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I have seen some dull cricket matches in my time, but Saturday's Twenty20 match between New Zealand and England really took the plain digestive. Much was made of the strange proportions at Eden Park, but equally to blame was the concrete pitch. It was the sort of track that Virender Sehwag pictures when the team psychologist asks him to go to his happy place. Boom, bang, crash, boom, six, four, yawn. Then it was New Zealand's turn.
Dropped catches provided the only spontaneous excitement, and the best of those came from Mitchell McClenaghan. Former concert pianist Mitch knows that nothing cramps your ivory stroking style like a bunch of gnarled and knobbly digits, so he was understandably reluctant to impede the progress of the hard leather ball with his delicate pinkies. His look of perturbed innocence, as though he had been the innocent victim of physics, was text book.
Mitch wasn't the only fringe player knocking about the place; the rotation policy even extended to the commentary box, where one Nicholas Knight had been called up. Nick used to play cricket himself, but is perhaps best known as the founder, chairman and head cheerleader of the "Lovely Eoin Fan Club". He regularly bombards the editors of literary magazines with sonnets, haiku and villanelles inspired by the little chap, and is hoping to earn the right to represent Ireland in the Eurovision Song Contest with a plaintive ballad of his own composition entitled, "Eoin, Why Won't You Return My Calls?"
So when the aforementioned centrally contracted ginger-haired wizard of one-day cricket took a reasonably difficult catch while Nick was on air, there ensued what can only be described as a volcanic verbal ejaculation that at first sounded like the mating cry of a wildebeest with a sore throat, then left the viewers concerned that Nick might have swallowed the microphone and be unable to continue.
"Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant!" he screamed, jumping up onto the table in the commentary booth, demolishing the delicately assembled playing-card model of Eden Park that Ian Smith had spent the previous 20 minutes erecting. To add insult to injury, Smith was required to fill in while Nick was rendered speechless with ecstasy.
"He was in the perfect position to take that catch," explained Ian, by which he meant, for the uninitiated viewer, that Eoin had arranged to be standing in the approximate vicinity of the ball's expected area of landfall, the better to enable him to catch said object. Had he been standing further away, you see, he might not have been able to do so.
But whilst the men in blue were winning the Battle of the Bludgeon, when it came to commentary, the home side were running rings around their English counterparts. New Zealand understatement is a commentary genre for which I have a new-found respect, my favourite being this profound summing up by a philosophical Scott "Scotty" Styris:
"New Zealand haven't been winning as much as they'd like."
Translate that into Latin, stick it under a silver fern and you've got yourselves a motto.
Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in EnglandFeeds: Andrew Hughes
© ESPN EMEA Ltd.
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Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. Providing his ransom demands continue to be met, he has promised never to write a whimsical book about village cricket. @hughandrews73