New Zealand in England 2013 May 21, 2013

The hollow feeling of a Monday morning

New Zealand offered a glimmer of hope to their fans at Lord's, only to snatch it back and smash it to pieces on day four

Sixty-eight all out? Kiwi fans have seen worse © Getty Images

I was going to post about my literary weekend with Gideon Haigh and Shehan Karunatilaka at the Auckland Readers and Writers' Festival, but I was overtaken by the traumatic events of Sunday night and Monday morning. Those two masters of contemporary cricket lit can be popped back up on the shelf for now.

Monday mornings are bad enough with the spectre of the 40-hour working week looming large - a Kiwi cricket fan simply didn't need the additional pall of an overcast London and a singing, swinging Duke ball in the hand of a bowler who had previously looked out of sorts for the past few Anglo-Kiwi encounters. Stuart Broad made my Monday morning so much worse.

I slunk off to bed at 1am, accompanied on my pyjamified trudge by Brendon McCullum, an expired DRS review, and Nasser Hussain's voice reverberating in my ears: "Down the slope, up the slope, slope, slope, slope…" Twenty-nine for 6. At least the tail wagged, comprised as it was of invalids and sloggers.

After three days of compelling cricket, punctuated by some excellent performances from New Zealand's bowlers, we enjoyed a Sunday evening mop-up from mouthy Tim Southee and dared to dream of how we'd set about making the 239 needed for victory.

All sorts of preposterous theories were bandied about in the Karori lounge of Beige Brigade HQ - could Tim open and roll the dice with a few heaves to long-off? What about harnessing the "technically sound" defensive mechanics of Neil Wagner to partner Hamish Rutherford and hog the strike until the ball stopped weaving about in the air? But in the end, Mike Hesson and McCullum elected for the conventional batting line-up and we were outclassed and ultimately pulverised.

And none of our unproven, hypothetical, delirious theories would have made a bee's whisker of difference. The English attack was simply too good on the day. More than 150 runs too good, as New Zealand's non-winning record in NW8 deteriorated to one from 16.

The game was beautifully set up before the hour of awfulness arrived. With the shameful IPL match-fixing imbroglio cruelly emerging just as McCullum and Cook were tossing coins in the middle of St John's Wood on Thursday, there would have been nothing better than a pulsating, see-sawing fourth-innings run chase reminding us of what cricket should be all about. But alas, it became a one-sided bowling exhibition.

In the aftermath of this week's shellacking, plenty of comparisons have been made with the train wreck in South Africa. But that January day was much darker: not just in terms of the hail of depressing statistics that fell in its wake, but also its timing amidst the maelstrom of the Taylor captaincy fiasco. That batting annihilation felt a lot worse having occurred in the first session of the match too, with no entrée of rosier sessions fresh in our memories to dull the pain.

No, this was different: the feeling of day one at Newlands was horror, but at Lord's on day four the overwhelming emotion was one of hollowness. Like many New Zealand cricket fans, I'd been lured in by the massively encouraging Test series in the southern hemisphere, and intoxicated by hope.

Monday sobered me up.

But it's not all gloom in the gloaming. Don't forget 68 all out only just sneaks into New Zealand's top ten all-time lowest scores in Test cricket, and it was nowhere near our world-record batting collapse of eight wickets for five runs at the Basin in 1946. Even at its nadir in the witching hours of Sunday night we only lost four wickets for nine runs. And as we said over a pint the day we lost in 2004: "Even a bad day at the home of cricket is still a bloody good day."

Paul Ford is a co-founder of the Beige Brigade. He tweets here

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  • NonStriker on May 23, 2013, 2:28 GMT

    It's hard. You know better but you just want to believe. Actually, those of us old enough to remember(treasure) the 80s actually did know better.

  • thegreatwhiteduck on May 22, 2013, 22:50 GMT

    Nice blog. We've all been there. Sometimes, when the match starts badly, especially when it's on the other side of the world, it's easy to switch off and pretend that it isn't happening ... or at least that there are more important matters to attend to. But when your team's in there with a shout and then it all goes horribly wrong within a session or less, well, it's much harder to take. I'm an England fan, so you've prompted me to consider those times when I felt similar emotions. I'm sure it's happened far more times than I recall ... because the subconscious chooses not to recall. Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, 1994, however, remains indelibly etched. We had a reasonable 1st inning lead and were chasing fewer than 200 in the 4th innings, then Curtley made his point ... and we were 46 all out. Wishing the Kiwis all the best (after Headingley). Don't forget that every Englishman knows that, pound-for-pound (to borrow a boxing analogy), NZ is arguably the greatest sporting nation.

  • kay_seedat on May 22, 2013, 12:19 GMT

    I, too was full of hope and truly believed that NZ could pull off the impossible. But i'll still take my hat off for our boys for actually getting into that position. I was waiting for one of the authors to write about how poor NZ were but your article still made me feel proud to support the blackcaps!

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