The inexplicable buzz of Brendon McCullum
Players need time to acclimatise at the start of every tour, and cricket watchers have to go through our own period of orientation. These last few days, I've been reacquainting myself with the New Zealand dialect, an amusing version of English, in which all the consonants remain in place but the vowels are moved around.
This takes a little getting used to. When you first hear that fielder A should have het the wecket or that team B have all the momintum going into this game, it can be confusing. For viewers experiencing their first New Zealand tour, I should also explain that "missive sex" is not a reference to erotic communication.
It was raining missive sexes at Seddon Park on Tuesday, although this was a steady shower compared to the sex monsoon we saw at the weekend. After the towering concrete of Eden Park, this setting felt more like cricket country. There were grass embankments, there were picnic hampers, there were flame throwers spewing fire several feet into the air.
The pitch itself was laid out to T20 scale, which, as we know, is roughly the same size as a nursery school playground. Outside edges, inside edges, absent-minded lunges, coughs, sneezes and stern looks all sent the ball hurtling to the fringes. My favourite ludicrous boundary came from an apathetic "drive" by Martin Guptil, which caused the ball to scream through the covers, to the general astonishment of all present.
Guptill scored an almost-fifty, as did his opening partner, Hamish Rutherford, who spent a lot of time gazing skywards like a cat at a bird show, because that is usually where he had just sent the ball. His shots had a desperate quality, as though he expected to get out at any moment, which he did, soon enough, giving Luke Wright his first wecket.
And then came the words that I had been dreading:
Since I was enjoying the game, I wondered, foolishly, whether Mr Knight could come up with something to annoy me today. He rose to the challenge like a champion.
"He's buzzing, McCullum, you can see it in his eyes."
The humble viewer squinted at the televisual McCullum, trying to discern whether he had ingested a narcotic, had a wasp in his helmet, or was merely undergoing an unpleasant Jeff Goldblum-style insect-mutation. To the uninitiated, it just looked like he was concentrating.
But, buzzed-up or not, McCullum was the star. He has the height of an extra from The Lord of the Rings, but the upper-body strength of a middleweight boxer. An Antipodean Popeye, he leaps in the air and dispatches the ball with his massive forearms, and deserves to have the words "Pow!" and "Kapow" and "Blimey did you see that!" superimposed on footage of his batting.
England, perhaps suffering from boundary shock after they overdid things a touch in Auckland, were at sexes and sivens. They put away the big heave and favoured the chip, the dab and the dinky lob. Most of them were caught, apart from Samit, who was run out.
"He's going to have to run…" pointed out Paul Allott, but Samit was not of the same opinion and settled for a ten-yard jog, followed by a pleasant amble back to the pavilion.
Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England