A side are playing England Lions. It's not the popular choice but I have my eye on some stories involving possible Test caps, and of course, I don't mind a sight of the majestic cathedral.

June 21
A decent crowd settles into the Spitfire Ground to watch what is set to be a battle of the openers in the Lions team. Haseeb Hameed is out for a duck but Mark Stoneman and Keaton Jennings make their cases for Test call-ups. Afterwards I chat to Jennings about his schooldays alongside Quinton de Kock. I am struck by his South African accent, though I suppose I shouldn't be.

June 22
Another opening battle takes place, this time between the South Africans. Heino Kuhn and Aiden Markram are thought to be in line for the senior squad and they both bat well. While they pile it on, I return to London for the evening launch of the Women's World Cup. The event takes place at the National Liberal Club in Whitehall Place - where women were only allowed to become members in 1976. Today, eight ladies who are leaders of their country's cricket teams are present. There are round-table interviews with all of them. Stafanie Taylor is the most interesting. She speaks of a lack of self-belief among her team-mates, which is difficult to fathom.

June 23
South Africa A's late collapse in the first innings allows the England Lions to set what is quickly becoming a match-winning target. The lethargy with which the South Africans conduct themselves is worrying. I have been able to confirm Kuhn's inclusion in the Test side and hope he will up his energy levels when he gets there. I make it to a quaint Canterbury pub to catch the end of the T20. South Africa look out of it but Andile Phehlukwayo holds his nerve.

The kora: no, you don't hold it like a guitar Firdose Moonda / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

June 24
I decide to skip the last rites in the Lions match and enjoy the Canterbury market instead. I'm after Kent cherries and at £2 for a pound, I get my fill.

June 25
Head to Leicester for my first Women's World Cup match. Pleasantly surprised to find the press box packed. South Africa restrict Pakistan to what seems a gettable total, but they have never successfully chased a total over 200 at a World Cup. The openers polish off the first hundred runs but then a horror show of run-outs puts the result in doubt. It's up to feisty fast bowler Shabnim Ismail to finish things off. Meanwhile in Cardiff, the men end a miserable white-ball run with defeat.

June 26
A year ago I bought myself a kora (a 21-stringed West African stringed instrument), which was delivered to a friend in the UK from France. I now pick it up. I saw earlier in the year that the School of African and Oriental Studies is running a summer-school week-long course in playing the kora. The stars seemed to have aligned, so I signed up. Today is my first lesson. Having dabbled a bit in the guitar, I am fairly confident I will playing sweet melodies straight away, but plucking 21 strings is much more difficult than six. I soon realise I am no Ali Farka Touré.

June 27
Though I have been in the UK for almost a month, I make my first trip to the Disney/ESPN offices today. When I arrive at the sign-in desk, I am asked for my name and surname, a contact number, and then who I work for. I look at the receptionist blankly and eventually answer: "I work for you." She clearly thinks I am crazy but gives me an entrance card anyway.

June 28
South Africa's Test squad assembles in Worcester, where they will play a warm-up match. I won't be joining them because I am continuing my musical education, but I am not the only absentee. Coach Russell Domingo has had to return home after a family emergency and captain Faf du Plessis is also not there. He is awaiting the birth of his first child. Dean Elgar will stand in as captain.

Notting Hill market: hipster alert Firdose Moonda / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

June 29
Baby du Plessis is born and we receive news that Domingo will return to the team camp. I master my first full Mandinka song, about a warrior who disappears into the mountains and things seem to be normalising. That evening, I have dinner with a friend from university who is on her first overseas holiday.

June 30
Kuhn, Hashim Amla, de Kock and Temba Bavuma are all among the runs at New Road, which is good news ahead of the Tests. Less good is that the chorus calling for AB de Villiers to step down as ODI captain has grown louder. After Graeme Smith suggested as much in a column, Barry Richards has now said similar. There are also conflicting reports about Domingo's future. His contract is up at the end of the tour, and while several sources have confirmed he has not reapplied, there are suggestions he might have been convinced to reconsider. What seemed to be a stabilising situation now appears unsettled again. I remember how solid South Africa were before the Tests in 2012 and how well that served them. I wonder how they will fare this time.

July 1
Portobello Road Market is a must-see even if you've seen it before, and I spend the afternoon writing in a coffee shop just off the main drag. I take it easy in the early evening and stroll the streets.

Any Test series is special but a Test series in England that coincides with a World Cup more so. Tomorrow, I'll return to Leicester to watch the South Africa Women play West Indies and then I'll have to find a way to keep an eye on them and the men simultaneously. The next six weeks will be telling for the future of South African cricket.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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