July 2, 2014

McCullum's triumph and Vincent's shame

For New Zealand's cricketers - and cricket fans - it seems the highs are destined to never last long

A few hours after Kane Williamson picked up his Man-of-the-Match award, Vincent released his statement © WICB Media/Randy Brooks

I was a bit late for work on Tuesday morning.

My feet were dawdling down Kent Terrace, but all my care and attention was in Bridgetown, Barbados as the New Zealand bowlers ultimately brought the West Indies batsmen to their knees. It was time to chalk up a magnificent and controversy-free series victory. Pass the chalk.

I doff my white towelling hat to Mark Craig in particular. He should be re-nicknamed "Plucky" rather than "Pudgy" after his extraordinary rise to the top echelon of Kiwi cricket. It was only a few months ago that he was the last-minute ring-in after Jeetan Patel chose England's green and pleasant counties over the Test venues of the Caribbean. You have to be in to win.

Twenty-seven-year-old Craig made it to the Koru Lounge and never looked back, wheeling through 702 deliveries of vigorous offspin to snare a dozen wickets in the series - and currently boasting a better batting average than Martin Donnelly. For the third Test he leapfrogged Ish Sodhi as the premier spinner in the squad too, a staggering elevation from his recent days as an Everyman first-class cricketer.

Test series wins for New Zealand are as rare as rocking-horse excrement. Mike Hesson, Brendon McCullum and the team deserved high-fives, handshakes and hugs for masterminding the 2-1 win. Some said they deserved plaudits too, but I don't know what they are.

I made it around the corner to Courtenay Place as Kane "Steady the Ship" Williamson collected the Man-of-the-Match award - our middle-order Sea Scout having added another commanding performance to his CV.

It was a day for optimism and goodwill toward cricketing men in white. Well… half a day.

About six hours after Jamaican Jerome Taylor ended the Test with one of the most preposterous DRS referrals in history, Lou Vincent released a statement. In doing so he pre-empted the ECB's looming media release with its double-knee drop on his cricketing career.

The timing of Vincent's mea culpa and the ECB's stick-wagging could not have been worse. McCullum's victorious team would hardly have had time to order a strawberry daiquiri and bomb into the hotel pool before the stench of corruption wafted in to poison all their rum.

For New Zealand's cricketers - and cricket fans - it seems the highs are destined to never last long. As recently as February, the extraordinary Test win over India at Eden Park (remember the Great Follow-on Debate, and the day your fingernails died?) was overshadowed by a one-two punch of foolishness and desperation.

First up, Jesse Ryder's significant frame staggered in as video emerged of him off his nut in central Auckland, in some sort of ill-advised pre-match ritual. And then Chris Cairns swung like a rusty gate at a host of administrators and players in an impromptu media scrum at the Eden Park Outer Oval - unfortunately coinciding with the culmination of a rousing Test match.

For cricket in New Zealand, Tuesday was another messy mix of triumph and disaster. Pass the halcyon…

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

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