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Ken Rutherford

Asleep at the wheel

A good night's sleep never hurt anybody - except Tony Blain and New Zealand

Nagraj Gollapudi

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Sharjah, 1986. The AustralAsia Cup semi-final. A herculean assignment for New Zealand, who are taking on the might of Pakistan - Imran Khan, Javed Miandad, Abdul Qadir, a youthful Wasim Akram and all.

For Tony Blain, our makeshift opener and wicketkeeper, the thought of it all brought on insomnia. Tony simply could not sleep. Sheep were counted. Corridors were walked. Books were read. Eventually a couple of sleeping tablets were taken.

Unfortunately for Tony, the effects lasted longer than intended. He was sound asleep in his room at 7.30am, which was when the team bus was supposed to depart for the stadium. Somehow he managed to get on the bus in the end.

As the keeper, he had a big part to play in the pre-match warm up, but he may as well have had duvet and pillow rather than bat and gloves. He was quickly escorted to the changing room for a lie-down.

Our captain wins the toss. New Zealand to bat first. I open, with that notable batsman, Martin Snedden. The plan is to protect Tony - to give him a chance to wake up.

Quickly we are 32 for 5. Out steps Tony.

Qadir is difficult to read at the best of times. Even more so when you are asleep. Tony plays and misses twice - the second time, the googly takes off stump. Thirty-two for 6. Tony walks off the wrong way. Fortunately the fielder coming in from the long-off boundary turns him around and points him in the right direction.

Tony sleeps well until after the lunch break, and feels rested enough to don the gloves. "What happened this morning, guys?" he enquires, as we walk out onto the field.

As told to Nagraj Gollapudi. This article was first published in the print version of Cricinfo Magazine

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