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After a month-long international cricket hiatus punctuated by the Parker Posse fiasco, defamation threats, stern ultimatums and a torrent of lawyerly bills*, it is extremely exciting to see actual cricket breaking out in place of petulant cricket politicking.
That said, Michael Mason's sensational IPL selection following a post-rum drinking session with the human moustache, Peter Ingram, did threaten to deflect attention from the opening of New Zealand's tour. Unfortunately it was all just one big typo and Pahiatua's finest was never actually heading to Punjab.
For me, an England Test series in the green and pleasant land is the ultimate, but first we have the warm-up fixtures, albeit two less than the lead-in to the 2008 tour. Although knee-capped by the absence of the KFC Kid, Baz McCullum and the not-quite-fixed all-round skills of Dan Vettori, NZ's opening fixture against Derbyshire is a gentle opening.
Although a suburb of Derby city is named New Zealand (who knew?), the county's place in the New Zealand cricket milieu is usually associated with former opener, messy suitcase packer, and recent New Zealand coach John Wright. In his biography Christmas in Rarotonga, he provides wonderful insights into his cracking good times on the English scene - and the fact that opposition batsmen were stoked when he was selected as the overseas player as his presence meant fellow foreign pro Michael Holding wasn't in the XI.
New Zealand fans may be interested in the scorecards of Derbyshire's recent outings - a trio of absolute hidings at the hands of Yorkshire, Middlesex and Nottinghamshire. It has been a tough season for the cricketers inhabiting the land of Pride and Prejudice.
The Derbyshire versus The New Zealanders fixture has an 86-year history, and by my count we're in the midst of the 11th encounter between the two sides: the Kiwis have three wins, Derbyshire two wins, and five draws. Often, the weather is rubbish whenever the two sides play. Here's the abbreviated version of the history between the two sides:
1927 New Zealand romped to victory after Derbyshire clocked 129 all out against a monstrous 541 for 9.
1931 Round 2 was a rain-affected draw but the Derbyshire XI took revenge in 1937 as they rolled NZ for 166 and 200, with mesmerising legbreak googlier Tom Mitchell taking five wickets in each innings.
1958 A tres bizarre affair at the County Ground with orchestrated declarations and bad weather obliterating day two. In the end, Derbyshire were marooned on 109 for 5 chasing 127 for the win. Lanky Derbyshire legend Cliff Gladwin was the star of the show as he bagged a hat-trick in the second innings.
Gladwin has always intrigued me - he coined the famous phrase "Cometh the hour, cometh the man" (now boasting more than 600,000 Google mentions) as he strode out to the middle of a Durban Test between England and South Africa. The Poms needed 12 to win, eight wickets down, and with ten minutes left to play. He followed his own advice too, thieving a leg-bye off the last ball of the Test to get England home, later admitting: "I ran as though my shirt tail was on fire."
1969 The New Zealanders were skippered by by Graham Dowling - Mark Burgess scored 77 but not much else happened except that it rained in the East Midlands again.
1973 Four years later it was still raining and day one was consigned to warm beer, cold pies and card games, but when it did get going a hairy young 21-year-old by the name of RJ Hadlee took his 50th first-class wicket when he had opener Fred Swarbrook snaffled by his brother Dayle. One for Derbyshire Trivial Pursuiters there.
1986 Ah yes, the tour that inspired my generation of Kiwi cricket lovers, the Derbyshire warm-up match was umpired by none other than our favourite Lancastrian, David "Bumble" Lloyd. The under-rated New Zealand bowlers lived up to their under-ratedness as they were put to the sword by wicketkeeper Bernie Maher, who plundered his maiden first-class ton as a makeshift opener.
Brilliantly, Maher has since made a living from fly fishing and was the British fly fishing champion in 2004. Any New Zealand cricket fans in Derby for the game should get an angling lesson with Bernie at his angling lakes on their to-do lists.
1990 NZ won the fixture despite more moistness on the first day and a very sporting 30 for 0 declaration by Derbyshire in the first innings. The chief wrecking ball was hand-spinning medium pacer Martin Snedden with 4 for 55 as the county capitulated for 250 chasing 333 in the second innings. It was also Dominic Cork's first-class debut, and his match return of 2 for 53 included the wicket of policeman Trevor Franklin as his first scalp.
1994 In Round 9, Derbyshire gave the Kiwis a hiding with Gavin Larsen at the helm for what was nothing short of an unmitigated disaster. Legal eagle and cricket politician Tim O'Gorman whacked 143 as Derbyshire piled up 424 for 9. New Zealand was rolled once, and followed on ignominiously by doing even worse in the second dig. Blazer-hater Martin Crowe retired ill in the first innings and did not bat in the second.
*My favourite weasel words were from Wellington lawyer Andrew Morrison who told the Dominion Post that his client John Parker's rapid back pedal amounted to "a resolution, not a retraction."
Paul Ford is a co-founder of the Beige Brigade. He tweets hereFeeds: Paul Ford
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Paul Ford (aka Paul Holden) is a co-founder of the beloved Beige Brigade, the patriotic and long suffering Kiwi supporters' cult that is a bastion of things brown, tan, tongue-in-cheek and tenuously cricket-related. Paul lives in Wellington, somewhere between the Basin Reserve and Karori Park, and his favourite shot is the front-foot pull. @beigebrigade