Christchurch quake on minds amid the cricket
Hagley Oval is a permanent reminder of the earthquake that devastated Christchurch in 2011, but such reminders will only be intensified over the course of the upcoming Test between New Zealand and Australia. Monday, the third day of the Test, is the five-year anniversary of the earthquake, which registered 6.3 on the Richter scale and resulted in the deaths of 185 people.
February 22 will be recognised in Christchurch with a civic memorial service in the Botanic Gardens and a minute's silence during the lunch break of the Test, at 12.51pm - the same time the earthquake struck. The date will be particularly significant for the Canterbury-based members of New Zealand's team, including captain Brendon McCullum, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls and Corey Anderson.
As if the city needed any further reminders of the tragedy, a 5.7 magnitude earthquake hit Christchurch on Sunday. And on Thursday night, a 4.3 magnitude aftershock occurred, and was felt by members of both teams, who had arrived from Wellington the previous day.
"Obviously a little reminder of what Christchurch can serve up with the earthquake over the last week or so," McCullum said on Friday. "I guess that's the beauty of sport as well: we get to go out and give the people of Christchurch the ability to support their team and enjoy the occasion rather worrying about things rocking and rolling."
Last time Australia played cricket in Christchurch was February 2010: the venue was Lancaster Park, and McCullum scored an audacious 116 not out as New Zealand won a Twenty20 match in a Super Over. Steven Smith played in that match and was still in his first month as an international cricketer; now he returns to Christchurch as Australia's captain, and the redeveloped Hagley Oval is now the city's major cricket venue due to earthquake damage to Lancaster Park.
"The security side of our team's given us a few pointers of what to do if there was a big earthquake," Smith said. "And obviously on Monday it's five years since the big earthquake. I guess until you've been here it's hard to fathom what has actually happened in Christchurch, and you really feel for the people that experienced what went on five years go. It's a tough time for the people of Christchurch."
This will be just the second Test match played at Hagley Oval, the first having resulted in an eight-wicket win for New Zealand over Sri Lanka in December 2014. The first two days of this Test - McCullum's farewell to international cricket - are already sold out.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale