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July 17, 2013

In the dead of the antipodean night

Paul Ford
Take 'em off this instant  © Getty Images
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Watching the Ashes as a neutral in the inhospitable dead of the antipodean night is a lonely, pulsating, and highly addictive pastime.

In New Zealand, our best chance of direct involvement was extinguished last month when Billy Bowden was axed from the elite panel by the ICC and sent away to play golf with Asad Rauf. Billy was the most significant Kiwi contributor to cricket's greatest rivalry since Andy Caddick from Papanui High School took 5 for 50 at Edgbaston in 1997.

As Billy walked awkwardly off the Anglo-Australian stage, he took with him our Ashes memories as an honest but crooked-fingered and eccentric umpire who sawed off Michael Kasprowicz for gloving one from Steve Harmison back in 2005. Replays - and they were endless - showed the Queensland rocker's paw was not on the bat handle when the leather slid by. Ricky Ponting went septic, and Billy has frequently nominated it as his most memorable decision.

A perfect storm.

Even better was to come when Bowden popped over to wicketkeeper Geraint Jones and took the Ashes ball home for the Bowden family mantelpiece. (He later returned it.)

Without our homegrown arthritic umpire involved in 2013, patriotic Kiwi cricket fans soaking up this wonderful spectacle must decide who to support in advance of each Test. This self-interrogation is all about finding the answer to a clich├ęd question: "Who do I hate least at the moment?"

Last week in Nottingham I was shocked to find myself answering that question with, gulp, Australia. I blame Ashton Agar, the Vettori-esque Australian who burst onto the international cricketing milieu with a Boy's Own knock of 98 from No. 11. I wanted him to hit the winning runs, and steal an extraordinary win against all expectations at Trent Bridge.

When Agar was dismissed in the second innings, I couldn't switch allegiance, and there I was howling at the moon with delight as Brad Haddin swatted Steve Finn for a trio of consecutive boundaries under the balmy Nottingham sky.

Yes, for one session I was inexplicably backing the same Brad Haddin who had villainously leant over the stumps and dislodged the off bail with his glove to have Neil Broom dismissed "b Clarke" a few years back. On Sunday, Haddin was part of that great beast in sport, the underdog, and for that reason alone I was backing him to the hilt.

A couple of observations crossed my mind as the final overs of the contest washed over me in my Wellington lounge room.

The first was that this new-fangled revolution counter is no good in the TV coverage. There hasn't been such a pointless or annoying graphic since the little animated cartoon fielders came sprinting out to show us the field settings back in the early noughties. The tachometer doesn't work because there's not enough variation (every delivery is 2000 and something rpm), the dial is so small you need the eyesight of a buzzard to read it, and it's irrelevant for most bowlers.

The second is that as well as banning the tachometer, I'd like to ban sunglasses on players too, and risk incurring the wrath of occupational health inspectors across the cricketing globe.

About 2070 years ago, Italian allrounder Marcus Cicero proclaimed: "The face is a picture of the mind, as the eyes are its interpreter." Sunglasses are a barrier to that interpretation, and the preposterously shaped eye-covers adorning the eyes of blokes like Cook, Pietersen and Swann prevent us seeing inside their swirling minds.

That's a shame because in periods of high drama, massive frustration, or nervous flippancy we want to be able to deduce what a player is thinking and not let him hide behind a veil of expensive plastic.

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

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Posted by Dubious on (July 18, 2013, 22:29 GMT)

Heh, I love how people use pejoratives like convict when referring to Australians. It's not insulting, you just look like a fool :P We don't care. All it does it vindicate how successful convicts can be, I guess. Send them away to a great land and watch them become one of the most economically, artistically and 'sportingly' successful nations on Earth. Performing far better (per capita) than England and certainly India in practically every pursuit.

Posted by   on (July 17, 2013, 22:23 GMT)

I was unaware of this Haddin incident. Although do recall Andrew Symonds NOT walking when he was not given out in the January 2008 Sydney test v India, even though he edged a delivery (which was caught). Then later he told everyone he knew he was out. So no wonder the convicts didn't make much fuss about Broady not walking.

Posted by MonkeyMann on (July 17, 2013, 21:19 GMT)

It's true - after hearing time and again that Swann spins it massively more than Agar, the rev counter managed to show very little difference - both approx 2000 and a bit...

Posted by   on (July 17, 2013, 15:48 GMT)

Hush! Finally an editorial on the Trent Bridge test that didn't cry hoarse about the DRS system. Thanks champ. Nice one.

Posted by py0alb on (July 17, 2013, 12:34 GMT)

Instead of (or possibly as well as) an amount of spin, it should show the direction of spin on a kind of clockface, so we can see the different variations each bowler has.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paul Ford
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

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