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Wellington, on a great day, is amazing. Today is a great day, and not just because it’s a great day in Wellington.
The first Test of the summer was a beauty. Whichever way it was going to go on the final day it was going to be an entertaining day of Test cricket and well worth the admission charge. And they turned out to watch. It was a great atmosphere right from the start of the day. It only got better and in that last session, when we needed four wickets and Pakistan needed 40 runs, the Dunedin crowd was the twelfth man out there with us on the park, fighting hard with us. It was amazing and I have never played in front of a crowd like that. With the intimacy of the ground and the closeness of the crowd, the 2,200 people that were there, made it sound and fell like 60,000; great job Dunedin and to those who travelled to be there for the last day (you boys who drove up from Queenstown, great job!!).
We won; but you already know that. It was amazing; but you already know that too. I can’t really explain the feelings that are still running through me now, but what I can tell you, if I could bottle this, save it up somehow and tap in to it when times are tough, life would be so much better. I just feel amazing. I feel like I’ve always wanted to feel from playing this game. I’ve been a part of a winning Test team before, but to have played a big part in a win when things were really against us is just absolutely amazing. Just remember Pakistan needed 55 with five wickets left. The odds were really stacked against us at that stage.
The day didn’t start to well; the plan was to bat for as long as we could. Well we did bat as long as we could, but it wasn’t as long as we wanted. I was done by a good set from Gul, three good bouncers, the first one hitting me reasonably hard, and then the full straight one hitting me dead in front. We had two referrals left, there was no point having them left over so I asked for it to be referred. I straight away apologised to Tufal for doing so, I was almost certain that I was dead, but I was just hoping that I had, maybe, got a little nick on it, or maybe it hit me just outside the line, anything, I had to check. I didn’t nick it, and it didn’t hit me outside the line. I was dead.
This was going to be a nervy day now, more so because we could only set Pakistan 250 in 90 overs. A very gettable target, and we were going to need some help from wherever we find it. Hopefully the pitch would play up more, and hopefully the ball would reverse like it did in the first innings. We got lucky, the pitch did play up a little and the ball did reverse.
We had a great start, Bondy and Tommy [Martin] picked up a wicket each. Two great catches by Baz and McIntosh respectively. Great catching was going to be so important in this one; Pakistan had shown that already for the wrong reasons.
I was nervous, really nervous. I had not bowled well in the second half of my overs in the first innings and really needed to do a whole lot better here if we were going to win this one. I had looked at my spells from the first innings to see what changed throughout the day; there was one thing I picked up straight away. Basically I wasn’t rocking back from the waist in my jump, I was still leaning forward from running in. These meant things weren’t quite in the right place at delivery and the results speak for themselves.
I hit warm-ups on day four practicing this and again yesterday (day five) I was really focusing on it before we got out into the middle. So heading out to start up the defence of 250, I knew things were on the line.
If I had another day like I did on day three, my Test career might have been gone. Yesterday was 'Career Day' for me. Get it right and I’ll be fine, get it wrong and I could be gone. Pretty scary stuff; these are the things that go through your head, it’s enough that I’ve got to go out and bowl to some great batters, but to contend with other head-messing stuff is really tough.
I started good; my action felt good, the reviewing and fix I had done with my action was working. I bowled a tight six-over spell first up, created a couple of nicks that didn’t carry, but I kept the runs down and the pressure on. There was a great feel out in the field, we were really enjoying ourselves.
A partnership between Umar and Yousuf was beginning to look troublesome. They had put on 40 when Tommy bowled a ball that changed the game. Whacking it in short, rising sharply, rushing at Yousuf, grabbing some glove leather on the way past and safely thudding into Baz’s gloves. A defining moment in the match! We were back as favourites at that moment and we just needed to get at least one of the brothers out and we would be well in front. Just Malik to deal with before Kamran would join Umar - the partnership that devastated us in the first innings.
By now the ball was reversing, it had been from about the 15th over. We really needed this, as do all attacks on flat tracks. I changed ends, and so did the wind. That didn’t impress me! But this was going to be my moment, this was going to be my spell. Just before tea I got Malik. Fifty five runs to get and five wickets in hand for Pakistan, and just then it became four in hand. I bowled Malik a bouncer, that didn’t get up, he ducked it and it only just got over his back. I thought I’d go again, another bouncer, hoping the bounce would be different and get a different result. It was and it did. It rose like the ball Tommy bowled to Yousuf. It flew through, grabbed an edge and I had my first wicket of the match.
The match was still on the edge and it was now tea. I had bowled four overs before and was pretty sure I was going to get the ball straight after too. It was going to be a tough session, the last one of the match, and we were all pretty tired and sore.
In my third over after tea I had my finger rearranged. Umar whacked one straight, I stuck out a hand more to stop the ball than catch it. If it stuck happy days, it didn’t though. It did take the end of my middle finger on its way past, and bent it the wrong way. The very end joint of my middle finger was bent up; it’s only supposed to bend down towards the palm. It hurt when the ball hit, nothing out of the ordinary there, it was only when I looked at it that I realised that I was in some trouble.
I waved to our physio, hoping she could put it back in straight away and I would be able to carry on. I’ve never dislocated a finger, let alone one of my bowling digits and didn’t really know how or if I’d be able to keep bowling. Kate (our physio) got it back in, on her third attempt; my hand was sweaty and she kept slipping off. We’ve since heard that this joint is one of the toughest to get back in. I felt it ‘clunk’ back into place, this hurt, a lot, too. I was really starting to worry that I wouldn’t be able to bowl. I remember asking Dan if it went for four; now that would have really annoyed me if that’d happened, it only went for two, so not all was in vain.
I grabbed the ball and gripped it in my right had trying to ‘feel’ the ball in my fingers. It felt a bit weird, it had sort of gone a bit numb; this worried me a little as I need to feel where these fingers are at delivery. I bowled a ball to Fulton at cover to see how it would go. It was going to be ok. It wasn’t perfect, but it’ll have to do. I’ll at least finish this over and see about the next.
I’ve been told my next ball was 5 kmph quicker than a couple of previous balls; it really must have been an adrenalin hit. I actually started to feel pretty good, finger sore, sure, but I was in the game, I was going to do something special.
Bondy got Umar a couple of overs later; it was another great return catch. Bondy just grabs these catches, it’s amazing! We were right back in the hot seat. The amount of ‘man love’ was amazing, it was hugs all round, we were pumped. That was one very special debut from what will probably be a very special player.
I bowled the next over and I had Kamran lbw. Every wicket was a huge celebration and for this one we got to celebrate three times. We celebrated big when Taufel raised his finger, we celebrated again when we got word from the shed that the appeal that was reviewed would stay with the on field umpires decision, and then we celebrated the third time when Taufel’s finger was raised again. The tension was amazing; the atmosphere was so good to be a part of.
I had really been looking forward to bowling to Gul since this morning when he hit me on the grill, and here was my opportunity. Do I bounce him and try to hit him, ruffle him up a little, or do I just hang to the plans, bowl tightly, nick him off or bring the stumps into play. I didn’t bounce him, but I’m sure he was expecting it.
I got him in my next over, Gul nicked one between keeper and first slip, I thought it was going to be his lucky day. A couple of balls later he scooped one to Dan at mid off. We were running around like mad men now. It really was going to happen. More hugs, more high fives, more pats on the back, all while I’m trying to keep my right (sore) hand out of the way of all the emotions. It was now that we really knew that we could/should and hopefully would win this Test.
Well, the rest now is history. Dan came on and does what he does so well with tailenders, he picked up the remaining two wickets.
The celebrations on the park were huge, it was brilliant. The crowd had been amazing; they really were our 12th man that day. I sure that the Wellington crowd can create an atmosphere similar and make the Basin Reserve’s 50th Test match great Test to play in. I managed to grab a couple of stumps, one for me and one for Umar, he really did deserve one from this Test. Unfortunately for him it will be one to remember for his individual performance, not for the teams result. With him and Aamer in this team, these two young men, with their standout performances will take Pakistan a long way!
I had my finger checked today, no breaks or fractures; that’s good. It just hurts and is swollen and a bit blue. It should be fine for Thursday, my home ground, the Basin Reserve, my favourite track to bowl on, wild horses couldn’t keep me away!
Fast bowler Iain O'Brien played 22 Tests for New Zealand in the second half of the 2000sFeeds: Iain O'Brien
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Former New Zealand fast bowler Iain O'Brien played 22 Tests in the second half of the 2000s